Arts & Entertainment
Michigan Legal Help Assists 200,000 In First Year Online
Originally printed 9/19/2013 (Issue 2138 - Between The Lines News)
When http://www.MichiganLegalHelp.org launched on August 2012, initial estimates expected around 3,000 visits per week to the legal information website. According to MLH Project Manager Angela Tripp, "This estimate proved too conservative. Starting in January, there were over 5,000 visits per week, and that grew to over 6,000 per week by July. We are very gratified that so many people have turned to the website for help."
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. It makes legal information easier to understand and shows self-represented people how to navigate the court system properly and efficiently. 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.
The website can 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.
Michigan Legal Help website http://www.MichiganLegalHelp.org also works with communities to open local legal Self-Help Centers, with staff called 'navigators' who help visitors find what they need on the website, answer basic questions about court practices and processes, and provide information about forms that are available on the website.
Neither the website nor navigators can give legal advice; they provide only legal information. Centers are now open in Wayne, Oakland, Allegan, Oscoda and Muskegon counties. More centers are expected to open over the next year, including in Marquette and Monroe counties. Information about locations and hours for the centers can be found on the MLH website.
Currently Michigan Legal Help http://www.MichiganLegalHelp.org has numerous resources including 30 toolkits, 74 articles, 312 common questions (with answers), 19 automated interviews that populate a total of 50 different forms, and referral information for over 212 organizations. The legal information content available includes Family Law, Protection from Abuse, Consumer Law, Housing Law, Expungement, Income Tax, and Public Benefits. More content is added regularly.
The 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. Visitors can also access the site through a mobile device or tablet and by year end, much of the content on the website will be available in Spanish.
The 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 the nonprofit organization, Michigan Poverty Law Program, based in Ann Arbor.Michigan Legal Help website http://www.MichiganLegalHelp.org is funded by the Michigan State Bar Foundation, The Legal Services Corporation, and Legal Services of South Central Michigan.
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