What can a law library do?
June 2, 2020 9:05 AM   Subscribe

I have been asked to co-chair the county law library committee for my local bar association. Our mission is to come up with programs and services that would help the community during this time of pandemic and mass economic dislocation.

One thing we are doing is setting up "pods" that would let self-represented litigants participate in court hearings via zoom, do legal research, and get help with finding legal representation. These will be at the library, but I would like to have pods outside of downtown in community buildings.

I am looking for other creative things the law library can do to help the community. The librarians are awesome and open to ideas and we can likely get funding. Have you seen anything that a law library has done that has improved access and services for people representing themselves or are otherwise needing help navigating the legal system?
posted by *s to Law & Government (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: A pared down (both easy to navigate and simply coded so that suboptimal bandwidth will still be workable) website that provides both:

1. a way to sign up for and use legal research materials access remotely (from home as well as pods)
2. a FAQ with questions like "what should I look at if I've been [evicted/rent raised/job lost/ etc] that points inexperienced researchers to the resources they should look at for various scenarios, with links both to materials and to legal aid orgs
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:34 AM on June 2, 2020

Could you co-sponsor legal aid clinics with your bar association's pro bono committee or local legal aid groups? For clinics where businesses haven't reopened, or where people might want options, I think (but don't know for sure) there are virtual meeting apps that allow for smaller breakout groups.

Also, providing information on protester rights seems timely.
posted by marguerite at 9:55 AM on June 2, 2020

Best answer: If you hop onto relationship advice forums right now, there are a *lot* of people recognizing that they can't afford an attorney for the divorces that lockdown is making people understand they need to undertake. If you could provide a primer on low cost marriage dissolution resources, that would be helpful.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 10:05 AM on June 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Get into contact with your local NLG (National Lawyer's Guild) chapter and/or any local law schools' clinical depts. A lot of this will be highly local and dependent on your local court system, other resources, etc.

Apologies if you've already done this.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:19 AM on June 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: On my jurisdiction, recognizing that the backlog of court appearances has now become unmanagable, Justices are actively writing in the decisions that for family law all litigants, including self reps, must be seeking their it of court results lurking and those refreshing to be reasonable will be hit with cost consequences (and possible adverse findings). Offer training on restorative law for lawyers that are unfamiliar with it.

So, maybe encourage more collaborative law by training lawyers and self-reps, or at least introduce the principles. Facilitate low-cost mediation. Partner with your local public library (more self reps go to public libraries than law libraries) they maybe offer some virtual programming. Offer an online course on how procedures work (counting days, filling out forms, understanding legalese). Partner with local social workers and financial accountants (oftentimes people think they want a legal solution but need something else). Good luck, it is great you are doing this.
posted by saucysault at 2:54 PM on June 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Raise funds or explore discount/charitable programs with Lexis, Westlaw or Bloomberg Law to make the law library's site license extend to at least some of the pods.

If not, each of them will either block the access automatically, or (worse) permit it and but recognize the license infringement by tracking IPs or simultaneous sessions, and come down on the library like a ton of bricks.

You will get unpopular VERY fast if you blow up the access that your law library has provided for years to impoverished solos, semi-retired lawyers and (let's be honest) self-taught crusader cranks.
posted by MattD at 5:41 PM on June 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Honestly? Printing services would be very helpful so people can have a hard copy of any forms they have to complete online, or can print any text communications they might need for their cases.

On that note, stock the library with brochures/handouts/frequently-used forms.

Adobe Pro or similar software on the machines so people can fill out forms and combine/edit pdf exhibits. I am sure there are other software solutions I am not thinking of that would be useful.

You could also organize virtual hotline or "ask a lawyer" events. The North Carolina Bar Foundation is hosting COVID Legal Hotlines, for example.
posted by Schielisque at 3:33 PM on June 3, 2020

Lol autocorrect got me. My comment above SHOULD have said:

for family law all litigants, including self reps, must be seeking out of court settlement and consultations and those refusing to be reasonable will be hit with cost consequences

posted by saucysault at 9:09 PM on June 9, 2020

« Older Cat Question: Wet Food Insanity Runs - Help?   |   Electric Brake Controller Installation Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.