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Effective and Innovative Uses of Technology in Los Angeles Self Help Workshops and Clinics Michelle Hopkins, Los Angeles Superior Court Harry Jacobs, Center.

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Presentation on theme: "Effective and Innovative Uses of Technology in Los Angeles Self Help Workshops and Clinics Michelle Hopkins, Los Angeles Superior Court Harry Jacobs, Center."— Presentation transcript:

1 Effective and Innovative Uses of Technology in Los Angeles Self Help Workshops and Clinics Michelle Hopkins, Los Angeles Superior Court Harry Jacobs, Center for Families, Children & Courts

2 The Introduction of Automated Forms Programs in LASC’s Self-Help Divorce Workshop Series Pilot Project: Development and Implementation of HotDocs Programs in LASC’s Self-Help Divorce Workshop Series. (Pre-HotDocs) 3 Part Divorce Workshop Series from start to finish of default cases. Initial Filing of Summons & Petition Declaration of Disclosure & Request to Enter Default Preparation of Default Judgment

3 (Pre-HotDocs) Dissolution Workshop Approach Classroom style setting, 10-12 litigants Litigants provided blank court forms. Enlarged Judicial Council forms used as teaching tools. Instructor leads litigants through each form, item by item. Litigants hand write all forms. Focus on overview of court process, DOS, SP/CP, Child Custody, Support Issues, and Service. After classroom-style session, litigants work one-on-one with JusticeCorps volunteers to complete their forms. Litigant given “Ticket” to next workshop.

4 Problems with the Pre-HotDocs Workshop Approach Length of Time of Workshop Litigant Fatigue Quality of Education Legibility & Accuracy of Handwritten Forms Clerical Errors Causing Rejections

5 Goals in turning to HotDocs Decrease the amount of writing for the litigant. Decrease the length of time of the workshop. Increase the time available for litigants to focus on key concepts and make informed decisions. Improve the legibility & accuracy of forms.

6 HotDocs: How does it work? HotDocs Programs used before the start of each workshop. Volunteer opens HotDocs program, completes the interview with the litigant. The programs ask questions that the litigants can answer without any legal knowledge. The program generates partially completed PDF court forms. During live presentation, the instructor teaches the legal concepts, and the litigant completes the forms, focusing on key legal issues and decisions.


8 HotDocs: Key Features Litigants are only asked a question once. The programs fill in simple information (e.g. names in captions), but also do more complex work (checking boxes if certain facts are present). The program uses information from earlier workshops to fill in information at later workshops. For most litigants, the programs complete one- half of the information necessary on the forms.

9 Core Idea of This Approach This approach has the computer do what it does best: Remembering Information. Applying rules consistently. Putting information in the right place on the paperwork. People do what they do best: Understand what litigants are trying to say. Explain complex ideas.

10 Benefits of Automated Forms Programs in the Workshop Setting Legible, accurate documents. Speed up time for completion of forms. Reduce length of time of workshop. More time for teaching key legal concepts. Reduce litigant fatigue, increase litigant’s ability to focus key legal concepts and make informed decisions. Information stored for next step & accessed by user name & password.

11 Expansion of HotDocs Programs at LASC’s Self-Help Centers Derivative “Stand Alone” HotDocs programs created for each stage of divorce. Initial OSC Disso Response Series Paternity Series (default cases) Posting Fee Wavier

12 Stand Alone Declaration of Disclosure HotDocs Program Summons & Petition filed by SRL (without assistance from Self-Help Center.) Litigant scheduled for Dec of Disclosure Workshop. File pulled prior to workshop. HotDocs Program covers Disclosure forms with options for Amended Petition, Request to Enter Default, Request for Trial Setting or referral to Stipulated Judgment HotDocs Workshop. Emphasis on teaching case flow management to SRL.

13 Hi... Short Introduction. Attorney Masters from UCB ISchool (User Interfaces) I believe that Info Tech can assist in providing Legal Services: More Quickly, More Cheaply, More Efficiently, and At a higher quality. I love this stuff. This was by first choice for a job.

14 Where I am coming from – Part II 1 Litigant/1 Lawyer: I don’t think that model works if we want to serve the people who need our help. 1 Litigant/no lawyers: I don’t think that works -- yet.

15 Development Method Watch workshops and talk to EVERY ONE. Gather everything: workshop materials, forms, instructions, local forms, guides, notes. First Draft of program, Attorney Review, Revise the program, User Testing, Revise the program, Update/Revise programs.

16 HotDocs Clinic Programs Collaboration between Los Angeles Superior Court, AOC, and Legal Service Providers: Public Counsel for Guardianship Clinic Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles for Domestic Violence Clinics

17 Guardianship Clinic 1 attorney and up to 4 volunteers 1 litigant:1 volunteer Attorney triages litigants and assigns a volunteer to complete paperwork and declarations. Volunteers interviews litigant and enter information into Legal Solutions software. Attorney review completed paperwork.

18 HotDocs Program Goals: Lower time to prepare paperwork from an average of 4 hours to an 1 hour or less. Get attorney off of the computer. Focus volunteers and attorney on declarations.

19 HotDocs Programs Programs different from workshop programs. 2 programs: Main program completes JC.pdf forms for most litigants. Second program creates a MS Word declaration.

20 Expanding Guardianship Clinic Recreate the Public Counsel Clinic at more self-help center locations: Van Nuys, Lancaster, Norwalk. Creates opportunity for remote review by off site attorneys. (More to come)

21 DV Clinic Operations NLS-LA operates clinics at 4 court locations (at the same time): Van Nuys, San Fernando, Pomona, and Lancaster. Clinics are under the supervision of a “back-up attorney” who is located in Pacoima. Back-up attorney answers questions and reviews litigant’s paperwork.

22 Locations of Clinics in Los Angeles County

23 DV Clinic – Part 2 1 to 4 volunteers at each location. 1 litigant:1 volunteer Litigants come to the clinic and fill out an intake questionnaire. Volunteers triages litigants and call back-up attorney with questions.

24 DV Clinic Operations – Part 3 The volunteers review the questionnaires and work with the litigants to complete their paperwork using Essential Forms software. Completed papers are faxed to the attorney. Attorney calls the volunteer on a telephone with comments. Volunteer takes down the comments and revises litigant’s paperwork as needed.

25 Problems with This Approach Essential Forms is a slow method to complete domestic violence forms. Faxing is not a reliable means to send papers to the reviewing attorney. Reviewing Attorney doesn’t have the raw facts to use in reviewing the paperwork. Reviewing Attorney has to call the volunteers and direct them to correct the forms.

26 HotDocs Programs 2 programs: Declaration program obtain information about the DV and the orders requested. Declaration program obtain information about the DV and the orders requested PDF program obtain the remaining information for the forms. PDF program obtain the remaining information for the forms

27 HotDocs Programs HotDocs can speed up completion of the paperwork at clinics. Information is entered once and appears on all forms in the appropriate locations. Programs can alert volunteers to contact reviewing attorney when a problem arises (e.g., case at “Monterey Park”.) The Internet can provide a more reliable method of transmitting the paperwork from the volunteers to the attorneys.

28 A Solution: HotDocs (Con’t) HotDocs can also capture raw information from the litigant’s intake questionnaire and send it along with the court papers. HotDocs allows reviewing attorneys to modify the litigant’s papers rather than calling the volunteer to make changes.

29 What next, Michelle? Programs for litigants?

30 Thanks for Listening Questions? Michelle Hopkins Harry Jacobs

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