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photo by Abd allah Foteih /CC BY-SA 2.0

Marketing and Independent research institutions are continually finding that Short Message Service (SMS), commonly known as text messaging, is increasingly becoming one of the most effective ways to reach people.  An infographic from SlickText at the end of this post highlights some of the major benefits of SMS campaigns. Some of the stats include:

  • SMS sees an engagement of 6-8 times higher than email marketing
  • Text messages are usually read within 5 seconds of receipt
  • The average person looks at his/her phone 150 times/day

I am excited to announce that legal organizations are beginning to take advantage of SMS campaigns. Last month four text message campaigns were launched to provide legal education and referral information to client populations. 

  • LawHelpNY is piloting a project to provide information and hotline assistance to domestic violence survivors in immigrant communities. The campaign informs immigrant victim of their rights to shelter, healthcare, and free legal services. For more information, check out LawHelpNY’s DV Information Via Text Press Release.
  • Georgia Legal Services Program launched a new text messaging campaign targeting low-income clients with consumer issues. The campaign allows users to receive lawyer referral information without a data plan and guides users to the appropriate legal information. For more information about this campaign, check out’s Self-help Information via Text Press Release.
  • Illinois Legal Aid Online is piloting a project to provide legal and referral information to help young people get their juvenile records expunged.
  • introduced a text message campaign which helps low-income individuals get their driver’s license reinstated by texting DRIVE to 877877. The campaign guides users to legal information and referral services all through text message. For more information on this campaign, see the Northwest Justice Project’s Referrals, Information and Self-help via Text Message Press Release or this short video: 

Please use the comments section to share information about other ways legal aid organizations are taking advantage of SMS campaigns, and check back for updates.

Find more great infographics on NerdGraph Infographics




Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO) received a TIG Grant to develop the Illinois Statewide Online Access System for triage and intake. The award winning system is a portal for people seeking legal assistance in Illinois. ILAO developed some technical documentation for the application, including both the triage/intake application on and the administrative and reporting backend on It is an amazingly useful resource that can be used as a starter kit for other legal aid organizations developing online access systems.  

The page includes ILAO’s Statewide Online Access System’s goals, documentation, including full system technical documentation, and sample triage rules. 


By Probono Net 7/23/2014

This webinar highlights new tools and approaches that aid advocates with legal screening, triage and analysis activities, and help litigants navigate unfamiliar legal processes. We'll hear from panelists working on cutting edge projects in the nonprofit legal sector, how expert systems can enhance service delivery and support community partnerships, and tools and techniques that focus on balancing considerations rather than applying rules. Join us to hear about what's new - and what's next - in this area


Zach HutchinsonStudent and Research Assistant, Georgetown University Law Center

Adam FriedlProgram and Special Initiatives Manager at Pro Bono Net

Donna DoughertyAttorney-in-Charge at JASA/Legal Services for the Elderly in Queens

Marc LauritsenPresident, Capstone Practice Systems


Liz KeithProgram Director, Pro Bono Net

How can new technologies

  1. Aid advocates with legal screening, triage, and analysis
  2. Help litigants navigate unfamiliar processes
  3. Support community partnerships to expand access to assistance

Community Approaches

  • Neota logic
  • Drools engine
  • HotDocs and A2J author guided interviews
  • Drupal-based options
  • HTML/Javascript

Panelist Zach Hutchinson discusses three triage and expert systems through Georgetown Law’s GULC App Program

The program partners with Pro Bono organizations and, in teams of 3-4 students, creates applications to help with a legal question or problem.

3 types of applications

  • Self-help tools
  • Intake/clinic assistance
  • Advocacy/adjunctive

Zach presents three demos:

  1. OAH benefits appeals coach:   Serves as a coach to users preparing for unemployment benefit hearings at the D.C. Office of Administrative Hearings, and provides targeted guidance regarding the evidence users should present.
  2. Employment Justice Center (EJC) Wage theft advisor: helps low income workers with wage theft claims i.e. minimum wage or overtime issues. Self-help or clinical use
  3. MIDAS (Military Impact of Discharge Assessment System): Helps determine veteran benefit eligibility especially with confusing discharge situations.

Benefits of using these programs: they conditionally ask questions so you don’t waste time determining eligibility, and they produce reports for internal use or that can be emailed to clients

Panelists Donna Dougherty and Adam Friedl discuss the Debt and Eviction Navigator, The DEN and how JASA empowered social workers to conduct legal screenings while visiting homebound elderly clients.  

This tool is designed to:

o   Help you figure out if you have a landlord-tenant issue or a consumer debt issue that should be addressed

o   Provide you with resources so you can learn more about the issue and steps you can take yourself

o   Connect you with legal service providers who may be able to help you take action

Future Goals:

  • Incorporate e-filing
  • Broaden subject areas
  • Generate statistical data, analysis, and reports.

Presenter Mark Lauritsen presents choiceboxing  for helping people make choices which involve competing values and perspectives.

When making decisions that involve many options, considerations, varying degrees of importance, and disagreements about relative importance, creating a choicebox can break down the complexity and help make complicated decisions.

Additional reading:

A Decision Space for Legal Services Delivery by Mark Lauritsen

Collaborative Deliberation through Interactive Visualization: A Choiceboxing Case Study


The New Americans Campaign, a campaign made up over 80 organizations, is paving a better road to citizenship by modernizing and streamlining access to naturalization services so greater numbers of permanent residents take steps to become American citizens. One of the ways they are making an impact is by using CitizenshipWorks. In this short micro-documentary, The New Americans Campaign explores innovative technology to help permanent residents become American citizens. Citizenship Works is a series of online tools to help empower naturalization applicants by answering eligibility questions in four different languages, and to help legal service advocates provide naturalization assistance. CitizenshipWorks utilizes many resources including public tools and resources, advocate resources, a mobile application, an SMS text campaign, and live help. CitizenshipWorks helps answer questions about eligibility for citizenship, and also helps users understand and prepare for naturalization tests. CitizenshipWorks is a project of: Immigration Advocates Network, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and ProBono Net. In a recent webinar hosted by LSNTAP and “Technology Tools To Enhance Legal Services for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) Communities” Sandra Sandoval from Immigration Advocates Network, introduces CitizenshipWorks and goes into detail about each of its components. If you want to watch just the segment about CitizenshipWorks, skip ahead to about 30:13.

In 2012 won the webby award for best law site.




LawNY recently received a Technology Initiative Grant (TIG) to implement video conferencing equipment in their 7 offices. Some of these offices will use the new technology in order to conduct remote Social Security hearings through the SSA’s Representative Video Project (RVP). Many of you probably use some form of video conferencing for intake, webinars, meetings, or for other collaborative purposes and understand the benefits of remote communication. If you are interested in installing a new system or upgrading your current one, LawNY may be able to save you some time and headaches.

Over the last 18 months, LawNY learned the ins and outs of video conferencing and the plethora of options available for the different needs legal organizations may have. They compiled their finding in Building Bridges: An Introduction to Video Conferencing for the Legal Services Community. I suggest taking a look if you are considering or interested in upgrading or implementing a video conferencing system. LawNY’s manual is an excellent resource which breaks down and explains how to navigate the transitioning video conference market and can help you figure out what setup best suits your needs. 

Photo by evan_carroll / CC BY-NC-SA