How To Use Technology To Serve Your Community

Technology resources — including some free options — can help organizations better serve and communicate with clients for disaster response and other legal support.

Page last updated: 04/28/2023


Legal aid organizations and other nonprofits can use technology to enhance their efficiency and effectiveness, respond to disasters, and benefit the communities and people they serve. Some of these options are free and immediately available.

Technology-related projects and resources are wide ranging. These tools include computers, case management systems, websites, communications tools, and more. Some tools are free and accessible to legal aid organizations and individual end users on the web. Others require some time and monetary investment.

Here are some examples of what’s already available. These innovative technology tools demonstrate what has been done and may inspire new ideas.


Upsolve is a nonprofit — partially funded by the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) — that provides information and a free online app to help people with low incomes file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy without legal assistance. An online screener determines who qualifies to use the free app before providing access.

The Upsolve app — accessible from any mobile or desktop browser — cuts through complex legal jargon and guides users through a streamlined step-by-step process. It includes:

  • Simple questions about what the user makes, spends, and owes.
  • Prompts to upload documents such as pay stubs and tax returns, as needed.
  • Easy access to another nonprofit’s one-hour credit counseling course online (federal law requires people to complete a credit counseling course before they file for bankruptcy).

Once the user completes the steps, the Upsolve app generates completed bankruptcy forms. The user files the forms with the bankruptcy court in their area to begin the legal bankruptcy process. In 2021 alone, nearly 3,000 people used the Upsolve app to assemble their bankruptcy petitions and achieve a discharge, alleviating an aggregate of more than $130 million in debt.

We encourage legal aid organizations to promote the Upsolve platform and refer people whom they cannot otherwise serve to Upsolve’s free information and tools. Upsolve provides instructions for legal aid partnering, including the 10 criteria it uses for determining a person’s eligibility to access the Upsolve app. 


More than half of Americans between ages 16 and 74 read below a sixth-grade reading level, according to a Gallup analysis of U.S. Department of Education data. OpenAdvocate created WriteClearly to help legal aid organizations use plain language and lower the reading level of website content.

WriteClearly — partially funded by LSC — is a free tool that users can set up in seconds on their browser by dragging it onto their bookmarks bar. Once WriteClearly is set up, users can open any webpage they want to check and click on the WriteClearly bookmark to:

  • Scan the webpage’s content and show its reading level.
  • Get suggestions on where and how to use plainer language.

WriteClearly also can be used with Google Docs and Microsoft 365.

Learn more about WriteClearly and get started now.


ReadClearly is another tool created by OpenAdvocate — and partially funded by LSC — to improve readers’ understanding of website content. This free tool identifies and underlines the complex legal terms on your website, displaying plain language explanations when a reader hovers over the underlined term with their cursor. Users can expand the glossary by adding terms and definitions specific to the website.

To apply ReadClearly to their site, website creators just need to add a JavaScript code snippet to the site’s <head> tag. ReadClearly does the rest.

The ReadClearly tool comes with four glossaries that are pre-built with a set of terms. These glossaries include basic and expanded English, English with Spanish explanations, and common-usage Spanish. ReadClearly updates the glossaries automatically as new terms are added.

Learn more about ReadClearly and get started now.

Online Portal for Volunteers

Lone Star Legal Aid partnered with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid to develop a multi-resource online portal for attorneys volunteering their services during and after a disaster. After registering, volunteers can use the portal to:

  • View videos, primers, and other training on disaster-related legal topics.
  • Access materials for use during client representation.
  • Accept disaster-related cases posted by Lone Star Legal Aid or its partners.

Attorneys can sign up to access the portal by selecting the Volunteer Now button at the Texas Disaster Legal Help site.

Website Accessibility and Usability Enhancements

Atlanta Legal Aid Society and its partners significantly enhanced the accessibility and usability of the national LawHelp platform and to broaden the reach and impact of the content.

The website upgrade corrected numerous barriers to access (e.g., inadequate color contrast) for individuals with visual and auditory impairments. In addition, it ensured website compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. These changes made website content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities, including people with blindness and low vision, deafness and hearing loss, learning disabilities, cognitive limitations, limited movement, speech disabilities, and photosensitivity.

The upgrade effort also included a comprehensive review of resources, which resulted in:

  • Consolidated and updated site content.
  • A uniform tabbed layout.
  • A new triage portal that directs visitors to the legal resources and referrals best suited to their location, circumstances, and legal issues.

Organizations interested in upgrading accessibility on their sites can consult the Web Accessibility Toolkit for Legal Services Websites, developed by Atlanta Legal Aid and Legal Services Vermont.

The toolkit includes information on:

  • Goal setting and standards for website accessibility.
  • Website assessment, including the use of free online tools and do-it-yourself user testing.
  • Identification of common accessibility issues on legal aid websites.
  • Suggested solutions for accessibility issues.
  • How-to details for websites that use Drupal or LawHelp platforms.

Website Translation

Atlanta Legal Aid used funding from an LSC Technology Initiative Grant (TIG) to enhance access to self-help legal information for Spanish speakers in Georgia. Atlanta Legal Aid translated all content on into Spanish for its Spanish counterpart, This comprehensive project included translation of:

  • The homepage and topic landing pages.
  • Drop-down navigation menus.
  • More than 150 articles.
  • Twenty explainer videos.
  • More than 20 brochures.
  • An organization directory.
  • The legal services portal.
  • Online intake forms.

The site’s Spanish pages boosted use of the Atlanta Legal Aid website, which saw a 48% increase in visitors, a 76% jump in page views, and an 80% increase in average session duration.

We recommend having native speakers lead large-scale translation projects. Organizations also should focus on generating staff buy-in for technology improvements and community education efforts.

Automated Post-Assistance Text Messaging With Clients

How can legal aid organizations assess their performance after providing services in the aftermath of a disaster? One option is to develop post-assistance automated text message exchanges with clients, asking whether the legal assistance the clients received was beneficial.

Text messaging is widely accessible to people with low incomes in the United States. Previous text messaging projects in legal services have resulted in response rates exceeding 50%.

For legal aid organizations, using text messaging to get client feedback after legal assistance can:

  • Gather significant data on the impact of case work.
  • Provide insight into whether legal aid support improved clients’ lives, beyond resolving their immediate legal issues.
  • Foster a longer-standing relationship with clients.

For example, Colorado Legal Services developed a statewide system for collecting client outcome information through text messaging. After the organization represents a client, an automated platform will send the client a sequence of text messages to assess the outcome of their case and provide follow-up assistance when necessary.

Offline Case Management Systems

An efficient online case management system (CMS) is crucial to legal aid providers’ provision of services. For clients, a CMS offers a convenient way to apply for legal assistance without having to visit an office physically. For legal services providers, it streamlines the intake process, letting them efficiently collect and review client information.

But what happens if a disaster cuts off network connectivity for days, weeks, or even longer?

Legal aid organizations can find it nearly impossible to keep pace with post-disaster legal aid cases when they must be managed by hand. And once the CMS comes back online, those records need to be re-created in the system.

An offline CMS provides a solution.

Puerto Rico Legal Services (PRLS) used part of an LSC grant to acquire an offline intake capability after dealing with months-long outages after Hurricane Maria in 2017. Its CMS provider uses two methods to allow the system to work even when the internet is unavailable:

  • Method 1. Use a web browser, with no special plug-ins, by storing a tiny version of the CMS provider’s application in the browser’s memory.
  • Method 2. Deploy a self-contained mobile app for Android or iOS that can function even without an internet connection. Once the application comes back online, the app synchronizes the data with the databases.

Legal aid organizations interested in developing an offline CMS should check with their CMS vendor to see whether it has or could develop this capability.

Mobile Offices

Mobile offices can include specially equipped vehicles that bring services to any location, mobile office kits that enable staff to serve clients from anywhere, or a combination of the two. Legal Services of North Florida (LSNF) and the Center for Arkansas Legal Services (CALS) provide two examples. Both these projects are funded by LSC grants.

  • Legal Services of North Florida. Much of the Florida Panhandle is rural, and travel to an LSNF office is already difficult for many clients. Learning from its experiences responding to hurricanes, LSNF identified a need for a mobile office that it could strategically deploy to meet those in need, wherever they are. LSNF’s mobile office is a specially configured RV equipped with satellite phones, generators, computers, and scanners. This office is designed to support client intake and legal assistance even during a power or internet outage.
  • Center for Arkansas Legal Services. Applying lessons from the impact of the record-breaking flooding in Arkansas in 2019, CALS used an LSC grant for technology upgrades that gave everyone on its staff the ability to have a mobile office. CALS equipped all branch offices with mobile kits that include a laptop, laptop bag, portable printer, and mobile phone with a data plan and hot spot. Staff can use the laptops to work remotely and access client files and the CALS case management system from any location in CALS’ service area.

LSC Funding for Technology Initiatives

LSC funding may be available to help organizations upgrade or obtain technology to improve legal aid services to their communities. Funding mechanisms include:

  • The Technology Initiative Grant (TIG) program. This program awards special funding to existing LSC grantees to use technology in new and innovative ways, improving legal services delivery and access for people with low incomes. LSC selects TIG recipients through an open and competitive process. Applicants are encouraged to partner with other justice community organizations, including courts, bar associations, pro bono projects, libraries, and social service agencies.
  • Disaster Supplemental Appropriation Grants. These grants are available each year, primarily for LSC grantees who engaged in activities and provided legal services for a declared major disaster during the previous calendar year. These grants can be used for technology, but the project must be related to the consequences of the disaster that occurred that year, rather than solely to prepare for future disasters.


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