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Evaluating State Court Self-Help Programs

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While there are many excellent legal self-help initiatives, there are few studies that evaluate those self-help programs after the fact, i.e. after the self-represented litigant has used the software or the court forms and system (e.g. in small claims court) to resolve a problem or right a wrong.

But the surveys that do exist can be helpful to others. See, for example, this report, which you can find at the SRLN Stories page – and here is the direct link:

Orange County, CA and the State of Texas Conduct User Experience Research and Learn that SRLs in Civil Cases Can E-File (News 2016)

What are we learning about self-represented litigants who e-file? Who are they? Where are they? What cases do they file? How do the tools work for them?

Using identical survey instruments, the Superior Court in Orange County and the Texas Office of Court Administration (Texas AOC) gathered valuable e-filing insights into these questions for both represented and self-represented parties, and presented their findings at CTC2015.
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As courts consider expanding into SRL heavy case types, this research, the first of its kind to explore the user experience in e-filing, offers an important window into what types of supportive services users need, and what courts should be considering as they expand e-filing. Other courts are encouraged to use the survey instrument in their jurisdiction as they expand e-filing….”[Link to full SRLN story.]

Important Note: the SRLN is an organization for legal system professionals (lawyers, judges, law librarians), not for people in need of legal self-help. If you need assistance with a legal problem, please contact a local law library, legal aid office, a nonprofit legal assistance service, or your state representatives.) For example, in Oregon, visit the Oregon Law Help website and check out the Legal Assistance Resources guide (which you can find at the Washington County Law Library even if that link fails).

You can find your Oregon state representatives contact information at the Oregon Legislature’s website. Don’t forget, they wrote the Oregon Revised Statutes (and delegate authority to the state administrative agencies) and may be able to explain what those laws and rules mean. You need to contact your city or county representatives if you have questions about local ordinances. (But be prepared: none of those representatives will be able to interpret the laws for your specific case and will recommend you consult a licensed Oregon attorney.)

Another excellent source for self-help initiative stories is the Richard Zorza Access to Justice Blog.