OSI Chicago-Kent Consultancy
Richard Zorza, Esq.
A total of six separate preliminary mini-studies have been prepared.These studies, which are attached, in draft, offer tentative conclusions about: 1) the extent of direct legal information needs of poor and middle income people, 2) the equivalent needs of legal advocates for this population, 3) the state and potential of information providers and aggregators, 4) the state of the relevant technologies, 5) the potential for private sector partnerships, and, 6) the opportunities for community and other nonprofit partnerships.
These studies are designed to constitute the background against which planning and the development of recommendations will take place, and as such do not include and should be distinguished from such specific recommendations.The key components of these preliminary general conclusions themselves are summarized as follows:
·That need will only properly be met through technology deployment and extensive partnerships with national and local networks of community based organizations.
·Those collaborations will only work if both the software and the collaborations are designed to meet the needs not just of legal advocacy programs and the clients, but also of the collaborating organizations.
·The current system does not reflect the wide variety of needs, from new advocate training, to advocate legal updating, to support networking.
·The current system has components of great potential, including a unique and vast knowledge base, important technology innovations, and a commitment to a collaborative community.
·Similarly, while the need and potential of integrated content is great, the content aggregators are not yet succeeding in organizing the information in ways that have sufficiently engaged the potential user community.
·The user community has not yet sufficiency committed itself to supporting the content system that it needs and would use.
·The variety of lay-targeted legal content providers on the web might provide appropriate partnerships for the distribution of client-oriented legal content..However there would be complex problems of pricing, culture and management that would need to be resolved.These matters should be explored.
·One or more of the wide variety of non-legal content aggregators on the web (also known as “portals”)might provide the ideal partner or partners for distribution of legal information content, as such a partnership would provide access to a huge volume of users, without competition between the partners.These potential partnerships should be aggressively explored.
·Technologies of information submission and web site data structuring will make a new system far easier to build and maintain, since the information gathering system can be greatly decentralized.
·Technologies of content management will make it possible to integrate data from different sources regardless of software, helping provide a technical solution to many of the political problems of information integration.
·These partnerships can assist with content, provide the physical Internet access and clients will need, and the support, help and follow-up that are critical to effective use of the resources.
·The partnerships must be built carefully with mutual respect for the complex of needs of all the parties;courts, for example, have special needs deriving from the required neutrality of their role.
These conclusions suggest the urgent need and the strong potential or technology facilitated partnerships to meet the legal information needs of poor and middle income people, and of the advocacy organizations that serve them.In the second phase of the project, as described in the Scope ofWork, a plan or plans will be developed to meet the needs, as identified in the first two papers, with the goal of making as much use of as possible of the resources and potential identified in the remaining four papers.
Particular attention will be paid to the structure of any innovation, the funding and long term self-sufficiency of any solution, and the complexities of meeting the interrelated and often competing needs of the players.
Copyright Reserved 2000