It’s hard to believe time has gone by so quickly, but earlier this month I attended my fourth LawHelp Interactive (LHI) annual technical summit. This 2-day summit has served as a time to meet in-person with the full LHI team which spans from Coast to Coast, as well as with various LHI field partners, funders, technology partners and stakeholders. We spent much of the 2016 technical summit going over LHI priorities for the year and engaging in discussion around strategies on promoting and preserving LHI’s important and evolving role helping legal aid organizations and court to provide free forms online.
Over the past two years, with funding through the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Technology Initiative Grant program and support from Blue Ridge Legal Services (BRLS) and Ohio State Legal Services Association (OSLSA), LHI has undergone a rebuild process to modernize and upgrade the capacity of LHI to support service delivery innovation by legal aid programs, courts and other justice community stakeholders (see this blog post on the rebuild). This technology strategy has been validated by an independent third party assessment and work is currently underway to implement recommendations to further improve the system. With this new, stable environment completed, focus on LHI has shifted to a number of areas outside of ensuring that the system works well for a growing and diversifying user community. Here are a few highlights from my perspective:
Data: Through an LSC-funded project with Central Minnesota Legal Services and Legal Services State Support, LHI now has the capacity to better understand how users are utilizing the system. Better data allows the Minnesota team to make more informed decisions about what’s working and where improvements are most appropriate for the users of its interviews. We’re all working to expand our internal capacity to leverage Google Analytics in more powerful ways to understand the end-to-end experience of LHI users.
Usability, and End User-centric design: The rebuild was focused on back end changes by design. Now that the more robust LHI infrastructure is operational and working well, we’ve identified a follow up priority of modernizing the look and feel of the LHI experience, and exploring opportunities to improve the user experience for specific audiences such as self-helpers, advocate users, and template developers.
Programmatic and strategic partners: A very important part of the summit was being able to hear from partners and funders including LSC, OSLSA, Capstone, and Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI). We also heard from court customers that rely on LHI every day to e-file and provide services in self-help centers (New York, California and Hennepin County Minnesota), as well as received input from high volume users from states including Michigan and Illinois and Washington. We were able to hear from partners in other states and programs that are planning to leverage interactive forms in remote services, online triage and new self-help initiatives. Their input and perspective are critical in the development of a long-term vision for LHI.
* Special thanks to my son for accompanying me to New York during the summit and helping with edits to this post.*
Mirenda Meghelli is the LawHelp Interactive Program Coordinator at Pro Bono Net, where she works as part of a team to support and grow initiatives using LawHelp Interactive, an award-winning national online document assembly platform operated by Pro Bono Net in partnership with legal aid, pro bono and court access to justice programs across the country.