I’m excited to see the development of Project Legal Link, a new type of resource that links social & legal services together in the Bay Area.
I was introduced to it last year by the woman who is making it happen — Sacha Steinberger. Sacha is a lawyer, & and decided to focus on the problem of how people other than lawyers can get the right legal help for their clients and users who have come for help on other kinds of social issues. She noticed that it’s hard for non-lawyers to figure out who to be reaching out to, how to make an effective referral, and how to get the right info from group to group.
The Tipping Point Community is funding her work & it is wonderful to see how the site has developed in a short time. She has built a visually appealing, uncluttered & graphic way to help non-lawyers figure out legal options for their clients. There is enormous value in building a system that ensures more holistic care for people with life problems (legal & otherwise) and coordinates warm hand-offs and info-sharing among different service providers.
Here is how the project is officially described, and then find some more screenshots of the site:
In partnership with Tipping Point Community, Project Legal Link assists social service providers to help their clients access legal services. Specifically, we train and equip caseworkers at social service organizations to identify legal issues and refer clients to the appropriate legal resources. We organize the legal landscape so caseworkers don’t have to, and we assist caseworkers in understanding and navigating it.
WHAT WE DO: Our work takes three primary forms:
Train: we train caseworkers to identify and refer legal issues;
Refer: we provide curated referrals for clients’ issues; and
Support: we provide support to caseworkers with questions such as whether a legal issue exists and what to do about it.
Ours is not a one-size-fits-all approach. We get to know each organization, we tailor our services to its staffs’ and clients’ needs, and we support the organization’s work by focusing on the removal of their clients’ legal barriers.
WHY WE DO IT: At Project Legal Link we know that:
The need for legal services is great: low-income households face an average of one to three legal issues each year. If unresolved, these issues are a barrier to meeting basic needs.
The legal system is not intuitive: the legal world is cumbersome, intimidating, and hard to navigate.
Social and legal services rarely coexist: on the social service side, most organizations lack tools such as legal screening devices, referral lists, and trainings related to the legal world.
Caseworkers are the link: caseworkers often become trusted advisors for low-income individuals. In a network of support, the relationship between caseworkers and clients are among the strongest.
Our bet is that caseworkers are a critical bridge between low-income people and the legal services they need. Project Legal Link aims to build on the trust between the caseworker and the client and assist caseworkers in moving their clients out of poverty.