The Michigan Legal Help Project and the Role Libraries Played in Approving Access to Justice

MANCINI, Laura (2016) The Michigan Legal Help Project and the Role Libraries Played in Approving Access to Justice. Paper presented at: IFLA WLIC 2016 – Columbus, OH – Connections. Collaboration. Community in Session 179 - Law Libraries with Public Libraries and Government Information and Official Publications.

Bookmark or cite this item: http://library.ifla.org/id/eprint/1407
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Language: English (Original)
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Abstract

The Michigan Legal Help Project and the Role Libraries Played in Approving Access to Justice

Access to legal information is a critical component of access to justice. Without it, it can be extraordinarily difficult for a non-lawyer to address a legal issue or even represent oneself in a court proceeding. At the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century, free, reliable, and authoritative legal information was not consistently and uniformly available to the nine million residents of the state of Michigan. Then Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly, in partnership with the Michigan State Bar Foundation, formed the Solutions on Self-Help (SOS) Task Force to address this situation in order to improve access to justice for the state’s citizens. This initiative led to the development of the Michigan Legal Help website and the establishment of legal self-help centers throughout the state. From the SOS Task Force’s very inception, it recognized the critical role public libraries would have to play in this endeavor in order to truly change the access to justice environment. Law librarians were recruited to be members of the Task Force and were charged with collaborating with the state’s public libraries to train them on how to better assist patrons with legal questions and how to use the Michigan Legal Help website. Through the support of the Michigan State Bar Foundation, training programs for public libraries were developed and conducted throughout the state in two phases. These programs brought Michigan law libraries and public libraries together in ways they had never been before. This paper will discuss the evolution of this collaboration, what lessons were learned for both types of libraries, and will offer recommendations on how law libraries across the United States can collaborate with their public library colleagues to improve access to justice in their own communities.

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