This spring, Pro Bono Net is rolling out a new LawHelp platform to our justice community partners in 27 states. Originally developed in 2001 with funding from the Legal Services Corporation, the Open Society Institute and others, the network of LawHelp nonprofit legal information portals has become a significant part of legal services delivery in the US, serving more than 4 million visitors last year. On an average day, more than 8,000 know-your- rights resources are downloaded from LawHelp sites, providing critical information to those seeking help with issues such as housing, domestic violence, consumer debt and immigration. Every day, hundreds of consumers, legal aid staff, courts and community partners also use LawHelp to find referrals for free or low-cost legal assistance in local communities.
The new LawHelp platform (dubbed “LH3” for short) makes it easier for those facing potentially life-altering issues to find legal assistance, and offers our state partners a suite of new tools to help clients understand and solve their legal problems. LH3’s new features include:
- A new interface design that couples LawHelp’s familiar icon-based browsing with enhanced navigation and search options
- Expanded support for multilingual content and language-specific portals to serve a growing number of users looking for help in languages other than English
- New tools for spotlighting key content such as LawHelp Interactive online legal forms or videos
- Improved administration tools to make managing content-rich websites more efficient
- Improved searchability from external search engines such as Google or Bing
Behind the scenes, LawHelp’s new extensible architecture offers new opportunities for content syndication, for example to partner websites or into case management systems. And thanks to a partnership with Montana Legal Services Association, LawHelp is going mobile this year. After a pilot with MontanaLawHelp.org, any state will have the ability to create a mobile-optimized version of their LawHelp website.
The LawHelp redesign was supported by the Legal Services Corporation Technology Initiative Grants program and the LawHelp network’s innovative collaborative investment model. Along with significant input from the national LawHelp network, the process was guided by a steering committee of LawHelp coordinators from the Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network, Legal Services State Support (MN), Montana Legal Services Association and the LawHelp/NY Consortium. Check out these recently launched LH3 sites and let us know what you think! More states to launch in the months ahead.