How Can Technology Facilitate Pro Bono?

I recently read Stephanie Kimbro’s blog post, Connecting the Dots Between E-Laywering and Legal Services, and found her discussion of technology in the provision of pro bono services both insightful and thought-provoking. My personal sense is that for many pro bono programs, a lack of resources – including technical knowledge and/or support, funding, and personnel/time – prevents them from making greater use of technology in serving clients and volunteers.

The irony of course is that technology can save time and free up resources for other tasks. Electronic referral of cases and reporting of status frees the staff time currently devoted to these tasks. A mobile application such as Public Counsel’s makes these tasks even easier by putting them at the volunteer’s fingertips.

But it doesn’t have to be as fancy as an application. As I read Ms. Kimbro’s list of what her colleagues would like to see, a few jumped out at me as being the proverbial low-hanging fruit:

  • fill-in forms and downloadable documents
  • links to sample pleadings
  • a drop box system with templates and relevant research
  • on-line sign-up forms to volunteer
  • listservs for discussion of questions and issues

There are, of course, programs that offer these services to their volunteers. For those that don’t and are interested in doing so, resources such as the Center for Pro Bono or LSNTAP can help you.

Technology offers many interesting and exciting ways to facilitate the work of a pro bono program and to ease the volunteer’s experience. If you are a program, what technology innovations do you use, or what would you like to implement? If you are an attorney, what would you like organizations to offer to facilitate your pro bono work? Please leave your thoughts in the Comments.

~ Cheryl Zalenski

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