Pro Bono Net’s Great Resources

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My first contribution to shlep is a description of some excellent pro se resources.

Pro Bono Net is a nonprofit organization headquartered in New York City whose mission is “to increase access to justice through innovative uses of technology and increased volunteer lawyer participation.” For lawyers, it links legal services and pro bono groups around the country.

For consumers, it offers LawHelp.org, a gateway to legal services providers and self-help materials around the country. Over thirty of the states and territories are part of the LawHelp network — you’ll see that their websites often have similar layouts and graphics. The directory links to other legal assistance organizations for the remaining states and territories.

Since I’m in Seattle, I’m most familiar with Washingtonlawhelp. A straightforward menu lets a user choose a general area of law (Housing, Consumer & Debt, Government Benefits, etc.). Within that category, there are more specific topics — for instance, Family Law includes “Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce),” “Child Support,” Unmarried Couples / Same-Sex Couples,” and a dozen other topics. And the each of these topics has descriptions of very focused, practical guides (e.g., “Do You Owe Child Support?” and “Filing a Petition to Modify Your Child Support Court Order”). The guides often include checklists and forms.

Some of the guides have been translated into other languages to serve people in our immigrant communities. Many more are available in Spanish than in Somali or Urdu. Nineteen languages are represented in all. (I volunteer in a tutoring center for children in a local housing project. Last week the kids listed their languages. My three students’ parents speak in the home: Vietnamese, Swahili, Somali, and Oromo.)

The site includes a directory of legal aid programs in the state, to help people find people who can help — whether it’s a telephone help line, a legal clinic, or the county law library. (Select King County from the drop-down menu to see a rich variety of resources.)

Washingtonlawhelp is maintained by Northwest Justice Project, in collaboration with Columbia Legal Services, the Washington Courts, and others. 

 

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