Apps to Increase Access to Justice

VOLUME 11 ISSUE 1April 2013
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Apps to Increase Access to Justice

The world of mobile technology may have just reached the legal community, but Pro Bono Net is working with our partners to take advantage of the opportunity to dramatically alter the provision of services – on both the advocate and litigant sides. As low-income communities increasingly access the Internet through their mobile devices, providers must tailor their content and services to utilize the platform’s unique functionality. Seeking to reach this increased audience made available by the sharp increase in mobile technologies, Pro Bono Net and our partners invested in several mobile initiatives.

CitizenshipWorks Mobile App
The CitizenshipWorks mobile app (available for iOS and Android) is a comprehensive resource and step-by-step aid for those on the pathway to citizenship. It includes useful features, such as on-the-go study materials for civics and English tests, tools to organize and collect important documents, multimedia functionality that uses audio to dictate phrases to be written in English, and calculators to record trips taken outside the United States and determine eligibility for the physical presence naturalization requirement. The app also utilizes the location services found in most smart phones to help users find nearby legal resources. CitizenshipWorks was developed through a partnership of Pro Bono Net and the Immigration Advocates Network.

Pocket DACA
The Pocket DACA app (available on iOS and Android) provides information, resources, and tools to help individuals understand and apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – an immigration benefit for certain people who arrived in the U.S. as children and lived in the U.S. for five years before June 15, 2012. Pocket DACA teaches users about DACA, gives interactive interviews to determine eligibility, utilizes location services to identify nearby nonprofit immigration legal services providers in all 50 states, and more. The app is part of collaborative efforts of the Immigration Advocates Network, Pro Bono Net, the American Immigration Council, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and Mobisoft Infotech.

LawHelp Mobile
In partnership with the Montana Legal Services Association, Pro Bono Net created a mobile optimized version of the LawHelp3 platform. The mobile version strips down the website to its bare essentials, offering users quick access to legal information and referral resources. Providers can also ask for a "Call Back" button that will send a message requesting that the organization call the cell phone user. PBN is working with five LawHelp partners to develop their own mobile sites using these features. In 2013, the mobile platform will be expanded to include support for a Spanish version and LiveHelp capability.

ProJusticeMN Mobile
In 2013, PBN partnered with Legal Aid Services of Northeastern Minnesota and partners on a "Pro Bono to Go" LSC TIG to develop mobile capability for the platform. This project is developing tools to create mobile optimized settlement checklists, providing clients with more carefully crafted and complete settlement options, and mobile client interview guides for advocates and volunteer attorneys, enhancing low-income community outreach by recording more complete and relevant information from clients. This will allow advocates to spot important nuances and provide better quality advice.

LawHelp SMS Initiative
The SMS Initiative seeks to provide marketing and outreach to low and moderate-income people in specific geographic areas by providing targeted self-help and referral resources from statewide LawHelp sites via text messaging. Users will text a keyword to an assigned SMS number and receive tailored information based on their responses to a set of questions. Beginning in 2014, this capability will be piloted with partners in Georgia, Washington, and New York, as well as Illinois Legal Aid Online.

In the coming years, Pro Bono Net and our partners hope to continue to utilize the unique functionalities of mobile platforms to increase advocates’ efficiency and reach, enhance tools available to self-represented litigants, and provide legal services organizations with the tools to expand their client base.

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