Legal Services Corporation (LSC) convened the 2012 Summit on the Use of Technology to Expand Access to Justice on June 21-22 in Silver Spring, Md. Nearly 50 participants — including the founder of LegalServer™, IV Ashton — met to explore the potential of technology to move the United States toward providing service of some form to all with a legal need.
The summit is the first of two planned gatherings for 2012. A follow-up summit is targeted for the fall, and will focus on implementation. Fourteen white papers were produced in advance of the summit and were used to focus the discussion. They will be published, some in print and the rest online, by the Harvard Journal of Law & Technology.
The summit kicked off with LSC President James J. Sandman challenging the group to "think big" in considering how technology might be used to make the legal process more accessible to clients, how to "get the biggest bang for our buck," and how to maximize communication and cooperation among everyone in the equal justice community.
Although the number of Americans living in poverty is at an all-time high and funding (in inflation-adjusted dollars) for legal aid is at an all-time low, Sandman was optimistic about the potential impact of the summit.
Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO) was created in March 2001 following a statewide study that looked at the technology needs of legal aid groups. Since then, they have become a national model for how legal aid groups can use technology to bridge the gap between their services and the people who need them.
What isn't as widely known is the role that the founder of LegalServer, IV Ashton, had in making the organization a reality. One night over drinks, Ashton and Robert Glaves, the Executive Director of the Chicago Bar Foundation, used a crayon and a paper tablecloth to sketch out a plan that became the blueprint for the group.
The story was told in a recent Chicago Daily Law Bulletin article. The article, about the three original financial backers of the ILAO receiving "Early Adopter Awards" at the groups recent annual gala, appears in full text below.
Illinois Legal Aid Online came out of a statewide study, but it turned into a reality with the financial help of three groups and a blueprint drawn on a paper tablecloth. Nearly 12 years later, the group serves as a one-stop, legal-resource shop and a national model for how legal aid groups can use technology to bridge the gap between their services and the people who need them.
On Thursday, the group honored its first three funders — IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois and the Chicago Bar Foundation (CBF) — with an "Early Adopter Award" at its second annual fundraising gala, "Innovation from our Foundation to the Future."
"They were visionaries for their time and their leadership is why we are here," said Lisa A. Colpoys, the group's executive director. These three groups were "way ahead of their time" when they started to explore the idea of using the Internet to reach the poor, said Todd H. Flaming, a founding partner at KrausFlaming LLC and a member of the online legal group's board of directors.
Before he introduced the award recipients at the event, Flaming reminded the nearly 300 attendants that when the group first formed in 2001, the Internet was a baby and the concepts behind the iPhone and Facebook were years away from inception.
After watching Illinois Legal Aid Online grow over the past decade, Robert A. Glaves, executive director of the CBF; Ruth Ann Schmitt, executive director of the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois; and IIT Chicago-Kent law professor Ronald W. Staudt said they couldn't be happier with what the group's accomplished and where it's headed.
The group runs several websites and a mobile application that provide free legal resources 24/7. It recently launched a Spanish-language version of its website and plans to follow suit soon with a mobile app. It serves as a hub for lawyers looking for multimedia training and pro bono opportunities. It also handles the 80-plus self-help legal centers in courthouses throughout the state.
"This is the best state online legal aid website in the nation, by far," Staudt said. "The content is deep, it's rich in tools and has a great staff."
While the online legal aid group made a name for itself, Leonard Jay Schrager, professor emeritus at The John Marshall Law School, said he needed be convinced the start-up costs were worth it. Schrager served as CBF president in 2000, when he said Glaves suggested the foundation fork over $50,000 a year for three years to get the group up and running. "That was a lot of money. I thought he was crazy," Schrager said. "He said 'I'm not crazy' and we had a big, long discussion about it. One of the best things I've ever done was realize I was wrong."
He said he credits Glaves for convincing him to get the foundation on board. Glaves, however, said Schrager deserves recognition for going forward with it.
"The idea seems obvious now— use the Internet to increase access — but at the time we did this, it was a huge risk," Glaves said. "The Internet was still new and people didn't really believe poor people would be able to access the Internet."
Although a statewide study on the technology needs of legal aid groups spurred the idea for the group, Glaves said he didn't know how it would work so he asked Harry E. Ashton IV for some help. Ashton, who goes by IV, just returned from working on technology issues overseas for IIT Chicago-Kent. He now runs PS Technologies Inc., which provides case management software for legal aid groups.
The two men went out for drinks to discuss logistics and left with a plan. Ashton drew it all out that night with a crayon on a paper tablecloth, which he folded up and put in his pocket before leaving. Seeing how the online legal aid group evolved from his crayon drawing to an organization that continues to be innovative in its offerings, Ashton said, can only be described as "awesome."
The Chicago Bar Foundation's (CBF) Sixth Annual Investing in Justice Campaign is just winding to a close, and LegalServer is proud to have played a role in once again answered the call to help ensure that people in need in our community have access to justice. For the sixth year in a row, LegalServer has joined others in the Chicago legal community to support this important project. The Campaign ran a thank-you Ad in the April 13th Wall Street Journal listing their key supporters, of which we are proud to have been included.
All of the funds raised in the Campaign will once again go directly towards CBF grants to more than 35 pro bono and legal aid organizations. This will enable tens of thousands of low-income and disadvantaged Chicagoans, including disabled children and adults, veterans, homeowners facing foreclosure and homeless youth, to get critical legal advice and assistance.
Grants funded by the Investing in Justice Campaign are an important part of the CBF's comprehensive efforts to ensure that all Chicagoans have access to justice. The CBF expect to have final results and news about the more than $1 million in grants the Campaign will make possible by the end of May. You can learn more about this important project on the CBF's website or by watching their 2012 campaign video.
Northwest Justice Project is pleased to announce the launch of its online application process and triage tool, CLEAR*Online. The portal was developed in partnership with PSTI, creator of our case management system, LegalServer, and supported by a Technology Initiative Grant from the Legal Services Corporation. People may use the online portal to:
Applicants may access the online application at: http://nwjustice.org/clear-online.
We welcome your feedback on the portal. If you submit a “test” application, please use the first name “Test” and make sure you do not request a callback to ensure that our screeners do not try to call you back.
We at PS Technologies congratulate Cabrini Green Legal Aid for their great work in the community and for winning the 2011 Lumity Technology Leadership Award for their implementation of LegalServer. Each year, the Award recognizes a non-profit organization that demonstrates an innovative use of technology that positively impacts their organization. Watch the CLGA presentation video.
We have scheduled a web session to discuss the Duplicates Reports found in the Admin Tab of LegalServer (Duplicates by Date of Birth and Duplicates by Name). The Duplicates Reports were initially built for agencies receiving LSC funding so they could search for cases that might be considered "duplicate" for LSC purposes. Recently, a few organizations have mentioned that some minor modifications to the report might significantly increase the utility of the report: Add "Date Opened" as a column, add an "Exclude" checkbox to the Close Reason filter, and add "Assigned Office" as a filter.
The session is on Thursday, February 24, 2010 at 11:00AM CST. Registration link: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/828249033
Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, one of the largest legal aid volunteer agencies in the country, has chosen to use LegalServer to manage their volunteer and client bases. LegalServer's flexible web-based platform will enhance CVLS's vast multidisciplinary practice areas as well as integrate easily with their fundraising needs.
LegalServer releases customized GIS mapping and reporting tools for the web-based case management software used by thousands in the legal aid community. The GIS Reporting and Tracking Module allows organizations to visualize case data like never before with these new advanced mapping features. The module allows organizations to add GIS reports with custom filters, multiple data types and timeline trend analysis.
LegalServer to launch new HotDocs integration module. Working closely with Illinois Legal Aid Online, Pro Bono Net, Capstone and LSC, LegalServer is set to launch its newly integrated tool for legal aid agencies to send client case data directly to a national server hosting HotDocs automated document templates. In addition to LegalServer's own auto-generated document template platform, this advancement will save numerous hours of work in preparing necessary documentation for each case.
LegalServer releases its Winter/Spring training schedule which is offered FREE to qualifying legal aid agencies using LegalServer. For more information, see Training Events.
At the request of the Legal Foundation of Washington, Ron Wihoite and IV Ashton will speak at a breakout session of the 24th Annual Goldmark Award Luncheon in Seattle on February 26, 2010. Washington state is one of three states to recently implement LegalServer throughout its legal services delivery network.
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