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VOLUME 5 ISSUE 3   December 2007
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Who is probono.net?
LiveHelp Offers Real-Time Support in 4 States
CCPBC Supports In-House Pro Bono Movement
Demystifying Legal Technology
Building Online Tools for Self Help


 
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LiveHelp Offers Real-Time Support in 4 States

In October, Louisiana became the third state to launch LiveHelp, a chat-based, real-time support service, on their statewide LawHelp.org site, LawHelp.org/LA.  Louisiana’s initiative builds on successful LiveHelp pilot projects on MontanaLawHelp.org and IowaLegalAid.org, as reported in November 2006, and highlights the broader potential of this technology to serve low-income populations in legal need.  LiveHelp Louisiana is a collaboration of Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, the Louisiana Civil Justice Center, the Louisiana Bar Foundation, the Legal Services Corporation and Pro Bono Net.

LiveHelp provides personalized support to website visitors who need assistance finding online information or referrals, or who lack the legal knowledge or technology skills to conduct their search effectively. Through a real-time text chat, a trained Specialist provides the visitor with a link to the appropriate information or escorts them to relevant resources, including legal aid contact information, court information and pro se assistance online. 

livehelp chat

LiveHelp enabled online chat session

 “The LiveHelp feature makes using the Internet less intimidating and frustrating for visitors to LawHelp, and may encourage people to be more assertive about seeking the information they need," said Lisa Stansky, Website Coordinator for the New Orleans Legal Assistance Corporation and a co-coordinator of Louisiana’s LiveHelp project.  "LiveHelp puts a human face on LawHelp."

In Montana and Iowa, LiveHelp is staffed by VISTA volunteers, paralegals, interns, attorneys, and other willing staff members. LiveHelp Louisiana is pioneering a new staffing model: law students from Louisiana State University and Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge, who work with the Louisiana Civil Justice Center’s hotline. Pro Bono Net provided strategic and implementation support to the Louisiana project, including a series of trainings on the LiveHelp software and best practices in providing LiveHelp assistance.

Staffing LiveHelp is valuable for reasons that go beyond the satisfaction of assisting those in need, noted Stansky.  "LiveHelp also provides a great experience for navigators on the helping end, who learn more about those the site is designed to serve," she said.

Interest in LiveHelp replication has been strong among other states and programs, thanks to promising results of the Montana and Iowa pilot projects and LiveHelp’s broader potential to serve low-income populations, support attorneys, and make access-to-justice systems more accessible and efficient.

The LiveHelp Pilot Final Evaluation Report, conducted by Richard Zorza of Zorza Associates, found that LiveHelp is growing steadily, has high satisfaction levels, and reaches effectively into the income-eligible and target community of legal aid. It concluded that LiveHelp seems to increase users’ understanding of their legal problems and what needs to be done to solve them. In addition, the report found that LiveHelp significantly increases both the extent to which visitors are able to find the information and the speed with which they are able to do so.

The evaluation found that LiveHelp appears to be ideally structured for replication in a range of legal aid, court, volunteer and access-to-justice contexts. As the report noted, “a nationally deployed LiveHelp capacity will mean that a significant number of people who would otherwise not get the service they need will be achieving access to justice.”

Pro Bono Net and partners are already exploring new applications of LiveHelp. Through a grant from the Legal Services Corporation, Montana Legal Services Association, Iowa Legal Aid, the Georgia Legal Services Program and its State Bar of Georgia Pro Bono Project are conducting a focused expansion of LiveHelp, including cross-state assistance, integration with online document assembly, and deployment on GeorgiaAdvocates.org to support and expand pro bono participation in Georgia.   With implementation support from PBN, the Arkansas Legal Services Partnership plans to launch LiveHelp on ArkansasLegalServices.org in 2008.

LiveHelp also suggests an innovative avenue for pro bono work by a corporation or law firm. Many pro bono attorneys want brief, time-limited engagements. Others need to limit their assistance to certain hours or certain practice areas. LiveHelp Specialists can be located anywhere and provide LiveHelp assistance at times convenient to them. The system can also be configured to send queries to different attorneys based on substantive area, language proficiency, location or other criteria. Pro bono involvement in LiveHelp may be a good match for pro bono attorneys and users alike, and extend both the quantity and quality of assistance offered.
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Pro Bono Net has expanded its capacity to support LiveHelp replication in other states and programs. Over the summer, Jordan Bergsten, an Americorps*VISTA, was hired to help support new LiveHelp projects. Jordan is also serving as a Specialist on the MontanaLawHelp.org LiveHelp project. In the coming year, Pro Bono Net will continue to build capacity to support LiveHelp replication and innovation through a 2007 LSC Technology Initiative Grant awarded to MLSA, which will allow other LiveHelp adopters to build on infrastructure developed thus far and obtain support in the areas most important to their success.

If you are interested in learning more about LiveHelp or getting involved, contact Liz Keith at lkeith@probono.net.


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