LawHelp/NY has launched LiveHelp, the chat-based, real-time support service developed by Pro Bono Net to help people find legal resources and referral information on LawHelp.org sites.
New York is the 9th state to launch LiveHelp, which was first piloted in Montana and Iowa in 2006 with funding from the Legal Services Corporation’s Technology Initiative Grant program.
LiveHelp allows a LawHelp visitor who is having trouble navigating the site to request help via a live, online chat. A trained specialist responds and, after determining what the visitor needs, provides links to relevant information or virtually “escorts” the visitor to needed resources or referral information.
LawHelp/NY has seen a dramatic upsurge in usage during the recession: in 2009, more than 370,000 users visited the site, an increase of 33% over the previous year. This compares to a 19% increase in visits from 2007 to 2008, before the economic crisis hit. LiveHelp will allow the site to increase its audience still further.
LiveHelp New York is the first project to offer full-scale bilingual service from the outset, with Spanish-speaking operators available during business hours. More than 13% of New York State’s population – and nearly 25% of New York City’s - speaks Spanish.
“Legal problems are hard for anyone to understand or manage on their own,” said Nate Treadwell, LiveHelp Program Coordinator at LawHelp/NY. “Getting to the right place at the right time can have a profound effect on the outcome of a potentially life-altering problem such as eviction or foreclosure.”
LiveHelp is generally staffed by a combination of legal aid staff and volunteers. In New York, volunteers will include law students from Columbia University, the City University of New York and Touro College. They will be joined by customer service staff from LexisNexis, who are participating as part of the company’s LexisNexis Cares program, which encourages employee volunteerism.
LiveHelp was chosen as the subject of a case study by LivePerson, the company that makes the underlying software.