Advocates Current Projects

Frontline Justice launch

A new initiative, Frontline Justice, has just been launched to build a new set of justice workers who can serve people with legal needs & close the justice gap.

This new group is planning to grow a workforce of justice workers, reform policies and regulations around who can provide legal help, and engage communities in how people are served.

The group is seeking a CEO currently, and has an impressive founding team and leadership council.

Advocates Current Projects

Grassroots Legal Advocates from Namati

Namati has a program called Grassroots Legal Advocates. It has paralegals trained in the basics of local law, as well as complementary skills like community organizing, training, advocacy, and strategic mediation.

The paralegals and advocates can help empower local communities with legal knowledge and procedures. Namati intends them as a frontline that can be in touch with community needs, adjust legal training and advocacy to these local contexts, and empower people to know and use their rights.

Grassroots legal advocates in our global network tackle justice challenges across a wide variety of communities and issues, from women’s empowerment to prisoners’ rights. Namati’s specialist grassroots advocates work on land, health, citizenship and environmental justice, but we also support the work of generalist advocates who provide primary justice services where lawyers are rare and injustice common – such as in post-war Sierra Leone.

We are also overseeing a global research study into how paralegals operate in different contexts.


Advocates Current Projects

BillFixers: advocates who negotiate for you

BillFixers is a service that lets you have someone else deal with your bills, to figure out how to negotiate them down.

Our expert negotiators are ready to lower your bills up to 35%! Get started by signing up with BillFixers today!

You pay them half of what you can save, after they negotiate with the companies to save you money.

With our combined experience in negotiation, we decided to start a company where customers could save money without any of the hassle and with absolute security. We wanted to take money out of the pockets of giant corporations and pass it on to you without you having to put down your book or take time off work. You send us your bills, we get them lower, and we split the savings down the middle—no hidden fees, no hold music, and no hassle.

Advocates Current Projects Triage and Diagnosis

Online Intake systems

Online intake is an always-on service, that lets anyone with an internet connection enter their information and find what services they might qualify for. The advantage of an online intake system is that it prevents the need for a person from having to figure out how to connect to an intake service during business hours, or having to go through costly and confusing voice calls.

One example of an online intake system comes from Western Ohio — with a project funded by LSC-TIG.

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Legal Aid of Western Ohio (LAWO) became the first program in the country to create an A2J online intake application module. The LAWO system enables Ohioans to request legal assistance 24/7, and data integrates directly with the program’s Pika case management system. LAWO determined that online intake applications saved approximately 10 – 15 minutes of staff time per application acceptance. That amounts to a savings of about 1.0 – 1.5 intake staff FTE’s per year, allowing resources to be allocated more effectively in the program.

Additionally, by offering a platform where applicants can utilize a smart system to be guided through the steps of inputting all the necessary issue and eligibility information, increased efficiency is realized through a decrease in the number of times an applicant must be re-contacted to complete the application process.

Single statewide online intake

Even better than a single organization doing intake online, is for a coordinated set of groups to use hte same intake point to route people to the right service-provider and support.

A Statewide centralized intake system, in which users can contact one phone number or site, and after they enter their information there, then the site is smart enough to know whether and how to refer them to the appropriate and local service. The advantage of this centralized intake system is that it is a big wide open door or lay people, giving them a clear path to find help, and relieving them of having to call a wide number of services and go through a very painful scouting process to try to find the right contact point.

An example of this comes from the Northwest Justice Project, again supported by LSC-TIG.

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Northwest Justice Project (NJP) has been operating a toll-free intake and referral hotline (CLEAR – Coordinated Legal Education Advice and Referral) since 1996 and handles more than 20,000 calls per year. CLEAR serves as the statewide, centralized point of access for Washington State’s low-income population seeking free legal help. Due to the high volume of calls on CLEAR, NJP recognized the need for an alternative to telephone applications and developed its online intake system with an A2J interface and triage tool. The system enhances clients’ access to services and improves the assistance NJP provides clients on high priority eviction and benefits cases. An e-transfer module moves data from the online interview into LegalServer, NJP’s case management system, thereby increasing the efficiency of the intake process. The result has been a reduction in the numbers of ineligible applicants calling for assistance, and 86% of the screeners reported faster intake screenings.


Online intake integrated with case management

One relatively new access innovation is an online intake system that integrates directly into a case management system for a legal clinic. With this type of software, a user can enter their personal and case information once, and then it populates the organization’s database about the person, relieving the person or the staff from duplicating this entry.

One example of this type of integrated Online Intake – Case Management platform is from Utah, as funded by LSC-TIG.
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Utah designed an A2J online intake application that is directly integrated with its Kemps case management system. The online intake system enables prospective clients to apply for services 24/7 and includes the option of live web chat assistance. The system also allows staff to directly import intake data from the online application into the Kemps database — turning a data entry process into a more efficient data review task.
Staff can conduct multiple online chats simultaneously and give clients immediate responses, many of them based on prepared answers to frequently asked questions. ULS has also customized the online intake system to address the particular needs of hearing impaired individuals. The result has been a far more efficient and higher quality intake procedure that saves staff time and yields enhanced results and services to clients. Of the 78 users surveyed, 96% said they found the system easy to use and 98% said they would recommend it to others.

ULS later expanded its online intake project through TIG 12005 by creating a Spanish version of the A2J online intake system. The new system enables Spanish speaking applicants to apply 24/7, effectively screens out ineligible applicants, and imports data directly into the case management system for increased efficiency.

Advocates Ideabook

THE BUOY PROJECT – Tech For Justice

The winner of the New Mexico Tech for Justice hackathon was THE BUOY PROJECT .

Here is the description of the project — an emergency services line for a community — from the site.

Buoy is a private, enhanced 9-1-1 for your website and community. It is a community-driven emergency dispatch system because everything about it’s design is based on the idea that in situations where traditional emergency services are not available, reliable, trustworthy, or sufficient, communities can come together to aid each other in times of need. 

Buoy can be used by groups of any size, ranging from national organizations like the National Coaliation Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), to local community groups such as Solidarity Houston, or even private social clubs such as your World of WarCraft guild.

The more community leaders who add the Buoy system on their websites, the safer people in those communities can be. Buoy is software that equips your website with tools that your users can use to help one another in the real world; the more buoys are deployed on the ocean, the safer traveling becomes for everyone.

Inspired by community-based emergency response technology Better Angels, development for Buoy originally began at the September 2015 Tech for Justice and New Mexico Legal Aid event to develop technology-based justice tools around the issue of domestic violence.

The Buoy project currently consists of a fully functional prototype for a web-based app based on a WordPress plug-in, which you can download here. The ultimate goal of the Buoy project is to develop a native shell mobile version of the Buoy app. 

buoy mobile img

How can I get Buoy?

Since Buoy is so new and is designed to be used in real-life emergencies, we are only working with a small group of alpha testers in order to ensure that there are no major technical or usability issues before its widespread adoption. However, we are very excited about the possibilities and we are currently looking to include more people in the testing process. If you think this is exciting and want to help put the finishing polish on this tool, please get in touch with us here.

That being said, if you are a community leader, and you maintain a WordPress-powered website, you can try out Buoy right now by installing it directly from your WordPress admin screens! It’s just as easy to install as any other WordPress plugin. Similarly, if you yourself are not a “community leader,” but you want to try it out, you can either ask to join our private testing phase or you can tell others in your community about Buoy and see if the group of you can install it on your own group’s website.

How it works




More information about the app, how to use it, how to set it up, and what it does, is compiled here.

In order to be maximally inclusive, though, we’d love to have the app be translated into Spanish. To that end, we’ve made a separate space where anyone who speaks both English and Spanish can use their Web browser to help us translate the app from English into Spanish. To help, sign up as a translator from this page.

Advocates Ideabook

Legal Advocate SMS

Legal Design Ideas - ideabook for access to justice - Advocate SMS

A mobile-first solution, that would let any lay person connect to basic legal knowledge and education through virtually free SMS back-and-forths. It could be lessons taught in small bite-size chunks and stories, through a series of texts. It could be daily reminders with key lessons to remember. Or it could even be virtual mentoring and instruction, with a real person (or an automated teacher) on the other end, helping a person understand a specific idea.

The goal is to get basic, essential legal knowledge into people’s hands in a lightweight, and virtually free way.

Advocates Ideabook Integration into Community

“Human Law” drop-in problem-solving centers

Legal Design Ideas - ideabook for access to justice - Human Law

What if there were physical locations in communities, in which people with life problems could drop in and get help?

There would be lawyers there, but there could also be medical, mental health, social service, immigration, and all kinds of other specialists.

It would be a center for holistic care, that you could understand your problem’s possible solutions in many dimensions at once.

Ideally, the tone of the place would be different from most social, government, or legal service centers. The place could be friendly, nice, human-scale, anti-bureaucratic, and warm.

Advocates Ideabook

Lawyer transparency with stats cards

Legal_Design_Concepts - lawyer baseball card
If one of laypeople’s main concerns about using the legal system is the lack of transparency around hiring a lawyer (how much do they cost? are they any good? will they be the right fit for me?) — then how can we give a person more insight into their possible choices of lawyers and who might be right for them?

There are plenty of lawyer indexes and matchmaking sites online, but what would be cool would be a Stats Card, akin to a baseball card, with hard numbers (not proprietary rankings, that lawyers can game by authoring articles or participating in an online system) about the lawyer’s actual performance.

If a third party neutral entity could count how many cases, proceedings, mediations, outcomes, etc. a lawyer has achieved, as well as client satisfaction with the process (if not also the outcome), this could help prospective users of the legal system be more confident in making a smart choice — and so perhaps more likely to use the system in the first place.

Advocates Current Projects

Court Navigator Program to help people through court

NYC Housing Court – Resolution Assistance Program (RAP) offers the Court Navigator Program:

Court Navigator program in NYC

The Court Navigator Program was launched in February 2014 to support and assist unrepresented litigants – people who do not have an attorney – during their court appearances in landlord-tenant and consumer debt cases. Specially trained and supervised non-lawyers, called Court Navigators, provide general information, written materials, and one-on-one assistance to eligible unrepresented litigants. In addition, Court Navigators provide moral support to litigants, help them access and complete court forms, assist them with keeping paperwork in order, in accessing interpreters and other services, explain what to expect and what the roles of each person is in the courtroom. Court Navigators are also permitted to accompany unrepresented litigants into the courtroom in Kings County Housing Court and Bronx Civil Court. While these Court Navigators cannot address the court on their own, they are able to respond to factual questions asked by the judge.

In addition to this court-based program, the courts will also be utilizing non-lawyers to provide legal information and access to homebound individuals.

For information about how to become a Court Navigator.

For information if you are already a Court Navigator.

Administrative Order of the Chief Administrative Judge of the Courts relating to the Court Navigator Program (February 10, 2014)

Advocates Current Projects

Online user question-and-answers from pro bono attorneys

The Alabama Access to Justice Commission used an ABA Expansion Grant to implement the web-based pro bono program Online Tennessee Justice, which allows pro bono attorneys to answer questions submitted by clients through a website.  In Alabama the website has been launched as Alabama Legal Answers.

Access Inventory - Alabama atj

Project Summary & Assessment

See more: Alabama – Online SRL Pro Bono Support

Final overview/report on creating the Alabama Legal Answers site.