Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 44

THE PRO BONO EFFECT

AS TECHNOLOGYADVANCES,
SO DOES ACCESS TO JUSTICE
By Reece Flexner

T

he D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center strives to meet
the legal needs of the District of Columbia's
underserved residents. With limited resources
and an ever-increasing demand for pro bono
legal assistance, the Center is always looking for ways
to leverage technology to extend its reach. Using text
messaging, Google Analytics, and increased data security
efforts, as well as participating in community-wide
technology events, we have improved the quality and
quantity of services we provide.

TEXT MESSAGING: FASTER, EFFECTIVE
Over the last several years, we have recognized the need for more effective
communication with our clients living on low incomes to more effectively meet
their needs. At the end of 2016, the Pro Bono Center worked with LegalServer, a
case management platform, to begin communicating with clients via text messaging. Our goals were to increase our flexibility in contacting clients and to
improve the efficiency of our intake and referral processes. The text messaging
initiative has served these goals exceptionally well - in the first 11 months the
Pro Bono Center sent and received over 800 communications to and from
clients.
This instantaneous, informal mode of correspondence increased attendance
rates at our clinics and led to other improvements. Clients are more likely to
respond to texts than they are to phone calls from an unknown number, so
text messaging has increased the likelihood of making contact. Additionally,
because many of our clients rely on prepaid cell phone plans with limited
minutes, when their minutes are exhausted, at certain times they will not be
able to take or return our calls. However, many service providers will still allow
text messages to be sent and received when subscribers' minutes have been
depleted. Text messaging is also an essential tool for clients with other communication barriers. We recently were able to easily provide a deaf woman with the
date, time, and address of our Advice & Referral Clinic, and to arrange for a legal
interpreter to attend.
Short text messages can often be as effective as phone calls, and texting offers
an additional method of contacting clients when other forms of communication fail. Furthermore, because we have integrated text messaging with our
case management system, we can automatically preserve a log of client communications. Taken together, texting saves our staff, volunteer attorneys, and
clients many hours of time communicating with clients.
Finally, clients can use the system to send us photographs of court summons or
to document evidence of housing code violations such as mold on their walls,
vermin infestation, and broken windows or damaged door locks. If a client does
not have access to a smart phone or a fax machine, text messaging may be the
only way to quickly access this information.

GOOGLE ANALYTICS:
ELIMINATING SEARCH DEAD-ENDS
Technologists and lawyers brainstorm at the "Coding Justice" event
hosted by the Washington Council of Lawyers during D.C. Pro Bono
Week in October 2017.

One of the Pro Bono Center's primary technology initiatives is hosting and
maintaining LawHelp.org/DC, a website that houses hundreds of legal
resources for pro se litigants. The website receives more than 60,000 page
views each month. On the Internet, though, useful information can be easily
buried by the sheer amount of other content.

Photos by Tracy Schorn


http://www.LawHelp.org/DC

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Lawyer - January 2018

Your Voice
From Our President
Our Membership
Career & Professional Development
Practice Management
Calendar of Events
Government & Gavel
Feature: When Counsel Needs Counseling
Feature: Finding Fullment in Life & the Law
Feature: Surviving Incivility
Member Spotlight
Global & Domestic Outlook
Worth Reading
Media Bytes
Attorney Briefs
Ask the Ethics Experts
Partners' Perspective
Disciplinary Summaries
Campus Connection
The Pro Bono Effect
Community & Connections
Last Word
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Cover1
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Cover2
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 1
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 2
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 3
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 4
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Your Voice
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - From Our President
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 7
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Our Membership
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 9
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Career & Professional Development
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Practice Management
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Calendar of Events
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 13
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Government & Gavel
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 15
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Feature: When Counsel Needs Counseling
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 17
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 18
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 19
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 20
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 21
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Feature: Finding Fullment in Life & the Law
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 23
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 24
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 25
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 26
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 27
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Feature: Surviving Incivility
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 29
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 30
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 31
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Member Spotlight
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 33
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Global & Domestic Outlook
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 35
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Worth Reading
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Media Bytes
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Attorney Briefs
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Ask the Ethics Experts
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Partners' Perspective
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Disciplinary Summaries
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Campus Connection
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 43
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - The Pro Bono Effect
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 45
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Community & Connections
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - 47
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Last Word
Washington Lawyer - January 2018 - Cover3
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