LawHelp Interactive (LHI) is a Pro Bono Net program that helps poverty law and court access-to-justice programs implement online document assembly projects. Blue Ridge Legal Services and Pro Bono Net are rebuilding the technical infrastructure of LHI to make sure that it remains a sustainable, scalable national solution for the extensive development and use of interactive legal forms and to better support integration with case management and e-filing systems in courts nationwide. LHI has grown at a rapid pace – from 76,000 documents completed in 2007 to more than 815,000 forms in 2013. In 2006, LHI supported interactive forms projects in 11 states in 2006; we now support over 40 states that are all using LHI in vital and innovative ways on a daily basis. The service is being used in ever more creative and compelling ways to empower self-represented litigants and increase the capacity of legal services and pro bono attorneys. The LHI rebuild will support these growing and diverse uses and user base needs and volume. Rebuilding a large system such as LHI that is used in so many different ways by so many different people is an intense project.
Speaking of intense, three Pro Bono Net staff members (Alice, Karin, and I) are wedding planning at the same time. While the LHI rebuild and weddings are different in many ways, there are some lessons that can be learned from the rebuild process useful for wedding planning. Here are a few:
- Establishing a Budget and a Project Plan: Pro Bono Net is working with Marlabs Corporation, a leading IT service provider, to implement the LHI rebuild. Earlier this year, Marlabs, Pro Bono Net, and Blue Ridge Legal Services developed a high-level project plan for the rebuild outlining the timeline for building, testing, updating, and transitioning to the new LHI platform. Having a plan early on in wedding planning, along with setting a budget, is crucial in making sure that everything is in place in time for the big day and things are sustainable afterwards.
- Utilizing Experts: Pro Bono Net Staff and expert consultants like long-time LHI collaborators Kaivo, Capstone Practice Systems, and Todd Pedwell play a significant role in providing expertise of the LHI system which is important in making sure the new system meets the needs of LHI users and partners. When folks are looking to plan a wedding, know when to call on experts. You’ll be happier with the finished product (whether it be a template upload process or a wedding cake).
- Feedback and Partnerships: A major strength of LHI is its partners and the sharing of best practices. We will be opening up the rebuild environment around August 2014 to our partners to test and provide feedback. This is going to be a critical step in the success of the rebuild; it will be like the dress rehearsal where we get to make sure everything works before the real walk down the aisle. Similarly with wedding planning, use your friends and family to get feedback on ideas. They’ll add great insight.
- Flexibility: There are a lot of moving pieces to LHI and it’s a complex system. Upgrading HotDocs, the software used to assemble documents on LHI, took longer than expected and changes like this can affect the rebuild process. Staying flexible is key to keeping a project like the rebuild moving forward. Same thing with weddings, be flexible enough to react to inclement weather, friends you really want to come relocating to the Philippines (true story!), unexpected costs, etc.
As with a wedding, there is a lot of excitement about what the new LHI system will look like. For more information and updates on the LHI rebuild, please visit: http://www.probono.net/dasupport/lhi_rebuild/ (for wedding inspiration, I recommend: http://offbeatbride.com/).