The Internet Representation Project

by Anil Makhijani on June 3, 2008

During my phone meeting with Probono.net I was pointed to The Internet Representation Project (IRP), a cool project that doing that some neat things up in Northern Michigan.  They have been successful at doing some of the things that Survv is trying to do: provide a web interface to allow clients ask questions to lawyers.  The premise of IRP is that clients answer a questionnaire to determine their eligibility for the program.  If a potential client is eligible, he or she can fill out a form asking a question to a lawyer.  Presumably, this starts a discussion thread between the two parties.  I was poking around the website and found a couple of interesting things:

  1. I was looking through the eligibility requirements and apparently clients who have criminal or abortion issues are not eligible.  The same goes for clients who are not in the country legally.

    I am not sure why this is these requirements are in place.  Maybe the lawyers want to stay away form giving out too controversial advice? Maybe the liability of giving out advice in certain areas is too high.  Most probably, the IRP just doesn’t want people to give out information about criminal activity over the Internet.

  2. The Project does not officially verify that participating clients meet the requirements (income, net worth, value of assets, etc) for pro-bono legal council.

    This is one of the major problems I am dealing with.  First, clients might be scared to give a website extremely detailed information.  However, without extremely personal information, it is hard to verify the eligibility of a client.  And second, even if clients are willing to give out detailed information, developing a web application to do this credit check could be tricky.  Relying on the honor system might work well for a website serving a small community in Northern Michigan, but any national system would require a more stringent verification process.

I never actually asked a legal question to any of the lawyers on the website, so I cannot give an analysis on the quality or expedience of the legal advice rendered.  However, I think the people who are behind IRP are doing some pretty revolutionary stuff.  I am going to keep my eyes peeled to see what kind of success they have.

Categories: Legal Aid Websites

1 Comment »

  1. The eligibility requirements are the LSC program client eligibility requirements. Programs funded by the Legal Services Corporation (http://www.lsc.gov) are not allowed to provide certain services or services in certain cases. – K

    Comment by Kate — October 19, 2009 @ 3:18 pm

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