We spend a lot of time looking at what’s not working in the fight for access to justice, and rightfully so – there IS still quite a bit of work to be done.But that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate some wins along the way and yes, there are plenty of those to talk about too. So, without further ado, here are six fantastic examples of cool tech helping to bridge the justice gap in Florida.
Free Legal Answers
Sponsored by the American Bar Association, Free Legal Answers provides legal advice to low-income individuals that can’t afford an attorney. Users post their questions to their state’s website and attorney volunteers provide answers. It’s free legal advice at your fingertips.
Questions are limited to civil matters, such as housing, divorce, disability and custody issues, and users must qualify financially, but the process is easy to navigate – no complex forms here. To learn more and find your state’s website, go to FreeLegalAnswers.org.
Florida Name Change
It’s no secret that the government isn’t the easiest entity to deal with, especially when it comes to securing documents for identification. Now, imagine trying to do that when you’re changing your gender. That was the problem we sought to solve with Florida Name Change. FJTC partnered with Southern Legal Counsel to create FloridaNameChange.org, a DIY-website that instructs transgender individuals on how to change name and gender markers on government-issued identification documents.
Since the official launch in March, the site has had 867 users visit the site and 308 automated forms have been filled out. To see it in action, go to FloridaNameChange.org.
We can all agree that there are a ton of legal resources on the web. The problem comes in trying to navigate those resources (without a law degree) or compile them in a way that allows the average person to make use of them in court.
My Law solves that problem.
Developed by Florida attorney, David Smith and his son Avery, My Law is a cloud-based service that provides access to state statutes and case law, a messaging application and document storage and sharing. That means that anyone can research a legal issue, consult with legal aid, compile documents, evidence and notes, and then present that information in court easily and effectively.
The service works from a desktop, tablet or smart phone and offers both a free and pro ($19.99 p/m) option. For more information, visit My Law.
Florida Law Help
And speaking of legal research…
Florida Law Help, the state’s free legal help website, offers a broad collection of information and resources, including listings for free legal aid programs and clinics, answers to questions about legal rights in civil matters and forms to help self-represented individuals with their legal issues.
Florida Law Help is part of the national LawHelp.org program, managed by FJTC and hosted on Drupal. In fact, FLH was recently redesigned to improve navigation and usability. The site now features plain language content, sharing, saving and printing options, and an expanded list of resources, including upcoming clinics and help desks.
Florida Homeless Youth Handbook
According to Christina Supdeas, Executive Director of Florida’s Children First, there are “7,000 young people in Florida [who] are homeless and they face significant legal barriers preventing them from getting the support they need.”
The Florida Homeless Youth Handbook is helping to change that.
Produced in partnership with Baker McKenzie and The Walt Disney Company, the Handbook provides guidance for homeless youth on a variety of issues, including employment law, health care and medical rights, turning 18, criminal law and housing, to name just a few. The Handbook is easy to navigate and written in a Q&A “plain language” format. It’s available online and in print in schools, shelters and other public organizations throughout the state.
Florida Courts HELP App
And last but certainly not least, the Florida Courts HELP App offers assistance to self-represented Floridians with family law matters.
The app works on both Apple and Android devices and provides plain language instructions and information for people seeking help with family law issues, such as divorce, adoption and orders of protection. Users have access to 186 Supreme Court-approved family law forms that can be completed within the app, as well as links to help centers around the state, lawyer referrals and eligibility information for low or no-cost legal services. To see the desktop version (and download the app), go to Florida Courts Help.