Legal aid in the United States is broken. Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the country's primary funder of legal aid organizations, estimates that about half of eligible clients are turned away from the organizations it funds, and about eighty percent of the civil legal needs of low-income Americans remain unmet.
By Sean McDonald. Re-posted from FrontlineSMS:Legal blog "Every day, dozens, if not hundreds, of people line up in front of each Justice House, seeking help to resolve life’s challenges. They wait, patiently, for hours, to approach the information desk, where they receive a simple intake form (name, age, gender, address, mobile phone number, cause of complaint, etc.). This form is then handed back to a lone information desk attendant, who dutifully enters all of these details into an Excel spreadsheet (and not the fancy kind), to form a simple list of visitors. Each client is independently referred to the service provider, or providers, best suited to their needs. There, they wait in another line, for the service provider to be available. It is first-come-first-served, because that’s the only way for it to be fair. This process repeats for every client, across every claim, and for every visit.
It is a wonder, with all that waiting, that much of anything gets done... Still, with FrontlineSMS:Legal at each information desk, these Houses could deliver so much more justice. Clients could fill out intake forms and schedule appointments via SMS, saving thousands of hours of wait time a week. Service providers could have a schedule that told them what they were doing when they went to work and show clients the respect of keeping appointments. Read more on the FrontlineSMS:Legal blog
As we welcome the newest member of the FrontlineSMS family, below is a guest post from its founder, Sean Martin McDonald. You can find out more about them on their website, or by following them on Twitter. Congratulations and welcome to the team! The Case for FrontlineSMS:Legal Mobile technologies are changing the way that governments deliver services. Whether it’s coordinating local medical treatment or crowdsourcing disaster assistance, innovators everywhere are harnessing the power of mobile phones to reach entire populations who live outside the traditional reach of their governments. As the FrontlineSMS community continually demonstrates, many of the barriers to service delivery are based on communication problems, not the services themselves. The law is no different.
Millions of people live outside the reach and purview of their national legal systems, forcing them to endure abuse and neglect. In the absence of law, people turn to either local leaders or settle disputes themselves, resulting in informal, and even violent, resolutions. At the same time, there are a number of incredible local leaders and civil society actors who step-in to fill this void. These people and organizations often risk their own safety and credibility in order to resolve simple disputes for their communities without government support or protection.
FrontlineSMS:Legal uses mobile technologies to extend, improve, and coordinate dispute resolution systems, increasing local capacity and access to justice in the areas that need it most. For more information, check out the newest member of the FrontlineSMS Family here!