Michigan Legal Help assists more than 200,000 self-represented people in year

(Michigan) When MichiganLegalHelp.org launched on August 17, 2012, initial estimates expected around 3,000 visits per week to the legal information website. According to Michigan Legal Help Project Manager Angela Tripp, “This estimate proved too conservative. Starting in January, there were over 5,000 visits per week, and that grew to over 6,000 per week by July. We are very gratified that so many people have turned to the website for help.”

 

The Michigan Legal Help website was created to provide free legal information to people who cannot afford to hire an attorney and need to represent themselves in simple legal matters. It makes legal information easier to understand and shows self-represented people how to navigate the court system properly and efficiently. The website contains information on many areas of law in the form of articles, toolkits, forms and instructional checklists to help prepare people who represent themselves in court. Many court forms can be completed using a simple question and answer interview format. The website can help users look for a lawyer in their area if

they need more assistance, and includes information about legal self-help centers and local community services as well as details about the court where a website visitor’s legal issue may be handled.

 

In addition to the website, Michigan Legal Help works with communities to open local legal Self-Help Centers, with staff (called ‘navigators’) who help visitors find what they need on the website, answer basic questions about court practices and processes, and provide information about forms that are available on the website.

 

Neither the website nor navigators can give legal advice; they provide only legal information.

Michigan Legal Help Self-Help Centers are now open in Wayne, Oakland, Allegan, Oscoda and Muskegon counties. More centers are expected to open over the next year, including in Marquette and Monroe counties.

 

Information about locations and hours for the centers can be found on the MLH website. In addition, public librarians across the state are being trained to assist their patrons in finding the information they need on the website. People do not have to be at a self-help center or library to use the website, which is accessible via the Internet from any computer or mobile device.

 

“Many visitors take the time to share how the website has helped them handle a legal problem on their own, or to give suggestions on how Michigan Legal Help can be even better,” Tripp reports. “Some typical messages are: ‘This site was a very useful and informative tool. It has provided me what I need, to represent myself in my divorce hearing. Thank you sincerely,’ and, ‘I was so stressed about this process. Not having money for a lawyer was making me nervous about this entire process. But the website, walked me through the step by step questions with a sense of ease. I am so thankful for this service!!!’”

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