Legal Aid With a Digital Twist

The rise of online legal forms may not be a gripping subject, but it matters. Tens of millions of Americans need legal help for civil problems — they need a divorce, child support or visitation, protection from abuse or a stay of eviction.


Tina Rosenberg
New York Times (NYT)
June 1, 2016

Tags: Expungement / Record Sealing, Justice for All, Technology

Organizations mentioned/involved: Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS),, Michigan Poverty Law Program (MPLP), Pro Bono Network (IL), LawHelp Interactive


They often have to fight these battles on their own because — despite the fact that civil cases can result in people going to jail, or losing a house, health care or custody of their children — they don’t have the right to a lawyer, as defendants in criminal cases do. Four out of five people who need a civil legal aid lawyer don’t have one.

Walk into a court case between landlords and tenants, or creditors and debtors. The landlord always has a lawyer. The credit card company always has a lawyer. The tenant or debtor practically never does.

This is not just a problem for overmatched individuals. “It creates industries that become more abusive,” said Claudia Johnson, the program manager of LawHelp Interactive, a nationwide initiative to increase access to justice. “They feel ‘we can do whatever we want.’ This is part of the reason we have lost social mobility.”