Legal Services Corporation (LSC), the largest organization that funds legal aid programs, announced yesterday that Microsoft has committed $1 million of funding and resources to build out what LSC is calling “legal portals” – basically, online resources that will direct low-income people to legal providers.
As its first step, the LSC’s portal project will create pilot websites in one or two states, with the aim of creating a template that can be replicated elsewhere. Pro Bono Net, a nonprofit that promotes innovative uses of technology to increase access to justice, will also work with Microsoft and LSC.
“The current system of accessing legal services is confusing, opaque and inefficient for many people,” said LSC president James Sandman in a statement. “The goal of the portals is to simplify the process by providing a single, statewide point of access to effective help for people needing civil legal assistance.”
While this may seem somewhat attenuated or small in scope, it is important to remember that access to justice only works when people can easily find resources. A patchwork of government services, courts, non-profits, and private corporations can be prohibitively hard to navigate. LSC says that it hopes to have the first programs up and running within two years.