Legal Aid Tech Toolkits
These days, technology is a critical part of legal aid. Legal aid programs must use technology effectively to improve the quality of their services and meet and exceed LSC’s Technology Baselines.
In 2018, the Michigan Advocacy Program (MAP), along with Idealware—a nonprofit that provides resources about software to help other nonprofits make smart software decisions—released four toolkits for the legal aid community on several important topics:
- Information security
- Knowledge management
- Online triage and intake
- Call center technology
Each toolkit breaks the topic down into easy-to-understand and actionable pieces. Each one also comes with its own worksheets, checklists, and case studies.
These toolkits were funded by an LSC Technology Initiative Grant and are free to download.
Like any other organization, legal aid providers must protect their information. This toolkit shows how to establish an organizational culture that prioritizes security and empowers staff to protect important data. It’s broken up into sections on assessing the importance of data (i.e., how well should it be protected), security infrastructure and awareness, policies, and more. It also includes worksheets that can help you assess your organization’s current setup and situation.
A reliance on a good security system far outweighs putting stock in good intentions or a mission commitment. According to the toolkit, “Good intentions or a commitment to your organization’s mission won’t protect your data. Your organization needs to develop infrastructure, processes, policies, and training that reduce the chances that someone will make a mistake and that help everyone become more security smart.”
Knowledge management is a way to ensure that the “what” and “how” of your organization’s work gets documented. This toolkit covers the main approaches to managing knowledge using technology and standardized procedures, and it includes recommendations for implementing a knowledge management system.
The toolkit is separated into several sections, including ones on document management, email, internal messaging tools, in-person interactions, and implementing knowledge management. It also has a helpful case study of the knowledge management approach taken by LAF—formerly the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago.
Online triage and intake systems, which take the form of a website or website module, can serve as an important pressure valve for intake staff while also making it easier for anyone with a legal question to find answers. Launching one of these systems is normally a multi-tiered process that involves many moving parts. And once they’re released into the world, they need to be regularly maintained.
To start, this toolkit has a checklist to ensure that an online intake or triage system is ready to launch. Further down the toolkit are three case studies on notable online intake and triage systems from Michigan Legal Help, Pine Tree Legal Assistance, and New Mexico Legal Aid. Each of the systems are different but were made with a client-first approach.
This toolkit has information on the call management technology and software features that are available on the market today, in addition to two case studies. Over the past two decades, legal aid organizations have used call center technology to meet a variety of needs, but many now find themselves in the position to upgrade their systems. One of the organizations that has done that recently is the Legal Services of Northern Virginia, an LSC grantee.