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Pilot program expected to boost legal services for low-income clients

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An online pilot program is expected to expedite the pro bono legal services that Virginia lawyers offer to low-income clients.

The JusticeServer case management program is being rolled out in Central Virginia, but plans call for it to be used eventually across the state.

Legal-aid organizations are the primary source of help for Virginia’s low-income clients with civil legal issues such as housing problems, divorce, abuse and bankruptcy.

Funding for legal-aid programs, however, have been cut at a time when the need for services has grown because of the slow economy.

At the Virginia Supreme Court Pro Bono Summit in April 2010, McLean-based Capital One Financial Corp. formed a task force looking for ways to use technology in placing cases with pro-bono lawyers and managing cases more efficiently.

The task force included representatives from Capital One, the Virginia Bar Association’s Pro Bono Committee, the Greater Richmond Bar Foundation, Central Virginia Legal Aid Society Inc., and Legal Aid Justice Center and Firms in Service - Richmond.

JusticeServer is the result of the group’s work. The online system is designed to maximize the time volunteer attorneys spend counseling clients by reducing the time spent receiving cases and projects.

A number of Richmond-area law firms will begin using a JusticeServer prototype this month. They include Hunton & Williams, LeClairRyan, McGuireWoods, Sands Anderson, Spotts Fain, Thompson McMullan, Troutman Sanders, Williams Mullen, Hirschler Fleischer, and Goodman Allen & Filetti.

JusticeServer is expected to result in nearly 1,500 cases being referred to pro bono attorneys in the next 12 months, reducing the waiting time for case placement by 35 percent. 

A backlog in uncontested divorce cases is expected to fall from 250 to zero.

Capital One has committed $25,000 toward the creation of the system, which is expected to cost $100,000 to fully implement.

After close study of the pilot program and targeted fundraising, JusticeServer is expected to be available throughout Virginia in 2013.

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