New Online Project connects Low-Income residents to Legal Help
Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc. (LAWO) has launched a new online project to connect
low-income residents with volunteer attorney assistance. The LiveChat project allows volunteer attorneys to assist eligible low-income clients in LAWO’s 32 county service area by adapting existing LivePerson technology to provide “chat-based” counsel and advice online.
“We’re excited about offering this unique opportunity to expand our services,” says Kevin Mulder, executive director of LAWO. Free of charge to clients, the LiveChat project will make brief, but helpful advice accessible to any low-income eligible person with internet access to reduce unmet legal needs. Eligible low income persons who live in the LAWO service area and are facing eviction from private housing or seeking assistance with housing conditions, return of a security deposit, debt collection or car repossession may apply for legal services by telephone or online through Legal Aid Line.
“These are issues where LAWO has limited or no resources to help people,” explains Mulder. “With the LiveChat project, LAWO is able to expand its capacity in these areas by using volunteer attorneys to provide brief counsel and advice.”
There are more than 540,000 persons living in LAWO’s 32 county service area who are financially eligible to receive free legal assistance. There are currently only 54 attorneys employed by LAWO and its partner law firm, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE), to serve these persons.
“With only one legal aid attorney for every 10,000 low income persons, the unmet legal need is significant,” says Mulder. “Many more people could be helped by simply receiving information on their legal rights and instructions on how to proceed in court.”
Applicants must complete an application for legal help by telephone, online, or in person, meet LAWO income guidelines as determined in the application process, and have access to a computer with an internet connection.
According to Mulder, the LiveChat project also has many benefits for pro bono attorneys by eliminating travel time and providing increased knowledge of technology. “Ohio now allows a lawyer to obtain up to six CLE credits for pro bono work through an organization certified by the Ohio Supreme Court CLE Commission,” says Mulder. LAWO is a certified organization.
Training sessions for attorneys interested in participating in the LiveChat project can be scheduled based on where the volunteer attorneys live and work. For more information on volunteering for the LiveChat project, contact Melissa LaRocco, LAWO Pro Bono Director at 877-894-4599 or 419-390-2479 or by email at [email protected].
Those seeking legal assistance may complete an application online at www.legalaidline.org or call toll-free (888) 534-1432. Lucas County residents can call (419) 724-0460. Telephone hours of operation are 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Editor’s Note: LAWO is a nonprofit law firm with office locations in Dayton, Defiance, Fremont, Lima, Sandusky, Springfield and Toledo. Residents must live in one of the following Ohio counties to be eligible for LAWO’s services: Allen, Ashland, Auglaize, Champaign, Clark, Crawford, Darke, Defiance, Erie, Fulton, Greene, Hancock, Hardin, Henry, Huron, Logan, Lucas, Mercer, Miami, Montgomery, Ottawa, Paulding, Preble, Putnam, Richland, Sandusky, Seneca, Shelby, Van Wert, Williams, Wood, or Wyandot.
The LiveChat project is funded by a Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Technology Initiative Grant. LAWO is funded in part by LSC.