Law offices nationwide use programs to create guided interviews that result in the creation of legal pleadings, letters, and other forms. Programs creating the interviews upload the forms to a server and formulate questions that correspond to blanks in the forms where entries such as names and addresses of plaintiffs and defendants, etc., would go. Because the forms use logic-based variables, and because most legal proceedings require filing numerous documents, the interviews save a great deal of time for attorneys, who can avoid entering the same information again and again. From the perspective of a low-income person proceeding on his/her own, the interviews help by restructuring the process of filling out forms into a way that makes sense. MLSC currently lacks someone primarily dedicated to developing and promoting automated court forms, even as the justice community’s interest in the forms is rapidly increasing. A CTC VISTA would fill that void.
In short, the responsibilities of the VISTA member will be to develop, promote, and evaluate the use of guided interviews based on legal forms, with continual assistance from the project supervisor.
The primary goal of the project was the creation of court form assembly interviews for low-income Minnesotans and volunteer attorneys who serve them. Ms. Kim was successful in meeting that goal, creating 16 interviews, some of which including sets of multiple forms. These interviews allow attorneys and clients to efficiently complete complex court forms, educating them about the process throughout, and avoiding duplicative effort in completing repeated fields. Low-income Minnesotans and volunteer attorneys now have an easier, more efficient way to complete dozens of critical court forms. Some of these interviews have been used hundreds of times. For clients, the structure of the interviews eliminates a great deal of the intimidation usually associated with form completion. The impact to low-income clients is immeasurable because of this. Other beneficiaries are pro bono attorneys, who can now more easily provide assistance in areas of law unfamiliar to their daily practice without a great learning curve, and courts, which should expect to see many more informed and prepared self-represented litigants.