Legal Services Corp. Selects Two States As Pilots for Access to Justice Program

A year ago, I reported here on the announcement of a pilot program by the Legal Services Corporation, Microsoft and Pro Bono Net to develop state legal portals to direct individuals with civil legal needs to the most appropriate forms of assistance. After soliciting proposals from states to participate in the program, the program sponsors announced the two states selected to be pilots: Alaska and Hawaii.

“These portals will use cutting-edge, user-centered technology to help ensure that all people with civil legal needs can navigate their options and more easily access solutions and services available from legal aid, the courts, the private bar, and community partners,” the announcement said.

LSC President James J. Sandman, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith, and Pro Bono Net Executive Director Mark O’Brien will formally announce the selections and discuss the project today at an LSC forum on increasing access to justice at Georgetown University Law Center. The forum runs 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Eastern time and will be live-streamed via LSC’s Facebook page.

“Alaska and Hawaii were selected because of their demonstrated track records in establishing new and collaborative resources for meeting civil legal needs; their embrace of technology’s potential to expand access to legal assistance; and their vision of partnering with allied non-legal networks such as social services, public libraries, and health care institutions to help people identify and resolve their legal issues and related social needs,” the announcement said.

Microsoft has committed at least $1 million in funding, technical support, and project management services. Pro Bono Net, a national nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to justice through innovative technology solutions and expertise in building and mobilizing justice networks, will help convene local partners and provide service design expertise to execute the pilot.

State legal portals were a key recommendation of the LSC’s December 2013 report on the use of technology to expand access to justice.