Would your community benefit from a legal self-help center? If so, read on to learn how you can cooperate with others in your local legal community to apply to open a Michigan Legal Help affiliated self-help center this year! This will let you bring the resources of the Michigan Legal Help website to even more people by giving them access to computers and staff who can help them navigate the website and answer questions about legal processes.
Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Centers: Request for Proposals. Bar associations, courts, libraries, existing self-help centers and other government or nonprofit entities are invited to apply to open a new local self-help center site that uses the Michigan Legal Help website as a primary resource. Existing self-help center sites may also apply in order to expand and become an official affiliate of the Michigan Legal Help Program. The deadline for submitting a proposal is June 28th, 2013.
These legal self-help center sites will receive staff training and support, and are eligible for some start-up funding, if needed. All sites will be affiliated with the Michigan Legal Help website, which is an up to date, trustworthy, innovative, statewide, user-friendly website. Currently, the website contains basic content in the areas of family, housing, protection from abuse, consumer, public benefits, income tax and expungement law. It also provides links to help persons locate a lawyer if they wish to retain one, and to local self-help centers and community resources. Planned expansion of the site includes additional areas of content, the implementation of LiveHelp, a chat-based resource, and the addition of Spanish language content. Even with relative quiet marketing, the website is receiving broad use since it launched in August, 2012, with over 140,000 visitors and 600,000 page views to date.
In 2012, four local self-help centers directly affiliated with the Michigan Legal Help Program were opened; all are doing brisk business. Several other pre-existing self-help centers also use website materials. However, there are many locales where no formal self-help center yet exists and many of our state’s residents are not yet able to access the help they need when faced with a legal problem and many courts are struggling to handle large numbers of unrepresented litigants on a daily basis. Should you choose to submit a proposal, you will not only represent an important local resource, but your experience will contribute significantly to the development of self-represented litigant resources in Michigan as a whole. Illinois, for example, has been able to open a local self-help center in each one of its counties.
Please consider whether you would like to collaborate with others in your community and apply to develop a self-help site for your county or region. I look forward to hearing from you and am available for any questions or concerns you might have as you move forward.
Co-Managing Attorney, Michigan Poverty Law Program
Project Manager, Michigan Legal Help Program
220 E. Huron Street, Suite 600A
Ann Arbor, MI 48104