On September 15th, the American Legal Technology Awards (ALTA) announced that Pro Bono Net received its inaugural Access to Justice award. The ALTA awards “honor companies and individuals who are making a difference in law through technology innovation,” noted Bob Ambrogi in his piece spotlighting the nominees.

The Access to Justice award recognizes “an organization or individual who has made a difference by helping the underserved access the legal system through the use of technology.” 

We would like to thank the American Legal Technology Award judges for lifting up the work of Pro Bono Net and other groups making a difference in law through innovation, and the exclusive sponsor for this category, ARAG Legal

Pro Bono Net’s mission is to bring the power of the law to all by building cutting-edge digital tools and fostering collaborations with the nation’s leading civil legal organizations. Since our founding two decades ago, our programs have been adopted in more than 40 states and US territories. Each day, they help thousands of people – particularly those living on the economic or social margins – understand their legal rights and options, find help in their local communities, and resolve life-changing legal problems. Our tools also strengthen the work of legal aid advocates and pro bono lawyers advocating on behalf of people whose home, family, safety or livelihood is at stake.   

Pro Bono Net’s work has been focused on how technology and information can help overcome known barriers to legal services access and delivery,” says Mark O’Brien, Pro Bono Net’s Executive Director. “It’s exciting work and we get to work with people who have tremendous ideas and are working on the front lines all around the country – we are really happy to have that work recognized and lifted up.”

LawHelp Interactive Garners Technology Award

The American Legal Technology Awards also recognized one of our national programs, LawHelp Interactive (LHI), with the final award, in the Technology category, for “technology applied in a new or novel way in the legal industry that achieves a significant benefit.” LHI is the only free, national online document assembly platform used across 40 states. It allows people representing themselves to create free and accurate court forms, simply and easily. It is also used by nonprofit legal aid programs and courts across the country to help people navigate complex processes – and to make those processes more accessible, responsive and person-centered.

At a moment when there’s widespread interest across the legal sector in technology’s potential to close the justice gap, LHI is already serving more than a million people a year. More than 660,000 forms were assembled using LHI in 2019, the highest volume in the platform’s history. Over the past decade, more than 5 million forms have been completed using LHI for issues such as child support and custody, domestic violence, debt collection, foreclosures, evictions, divorce and more. In the wake of pandemic related court closures and enforced social distancing, an average of 30,000 interactive interviews hosted on LHI are being used by self helpers and their advocates every week. 

LawHelp Interactive has done an amazing job of demonstrating how technology can help improve access to justice and is a shining example of how we can create scalable solutions for people that need legal help through technology,” says Jack Newton, Pro Bono Net Board member and CEO & co-founder of Clio.

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic led courts to completely shutter or severely limit in-person services, LHI has helped many courts and nonprofit legal services providers ensure people in crisis can access, complete and easily file essential forms. The ALTA awards recognized one of  LHI’s partners, Rita Blandino, the Director of the Domestic Violence Division at DC Courts, with the Individual award for her leadership ensuring that DC residents seeking a protection order during the Covid-19 pandemic are able to have their request heard without risking their immediate safety or health. We recently profiled Rita’s work transforming the DC Courts Domestic Violence services to remote services in a matter of days at the start of the pandemic, using LawHelp Interactive. Another LHI-powered initiative to assist domestic violence survivors, the New York Family Offense Petition program, was a finalist in the Court category. 

LHI is operated in partnership with Ohio State Legal Services Association and has received long term support from the Legal Services Corporation’s Technology Initiative Grants (TIG) program, as well as through significant in-kind donations of HotDocs Server Software from AbacusNext. LHI has also benefited from longstanding technology partnerships with the A2J Author™ team at the Center for Computer Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), and with industry leading online document assembly experts, Marc Lauritsen and Bart Earle of Capstone Practice System.

Pro Bono Net’s work is grounded in bringing justice community partners together to collaborate, network and invest in new ways to solve pressing common justice problems. We would like to thank the exclusive sponsor for the Technology category, Clio, and the organizers and judges of the inaugural American Legal Technology Awards. We’re so grateful for the support, and congratulate all of the nominees, finalists and winners of this year’s awards. Visit the America Legal Technology Awards’ website to view the full list of nominees, winners and acceptance videos.