February 18, 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, DC -- A web-based program to help low-income Americans prepare legal documents has a new name -- LawHelp Interactive -- and improved software to allow easier creation of court forms and legal documents.
Every year, thousands of low-income Americans find themselves in court as unrepresented litigants because they cannot afford a lawyer or because legal aid programs lack adequate resources and cannot represent them. They must navigate a confusing and stressful system as they face the potential loss of their home, income or even children.
The Legal Services Corporation (LSC) has been funding self-help document preparation initiatives since 2000 through grants to Ohio State Legal Services under its Technology Initiative Grants (TIG) program. The launch of LawHelp Interactive, www.lawhelpinteractive.org, was announced at the 10th annual TIG Conference, recently held in Austin, Tex.
The web-based program had previously been called National Public Automated Documents Online (NPADO), and has been managed and operated by Pro Bono Net since 2006. The 10-year-old, national nonprofit group, which works to increase access to justice, oversaw the name change to LawHelp Interactive, the site redesign, and the installation of the upgraded software that makes it easier for users to create their legal documents and for the site to expand its services.
During 2009, more than 147,000 forms were completed by users of the web-based program, a 32 percent increase from 2008, Pro Bono Net reported. LawHelp Interactive is used in 27 states. Common uses of LawHelp Interactive involve child support and custody forms, requests for orders of protection from domestic violence, responses to creditors, and forms to avoid eviction.
"Many legal aid programs are faced with increased requests for help from low-income Americans because of the economic downturn but lack the resources to keep up with that demand. This technology guides low-income Americans through the steps required to fill out legal forms, a key step in helping them resolve their legal problems," LSC Interim President Victor M. Fortuno said.
Glenn Rawdon, who heads up the TIG program at LSC, said, "Self-help tools are absolutely critical. If we cannot provide every eligible person with representation, then they need the tools to go into court, and LawHelp Interactive provides those tools."
In addition to the grants provided by LSC and the State Justice Institute, Rad Campaign developed the site's new look, with support from the California Administrative Office of Courts and Illinois Legal Aid Online. Pixels & Ink created the new logo. The web-based program uses HotDocs software, which was initially donated by LexisNexis. HotDocs Limited, which acquired HotDocs in late 2009, has pledged to continue supporting the program.
The TIG program has awarded more than $32.5 million in grants since 2000 to support innovative technology projects that improve services to clients, enhance efficiency at LSC-funded programs and increase access to legal information. LSC, established by Congress in 1974, is the single largest funder of civil legal assistance for the poor in the nation.