A Partnership for More Accessible Legal Services

Emma Craig
Apr 9, 2019 · 5 min read

Legal Link and One Degree team up to help more low-income families and individuals get legal help

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In the United States, over 86% of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans received inadequate or no legal help. And 71% of low-income people faced a civil legal issue in the last year, many of which are barriers to obtaining housing, employment, and stability (2017 Justice Gap Report).

If you’re a member of low-income or marginalized communities, it’s often a struggle just to meet basic needs. When faced with a legal challenge, you may not have the capacity to research your particular legal issues and navigate a complex legal system on your own.

Let’s take Terry* for example. Terry is a mother in North San Francisco Bay Area. She is disabled, unable to work, and living in her car with her daughter. In the midst of trying to find shelter, she also needs legal support to keep her only income — her disability benefits that she recently learned will be cut off. For many people like Terry, focusing on critical needs like housing and food means legal matters take a back seat. Many low-income families and individuals rely on trusted service providers for help finding resources, including legal ones, but providers are often under-resourced.

That is where Legal Link comes in. Legal Link is a nonprofit organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Legal Link provides legal education, coaching and consultation to social service providers, so they can more effectively help their clients identify legal issues, navigate the legal system, and find the right resources. In addition, Legal Link curates a collection of online tools and legal resources in the San Francisco Bay Area that service providers can use to help clients take the appropriate next steps and find accurate referrals when needed.

The new Legal Link website

On One Degree there are over 21,000 community resources, including legal assistance for low-income families and individuals. We assign 1–3 very specific tags to every Opportunity (service or program) on One Degree, and we are constantly updating our tags on One Degree to better fit the evolving needs of our community. This is important to make it as easy as possible for individuals to find what they’re looking for as quickly as possible (more about our tags here).

Areas are the broadest category of tags, then categories and finally, tags. Every opportunity on One Degree is assigned 1–3 tags.

As the Community Manager at One Degree, I lead our team to keep all our resources, tags and filters (which we call Properties) up-to-date. Community building and collaboration aren’t buzz words, but essential practices to serving our community well. So when it came time to update our legal tags, we wanted to partner with a community expert. Thanks to our mutual supporter, Tipping Point Community, I connected with Sacha Steinberger, Founding Attorney of Legal Link. Together, we collaborated to update our legal tags on One Degree to be more comprehensive and accessible. Legal Link and One Degree share complementary visions to make resources more streamlined and trustworthy, so this partnership was a great fit. After a few months of collaboration and analysis of our existing taxonomy, we landed on our new legal tags, which you can browse here.

Our collaboration led to some exciting changes for those searching for legal resources on One Degree:

  • We expanded “Family Law” to include 7 new tags, such as “Divorce”, and “Name & gender name change” for members of the transgender community
  • We expanded “Immigration Law” to include 3 new tags, such as “Visas & other statuses”
  • We created a Consumer Law section with new tags such as “Declaring bankruptcy”
  • We created a Personal Harm section with new tags such as “Police complaints”
  • We separated previously combined tags that referred to both legal and non-legal assistance so they are more accurate. For example, we now have a “Loan issues” tag for legal assistance with your loans, and a “Savings accounts & loans” tag for help accessing a loan
Some of our new tags, such as “Divorce” and “Name & gender change”

This process was an illuminating experience for me, as I have very little background in the legal field. Working with Sacha helped me learn more about what supports are available and how complicated our legal system is for the communities our organizations serve. It was interesting to create clearer tag names that will be more understandable to people seeking help for specific legal challenges. Legal language can be intimidating — I wanted our new tags to be accurate yet approachable for those that might not be familiar with technical terminology. As an organization that highly values community building and input, this partnership with Legal Link exemplified exactly how we like to work in alignment with our fellow nonprofits.

We can’t be the experts in all areas. That’s why we rely on great partners, like Legal Link, to share their expertise with us so we can make One Degree as relevant and helpful as possible.

And in the spirit of collaboration, I’d love to extend an invitation to you. Are you a member of One Degree, and have noticed something missing, or that should be updated in our taxonomy? Are you a professional who wants to help improve tags that serve people who are looking for help in your sector? I would love to hear from you! Please email me directly with your thoughts at emma@1degree.org.

We’ve been working hard the last few months to update all our tags & properties. You will see even more exciting updates coming to One Degree taxonomy very soon. Stay tuned!

* Name changed for confidentiality

Putting technology to work for low-income families.

Emma Craig

Written by

One Degree

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