The Minnesota Supreme Court has set a vision of increased coordination across access to justice structures statewide to increase the number of people receiving legal assistance. This work is supported by the Legal Services Advisory Committee staff and involves partnerships across many organizations, including civil legal aid and the private bar.
Justice for All Project
The Minnesota Judicial Branch received a Justice for All grant to create an important strategic plan
that has been the basis for ongoing access to justice work since 2017. Rather than have one standing commission, Minnesota has created working committees that are accountable for specific projects where the impact on the number of people receiving assistance can be measured.
Triage Portal Advisory Committee:
The Supreme Court created this committee to support projects related to the statewide triage website recommended in the Justice for All plan. From 2018 - 2020, this committee supported the implementation of the new LawHelpMN.org
website, creating data security protocols and an ongoing evaluation plan. The committee also ensured integration of the website with the newly created Minnesota Unbundled Law Project
and statewide mediation through Community Mediation Minnesota
, two of the goal projects in the strategic plan.
Committee for Equality and Justice:
The Minnesota Judicial Council has created a Civil Justice Subcommittee of the Committee for Equality and Justice
. Its charge is to increase the number of low-income and disadvantaged people receiving civil legal assistance and to reduce barriers to access in Minnesota state courts through collaborative projects of the Minnesota Judicial Branch and the Minnesota State Bar Association. The work plan is updated annually and currently includes:
- Expanded housing court legal assistance projects across the state;
- Increased pro bono service and recognition;
- Education and outreach about civil legal aid notice required under new cy pres rule.
Civil Legal Aid Coordinated Infrastructure Project
The Minnesota Supreme Court directed LSAC to work on coordinated the intake and referral infrastructure planning across organizations to make it easier for low-income Minnesotans to access available legal services statewide. In response, LSAC contracted with a national legal aid expert to review the current intake systems and report back to the committee with recommendations. Local legal aid experts then took those recommendations and created a strategic vision and implementation plan, which was approved by the Minnesota Supreme Court in January 2019.
Minnesota civil legal aid providers are national leaders in collaborating to create a more coordinated and client-friendly system. In the coming years, we will have centralized phone and online intake, ensuring that there is no wrong door for low-income Minnesotans seeking legal assistance. There will be coordinated marketing and outreach so that our community partners only have to know one referral point to access an array of staff and pro bono services. This approach will maximize our ability to have data about client needs and to increase resources to invest in delivering on the promise of equal justice for all.
LOON: The first success we have had is the launch of Legal Organizations Online Network (LOON), the backbone of the coordinated infrastructure system. LOON is a database of information updated in real-time by more than 20 legal aid organizations. This tool helps intake staff make better referrals of clients they are unable to serve to a provider who can or be confident saying “no” if services are not available.
LawHelpMN: The website has been redesigned to be make it easier to find information and is on a new platform that allows for regular improvements based on user feedback. It has two primary components:
- LawHelpMN Guide - This guided interview is designed for people with legal problems and trusted intermediaries who often help families in crisis. By answering a few questions, relevant legal information is presented to the user before asking if they would like to go further and see what additional services may be available.
- Provider and Clinic Directory - The website also includes a provider and clinic directory designed for users more familiar with the legal system, including pro bono attorneys making referrals at clinics, to quickly filter and find the best available resources for clients.
LegalServer Case Management System: The Legal Services Advisory Committee (LSAC) is funding a transition to the LegalServer case management system for many of the civil legal aid programs statewide starting in 2019. Being on the same case management system is critical to more efficient intake and referral processes across programs, as well as to share training and other infrastructure resources.
1-800 Number Centralized Phone System: The most complex portion of the strategic plan is the creation of a single point of entry for phone intake statewide. Implementation details are being worked through, but the concept approved by the Supreme Court includes a well-publicized 1-800 number with calls sorted to coordinated intake hubs. These hubs will be regionalized for core poverty law services. Callers will be screened for eligibility and transferred to a civil legal aid provider for service based on geography and case priorities. We will have comprehensive statewide data about the requests for service and who is turned away in order to have a data-driven approach to meeting client needs.
Project Communication Handout (including timeline):
Strategic Vision for Access to Civil Legal Aid in Minnesota: The Next Generation (pdf)