Michigan Legal Help assists 200,000 people in its first year

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When MichiganLegalHelp.org launched on August 17, 2012, initial estimates expected around 3,000 visits per week to the legal information website.

According to Michigan Legal Help Project Manager Angela Tripp, this estimate proved too conservative.

In the second quarter of 2013, website visitors used the automated interviews to create 7,359 sets of forms, placing Michigan fifth in the nation among states using these types of automated forms.

"We are very gratified that so many people have turned to the website for help," said Tripp.

The Michigan Legal Help website was created to provide free legal information to people who cannot afford to hire an attorney and need to represent themselves in simple legal matters.

The website contains information on many areas of law in the form of articles, toolkits, forms and instructional checklists to help prepare people who represent themselves in court. Many court forms can be completed using a simple question and answer interview format.

The website can also help users look for a lawyer in their area if they need more assistance, and includes information about legal self-help centers and local community services as well as details about the court where a website visitor's legal issue may be handled.

The Michigan Legal Help Program is the culmination of several years of work by the Solutions on Self-Help Task Force, which was established in 2010 by (then) Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly to improve and coordinate resources for self-represented persons. More than 100 individuals participated in the Task Force's work, reflecting input from judges, bar associations, legal aid, local self-help centers, libraries and others. Many of these groups continue to collaborate with the effort which is managed by a nonprofit organization, Michigan Poverty Law Program, based in Ann Arbor.

The Michigan Legal Help Program plans to expand to cover more areas of law especially needed by low-income persons. In addition, a LiveHelp feature will be launched this fall enabling website visitors to chat online with navigators who can help them find what they need on the website.

An updated mobile version of the site will be available in September. And much of the content will soon be available in Spanish.

Questions or requests for other information can be directed to Tripp on the website.

Published: Thu, Aug 22, 2013

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