Pro Bono Technology
In Virginia, Legal Aid organizations are the main source of service for low-income clients with civil legal problems such as housing matters, divorce and family concerns, abuse issues, bankruptcy, employment, or consumer concerns. As with many government supported services, funding is down 20% at Legal Aid programs, and staff attorneys have been trimmed up to half. At the same time, the adverse economy has driven up need by 40 to 60%.
At the Virginia Supreme Court Pro Bono Summit on April 27, 2010, Capital One committed to convene a task force to work on ways to use technology to improve the efficiency of Legal Aid case administration and the ease of placing Legal Aid cases with pro bono lawyers. Participants in the task force were drawn from Capital One, the Virginia Bar Association’s Pro Bono Committee, the Greater Richmond Bar Foundation, Central Virginia Legal Aid Society, Inc., Legal Aid Justice Center, and Firms in Service – Richmond.
After a year of effort, the task force is deploying JusticeServer, a new online case management system that expedites pro bono service by leveraging the latest technology to enable attorneys to contribute pro bono files right from their own computer. JusticeServer maximizes the time volunteer attorneys spend counseling clients in need by reducing the transaction time of receiving cases and projects.
JusticeServer will be prototyped by a group of law firms beginning January 2012. These include Hunton & Williams, LeClairRyan, McGuireWoods, Sands Anderson, Spotts Fain, Thompson McMullan, Troutman Sanders, Williams Mullen, Hirschler Fleischer, and Goodman Allen & Filetti.
It is expected JusticeServer will produce the following results for clients:
• Nearly 1,500 case referrals will go to pro bono attorneys in the next 12 months
• Approximately 250 volunteer attorneys will be oriented to take pro bono cases
• Waiting time for case placement will be cut 35%
• The backlog in uncontested divorce cases will fall from 250 to 0
JusticeServer is expected to achieve the following outcomes for Legal Aid:
• Overall capacity handled by Legal Aid will increase by 1,500 to 3,000 matters in the next 12 months
• Volunteer Legal Aid lawyers will increase from 200 active participants to 700
• Reduce annual IT license expenses for Legal Aid staff by more than 95%
Following close study and targeted fundraising, JusticeServer is expected to be available throughout Virginia in 2014.