The past few months saw major changes for one of Pro Bono Net’s oldest programs, LawHelp.org. LawHelp.org helps people of low and moderate incomes find free legal aid programs in their communities, answers to questions about their legal rights and forms to help them with their legal problems.
Last year we rolled out a new LawHelp statewide website platform designed to improve users’ experience, and make legal information and resources more accessible. You can read more about the new platform design in Liz Keith’s blog post Have You Seen LawHelp Lately?
Part of this initiative included a redesign and expansion of the LawHelp.org national portal, the national gateway to all 50 statewide websites. Highlights of the new national portal include:
Spanish Language Page
LawHelp Español, a mirror of LawHelp.org completely accessible to Spanish speaking users. LawHelp Español was developed to improve access to the statewide website network for individuals searching for legal aid resources in Spanish. The entire LawHelp site is now translated, with the same content and design as LawHelp.org, including 10 plain language guides (described below), LiveHelp assistance as well as resources tailored to the needs of the Spanish-speaking community.
Users of the Spanish language version of LawHelp.org now have an additional option for help. Through LiveHelp, they can access real-time assistance from trained volunteer navigators to help them find the resources they are searching for. This service is currently staffed by Spanish speaking volunteers across the county, who are dedicated to making Spanish language legal information and referrals accessible to users. A LawHelp Español user can click on the “LiveHelp” button at the top of the page, where a chat box opens, allowing them to ask questions of the navigator and find the content they are looking for.
The entire LawHelp.org website was redesigned, allowing users to easily access the directory of statewide websites, as well as our new featured resources (described below). The clean, highly intuitive design was created to maximize the ease with which users navigate our site, encouraging users to find sources of local legal information through our portal, as well as general legal information on the site.
We also highlight other websites and resources targeted at low income and vulnerable individuals seeking legal assistance. Currently, LawHelp.org highlights Consumer.gov– assisting individuals facing financials issues; Stateside Legal– designed to assist military members, veterans and their families; as well as Immigration LawHelp and CitizenshipWorks– two initiatives housed at Pro Bono Net that help individuals access information on immigration legal services and the naturalization process. These resources rotate on a regular basis.
While LawHelp.org served as a portal page in the past, we are excited to announce the addition on 10 plain language guides to common legal issues and questions. These guides are specifically designed to help low income and vulnerable users understand basic concepts that impact their ability to access legal aid, the courts and interpretation services in a legal context. These guides include the following topics:
- Legal Aid and Other Low-Cost Legal Help
- Understanding Federal, State and Local Laws
- The Differences Between Criminal and Civil Court
- Preparing for Court
- Court Fees and Getting Court Fees Paid
- Overview of Legal Services State Websites
- Getting Legal Assistance in your Language
- Your Right to Assistance in your Language
- Working with an Interpreter in a Legal Setting
- Finding Immigration Help
These resources are available in both English and Spanish and will be available in three other languages in the upcoming months.
LawHelp Español, the Plain Language Guides, and the national LiveHelp initiative were developed through a partnership between the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Pro Bono Net and LawHelp New York, with funding from the Legal Services Corporation’s Technology Initiative Grant program.
We are very excited about the redesigned site, and the new offerings on LawHelp.org and LawHelp Español, and hope you will surf over to see all the improvements.