Area legal aid programs receive grants from LSC

Officials with the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) announced this week that Lakeshore Legal Aid will receive a $100,400 Technology Initiative Grant (TIG) and the Michigan Advocacy Program will receive three grants totaling $399,045 to improve the organizations’ use of technology in assisting low-income individuals with civil legal needs.

Established in 2000, LSC’s TIG program supports legal aid organizations in developing and replicating technologies that improve efficiency and provide greater access to high-quality legal assistance.

“LSC’s Technology Initiative Grants support projects that improve the delivery of legal services and information to people who would otherwise have to navigate the legal system alone,” said LSC President Ronald S. Flagg. “These projects use technology to leverage scarce human resources and increase access to justice for low-income individuals and families with critical legal needs.”

Lakeshore Legal Aid, which has 14 locations across Southeastern Michigan, will use the grant to produce user-friendly animated instructional videos to help self-represented and retained clients. These videos will be published online and will be usable by other Michigan legal aid organizations.

Michigan Advocacy Program, based in Ypsilanti, will use a $259,500 grant to add three new features to the A2J Author document assembly program in order to increase resources for self-represented litigants. One new feature will allow users to complete a previously saved interview without repeating questions they have seen.

A second improvement will allow authors to designate an interview for “advanced end-users,” letting users see the entire tree of questions and answer questions in any order and the third new feature will make it easier for authors to duplicate questions and steps from one interview to another.

The organization will use an additional grant of $70,895 to create an automated chat feature to learn more about clients’ outcomes in advice and brief service cases. A third grant of $68,650 will allow Michigan Advocacy Program to update and migrate the Michigan Legal Help Program  to Drupal 9 while improving usability and updating design, migrating a user guide to legal help,  ensuring full functionality and compliance, modifying the existing library of 50+ DIY tools to be easily e-Filed, rebuilding online intake or working to integrate the existing online intake module,  and translating the guide to legal help into Spanish.

Members of Congress congratulated the organizations on receiving the grants. 

U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell said: “Access to justice is essential if we are to have due process in this country. But sadly, there are just too many barriers that remain. There’s no substitute for a competent lawyer, and now more than ever people must have access to proper legal counsel to ensure their rights are protected. With technology and communication systems transforming every day, it’s imperative that technology in the legal community is modern so people have an easy, reliable way to find legal counsel when they need it."

Her comments were echoed by Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence.

“No American should be deprived of quality representation in legal matters, no matter their social or economic status,” said Lawrence. “Without the critical work of organizations such as Lakeshore Legal Aid and Michigan Advocacy Program, low-income Michiganders would be forced to navigate the judicial system without assistance. Using these grants, both organizations will improve their technological capabilities to better serve Michiganders. Each year, I am proud to support robust funding for the Legal Services Corporation to ensure that organizations across the country have the resources they need to fulfill their crucial missions.”

Congressman Andy Levin, who represents Michigan’s 9th District, added: “In pre-COVID times, it was not uncommon for our office to refer constituents upstairs to the extremely valuable community resource that is Lakeshore Legal Aid, which shares an office building with us in Warren. Having legal experts available to everyone – regardless of income – is fundamental to achieving justice, and we all must adapt to these unprecedented times. I congratulate Lakeshore Legal Aid on their Technology Initiative Grant to help clients better access their robust services.”

The organizations are two of 24 recipients of 2020 TIG funding totaling nearly $4 million.

Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. LSC currently provides funding to 132 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.


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