TWIN FALLS — Need legal advice, but can’t afford a lawyer? Idaho Legal Aid Services can help with its new interactive communication system.
Are you being evicted? Text the keyword “eviction” to 208-718-1502 on your cellphone and within seconds Legal Aid will text back a link to its website containing eviction information.
Want to know how child support is calculated? Text “support” and Legal Aid will text a link to a website with information, resources and child support worksheets.
Need a notary? Text “notary” and Legal Aid will tell you where to find one.
Idaho Legal Aid Services is a nonprofit law firm that provides free civil legal assistance to eligible low-income people throughout the state.
Legal Aid doesn’t handle criminal cases, said Karen McCathy, a Legal Aid attorney in Twin Falls who covers all eight counties in the Fifth Judicial District. “But we can intervene and negotiate in civil matters.”
The new service focuses on basic information and doesn’t overwhelm a client with too much information.
Even people who are familiar with the legal system can get overwhelmed and can use this messaging system for help.
“I can type in a keyword and get an answer, then tell my client ‘OK, this is where we go next,’” said Marisol Towell, a legal advocate with Voices Against Violence in Twin Falls. “I think it’s a great tool.”
“Sometimes people just need to know how to do something,” she said. For example, the service “can help you write a demand letter for repairs without spending money on an attorney.”
The information is written by Idaho attorneys and tailored for Idaho laws.
The 13 topics available through the system are based on the most common areas “where self-representing people get stuck,” said Steve Rapp, Idaho Legal Aid technology project developer in Boise.
“The people we are trying to reach are our typical client base,” Rapp said, “low income and can’t afford to pay for an attorney.”
He expects the service to eventually expand into a more comprehensive and interactive tool. The service is free and there is no cellphone application to purchase or download.
“Idaho Legal Aid is leading the country in technology,” McCarthy said. “I think anything that empowers people to exercise their own rights is good.”