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Community Legal Aid Helps Launch Free Resource Site

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Community Legal Aid has partnered with the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation to launch OhioLegalHelp.org, a website created justice system by providing free information on the state’s civil justice system. 

Information on common legal issues, details about court and other legal forms and referrals to legal aid and bar association referral programs are available on the website. Ohio Legal Help also provides plain-language legal information, interactive self-help tools and connections to local legal and community resources. 

“The Supreme Court’s Task Force on Access to Justice recommended in 2015 that Ohio develop a statewide website that provides free and accurate information and standardized forms,” said Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor in a statement. “Ohio Legal Help is that website and will increase access to justice for all Ohioans.” 

To help Ohioans resolve their legal issues, all content is reviewed by lawyers to ensure the website is easy to understand, action-oriented and accurate. To lay the groundwork for the website, the steering committee commissioned a survey of potential users. Eight-hundred Ohioans responded to the survey, half of whom made less than $30,000 per year. 

“The biggest hurdle we face is having to turn away clients because of limited resources,” said Steven McGarrity, executive director of Community Legal Aid in northeastern Ohio. “Ohio Legal Help is an online toolkit we can use to help these people.” 

The survey of potential users showed that costs and confusion of dealing with legal issues were frequently cited as barriers to accessing the legal system. Sixty-one percent of survey respondents believed they needed more legal education and 68% supported a legal access portal website. 

Ohio Legal Help addresses these concerns with straightforward legal information that helps Ohioans resolve legal problems in common, critical legal areas such as housing, family, consumer and income maintenance. 

“A lot of times, when legal materials are put out there for the public, they have a lot of legal jargon in them, terms that only a lawyer or judge would understand,” McGarrity said. “That’s why we developed it specifically with community members in mind.” 

The website’s mobile-first design will meet users where they are, and the tailored, personalized approach will ensure that users only receive information and referrals specific to their needs. The website is expected to attract more than 300,000 users in its first year. 

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.