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THINKING OUTSIDE THE PHONE: STAFFING MODELS AND TECHNOLOGY TO MAXIMIZE HOTLINE RESOURCES Laurel Heer Dale, Legal Aid of Nebraska AccessLine® Managing Attorney.

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Presentation on theme: "THINKING OUTSIDE THE PHONE: STAFFING MODELS AND TECHNOLOGY TO MAXIMIZE HOTLINE RESOURCES Laurel Heer Dale, Legal Aid of Nebraska AccessLine® Managing Attorney."— Presentation transcript:

1 THINKING OUTSIDE THE PHONE: STAFFING MODELS AND TECHNOLOGY TO MAXIMIZE HOTLINE RESOURCES Laurel Heer Dale, Legal Aid of Nebraska AccessLine® Managing Attorney

2 LEGAL AID OF NEBRASKA State-wide law firm, consisting of 7 offices, assisting low income individuals in 93 counties, with free, civil legal services Services provided by Legal Aid of Nebraska (LAN) include: direct representation, brief services (or limited action), legal advice, legal information, referrals and community legal education Generally, services begin through at least one of LAN’s hotlines In 2009, more than 13,000 cases were processed by LAN’s hotlines

3 LEGAL AID OF NEBRASKA’S HOTLINES AccessLine® – Provides legal advice, information, limited action and referrals – Staffed with 5 intake professionals, 4 of which are bilingual, and 3 attorneys – Includes a separate Spanish line component – Interpretation services available in 150 languages through Language Lines – Open Monday through Thursday, 9-4, Friday 9-12, CST

4 LEGAL AID OF NEBRASKA’S HOTLINES, cont’d. ElderAccessLine® – Serves folks 60 years of age and older – Provides legal advice, information, limited action and referrals – Staffed with an intake professional and 1 attorney – Interpretation services available in 150 languages through Language Lines – Open Monday through Thursday, 9-12, 1-3 and Friday 9-12, CST

5 LEGAL AID OF NEBRASKA’S HOTLINES, cont’d. Native American AccessLine® – Serves Native Americans and individuals with Native American legal issues – Provides legal advice, information, limited action and referrals – Staffed with an intake professional/program director and 2 attorneys – Interpretation services available through Language Lines – Open Monday through Friday, 9-12, CST

6 LEGAL AID OF NEBRASKA HOTLINES, cont’d. Rural Response Hotline – Serves Nebraskan farmers and ranchers – Provides legal, financial and risk management counseling services; provides educational clinics and referrals to other community services – Staffed with an intake professional and attorney – Interpretation services available through Language Lines – Open Monday through Friday, 8-5, CST

7 INTAKE THROUGH THE HOTLINE Calls processed through a queue system Intake professionals screen each caller for the legal issue, conflict of interest and income and asset qualification If qualified for services, intake professionals obtain the facts related to the legal issue(s) and relay legal advice relevant to the issue(s) to callers; they also inform callers how their cases will be handled, including whether they will be sent to one of LAN’s office for extended representation or closed at the hotline level with advice and referral

8 INTAKE THROUGH THE HOTLINE, cont’d. Former method of intake on the AccessLine®: – Each intake professional processed entire application, including qualifying the applicant, obtaining the legal issue/facts, relaying the legal advice, and providing the case disposition. – Common method; however, it’s a difficult method for training purposes; it can take upwards of 3 months to fully train new staff – Does not lend itself well to utilizing volunteers of any type on the hotline; they often cannot be fully trained before their commitment has expired

9 INTAKE THROUGH THE HOTLINE, cont’d. Current method of intake on the AccessLine®: – Front/Back: divides intake into 2 sections: intake professionals on the front end assess for conflicts, income and assets and obtain legal issue; if qualified, applicant is transferred to the back end wherein the intake professional obtains facts regarding the legal issue(s), relays legal advice and provides case disposition – Additional queues built into the queue system – Allows for easier use of volunteers, of all types, on the hotline, as they must only be trained in one section (eligibility or substantive law) of intake – Equalizes call distribution and decreases wait time for applicants; those who are not qualified for services are quickly screened out

10 TYPES OF VOLUNTEERS ON THE HOTLINE 1.Attorney Volunteers 2.Law Student Volunteers 3.Other Volunteers (Paralegals, Students, Retired Individuals, etc.)

11 ATTORNEY VOLUNTEERS ON THE HOTLINE THINK: SIMPLE AND EASY! If the process is too convoluted, it will be difficult to obtain and keep volunteer attorneys! Nebraska Rule of Professional Conduct permits volunteer attorneys to provide limited legal services on a nonprofit organization’s legal advice hotline without having to adhere to strict conflict rules and conduct systematic conflict checks. However, volunteer attorneys must decline providing services if they have actual knowledge of a conflict of interest. (See attached Rule) LAN clients must provide informed consent to receiving limited scope services from the volunteer attorney. (See attached example) The informed consent is made a part of the client’s electronic case file.

12 ATTORNEY VOLUNTEERS ON THE HOTLINE, cont’d. Volunteer attorneys determine the substantive areas in which the prefer to provide legal advice; and, cases within those substantive areas only are assigned to them. Volunteer attorneys are asked to provide a commitment, whether measured by time or number of cases. If the commitment is measured by time, the volunteer attorney must provide weekly or monthly number of hours and set date(s) and time(s) s/he is available. Volunteer attorneys have limited access to LAN’s case management system, PIKA. They have access to only the cases assigned to them; and, because PIKA is internet based, they can access the case management system, and cases, from their offices. In PIKA, they can find advice scripts for many “routine” calls and locate referrals to other organizations.

13 ATTORNEY VOLUNTEERS ON THE HOTLINE, cont’d. 3 WAYS LAN USES VOLUNTEER ATTORNEYS ON THE HOTLINE: 1.Immediate hotline services: taking calls from the queue 2.Scheduled callbacks from volunteer attorneys’ offices 3.Limited Action (Wills, POAs)

14 IMMEDIATE HOTLINE SERVICES: TAKING CALLS FROM THE QUEUE Volunteer attorneys staff the back end, speaking with LAN’s clients after they have been qualified for services by an intake professional staffing the front end. They gather the facts surrounding the legal issue(s) and provide detailed legal advice to clients. Volunteer attorneys place all notes, including their advice, in the PIKA case file. They also record their time spent on each case in the electronic case file. Intake professionals appropriately code the cases and close them when the attorneys’ work is complete. Intake professionals also mail any educational brochures/pamphlets/handbooks to the clients. This method allows the volunteer attorneys to conduct “attorney” work, while intake professionals,who are well versed in eligibility (LSC) requirements, qualify applicants for services. See Volunteer Attorney Protocol, attached, for more details.

15 SCHEDULED CALLBACKS FROM VOLUNTEER ATTORNEYS’ OFFICES Similar process to that of providing immediate services to clients, in that the volunteer attorneys “staff” the “back end”, advising LAN clients after they have been qualified for services by an intake professional staffing the front end. Difference: attorney services are provided from their respective offices at another time. Volunteer attorneys either provide date(s) and time(s) they are available to conduct callbacks to LAN clients OR they make themselves available at a date and time convenient for the LAN client. Volunteer attorneys are assigned advice cases only; those cases that are potential extended representation cases for LAN’s local offices are not assigned to volunteer attorneys. Any cases requiring multiple consultations or third party advocacy on behalf of the client are not assigned to volunteer attorneys unless requested by the attorney; and, before assigning, a systematic conflict of interest check must be completed with the volunteer attorney, as the services in these cases are not “limited services” covered by Nebraska Rule of Professional Conduct All cases assigned to volunteer attorneys for callbacks are placed on the attorney’s caselist in PIKA; and, an is sent to the attorney, informing him/her of the callback date and time.

16 SCHEDULED CALLBACKS FROM VOLUNTEER ATTORNEYS’ OFFICES, cont’d. Contact with client: volunteer attorneys shall attempt to contact clients within the dates/times assigned. If the client does not answer, the attorney shall leave a message, if possible, indicating s/he will attempt to contact one additional time and document all attempts to contact in the PIKA file. If, upon the second attempted contact, the client does not answer, the attorney shall document the attempt in the PIKA file and cease further contact. At that point, the AccessLine® staff correspond in writing with the client, asking the client to contact the AccessLine® if s/he still needs legal assistance. Volunteer attorneys DO NOT provide their direct phone numbers to LAN clients. This process minimizes confusion on the part of the client regarding if, and/or when, s/he should contact the volunteer attorney. Additionally, it minimizes the likelihood a client will contact a volunteer attorney in the future regarding legal issues to be addressed by LAN. Upon contact with the client, volunteer attorneys obtain informed consent from the client and place all notes, including their advice, in the PIKA case file. They also record their time spent on each case in the electronic case file. Intake professionals appropriately code the cases and close them when the attorneys’ work is complete. Intake professionals also mail any educational brochures/pamphlets/handbooks to the clients. See Remote Volunteer Attorney Protocol for more details.

17 LIMITED ACTION Volunteer attorneys are drafting wills and power of attorney documents for elderly clients contacting LAN’s ElderAccessLine® Limited action = systematic conflict analysis; not covered by Nebraska Rule of Professional Conduct

18 LAW STUDENTS Educational experience Prefer semester commitment, at minimum Staff back end queue; this provides the law student the opportunity to interview clients and relay legal advice Have full access to the case management system Follow same intake protocol as intake professionals staffing the back end queue: code and dispose of cases as appropriate, mail/ educational brochures/handbooks/pamphlets, record time spent on case

19 OTHER VOLUNTEERS Comparable to intake professionals Prefer at least a 6 month commitment; but, can be flexible based upon current needs of hotline Staff front or back end, depending upon experience and training (ie paralegal may best serve the back end); but, prefer to train on both sections, if commitment and experience will allow Have full access to the case management system Follow same intake protocol as intake professionals Can serve as a hired staff pool for the hotline

20 TRAINING THINK: Can the volunteer be trained before s/he will no longer be available to volunteer? If so, how soon before his/her commitment expires? Think about program needs and whether the volunteer will benefit from the services s/he provides. Former intake method prohibited use of volunteers because they generally couldn’t be fully trained before their commitment expired Amount of time it takes to train is dependent upon: – Role the volunteer will fulfill – Knowledge/expertise volunteer brings to the hotline – Frequency

21 TRAINING, cont’d. Type of training depends upon the type of volunteer and what role s/he will fulfill on the hotline: – Attorneys may need to be educated in the substantive areas of law: educate through informational handbooks/brochures, access to scripted advice in the case management system; conversations regarding substantive law – Folks staffing the back end queue receive more substantive law training, initially – Those staffing front end are trained to recognize a potential conflict of interest and must learn eligibility guidelines At a minimum, all volunteers receive: – Education about Legal Aid of Nebraska, including who we are and what we do – Eligibility guidelines – Information about the types of cases handled on an extended representation basis and those in which we provide legal advice and/or limited action – Informational handbooks and brochures addressing substantive areas of law practiced by LAN attorneys and case handlers – Listing of referral agencies most commonly provided to LAN clients – Opportunity to listen to calls coming through the queue system (listen as intake professionals and attorneys handle the calls) – Education and instruction regarding use of the case management system (remote volunteer attorneys receive separate instructions concerning limited access)

22 TECHNOLOGY AND RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO VOLUNTEERS 1.PIKA case management system a.Scripted questions for areas of substantive law handled by LAN b.Advice scripts (good for quality assurance & uniformity) c.Referrals to other organizations (approx. 500 organizations, searchable by problem type and county)

23 TECHNOLOGY AND RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO VOLUNTEERS 2.LAN Website a.Many educational and informational documents (all brochures/handbooks/pamphlets used by the AccessLine®) b.Information regarding eligibility guidelines and intake process (intake manual) c.Referral agencies

24 TECHNOLOGY AND RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO VOLUNTEERS 3.Westlaw access by computer (used by on-site volunteer attorneys) 4.Substantive materials on library shelves (ie Divorce, Custody, Child Support, Bankruptcy, LL/T, SSDI/SSI handbooks) 5.Books in our library 6.Internet access (search for information and forms available on line) 7.Experienced AccessLine® attorneys available on-site, Monday through Friday, 8-5; available to remote volunteer attorneys via phone and during these hours

25 SUPERVISION OF VOLUNTEERS Supervision for all volunteers: – Review of all cases they handle – Monitoring calls (frequent monitoring of law students and other volunteers; monitoring volunteer attorneys on case-by-case basis) Supervision of remote volunteer attorneys: – Routine monitoring attorneys’ caselists – Follow up calls to clients they advised

26 POTENTIAL ISSUES USING VOLUNTEERS ON THE HOTLINE Staffing and commitment: are there benefits to both the program and volunteer? Support—is it enough? Administrative oversight—does the benefit of having volunteers outweigh the administrative burdens? Quality control: are services provided to the clients by volunteers the same or better?

27 CONTACT INFORMATION Laurel Heer Dale Legal Aid of Nebraska AccessLine® Managing Attorney 1904 Farnam St., Suite 500 Omaha, NE , ext. 202


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