My Host Organization: Inland Counties Legal Services, inc.
This summer, I had an opportunity to work with Inland Counties Legal Services, Inc. (ICLS), a Legal Service organization located in Riverside, California, through ATJ Tech Fellowship Program. Because of the pandemic, the internship was conducted fully remotely so I stayed in New Hampshire but worked with people in California. Still, it was a great experience working on a new type of legal work (legal tech) in a new way other than in an office, and meeting with new people on the other side of the country.
“Inland Counties Legal Services, Inc. pursues justice and equality for low-income people through counsel, advice, advocacy, and community education, treating all with dignity and respect.”
ICLS is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation serving Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. They serve people who are in need of legal help, but who cannot afford attorney costs. Also, ICLS helps people who are trying to represent themselves in court without hiring an attorney, so they can be prepared for the case even without representation.
Among several practice groups in ICLS, I worked with the Consumer Team. Consumer Team has three sub-groups: Finance, Tax, and Bankruptcy. Finance team mostly deals with consumer debts, including PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy program) cases, medical debts, and credit card debts. Tax team runs LITC (Low-Income Taxpayers Clinic) helping low income people who are in dispute with the IRS (Internal Revenue Service), and Bankruptcy team deals with consumer bankruptcy cases, mostly of chapter 7 and 13.
The project I participated in, is building interviews on HotDocs *, uploading those interviews on the LHI (LawHelp Interactive) website **, and connecting the database between the interviews on LHI and ICLS case management system. Consumer Team is trying to make automated interviews for about 40 types of documents, so that the interviewers from ICLS and other pro bono attorneys can conduct the interviews in the same structure, and easily generate documents from the automated process. This project started at the same time I began my internship in June, thus I had an opportunity to observe the project meetings and its beginning progress while interning. It is planned to be completed by the end of 2021.
I learned that this kind of project is one of efficient ways to conduct client interviews, but there are not many automated interviews or forms that can be used by self-helpers without a lawyer or by professionals for their clients. Although this is a quite long-term project, I hope this project will help legal professionals and self-helpers in California when it is all completed.
* HotDocs is document automation, generation, and assembly software
** LawHelp Interactive (LHI) is a “website that helps you fill out legal documents for free.”