COLUMBUS – Ohio Legal Help, a website created to help all Ohioans access the civil justice system by providing free information on common legal issues, details about court and other legal forms and referrals to legal aid and bar association referral programs, formally launched.
Ohio Legal Help, www.ohiolegalhelp.org, provides plain language legal information, interactive self-help tools and connections to local legal and community resources to help Ohioans resolve their legal issues. All content is reviewed by lawyers to ensure the website is easy to understand, action-oriented and accurate.
“The Supreme Court’s Task Force on Access to Justice recommended in 2015 that Ohio develop a statewide website that provides free and accurate legal information and standardized forms,” Supreme Court of Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said. “Ohio Legal Help is that website and will increase access to justice for all Ohioans.”
“Following from the recommendation of the Supreme Court’s Task Force on Access to Justice, a steering committee of judges, private lawyers, legal aid lawyers, librarians, clerks of court and domestic violence advocates representing various Ohio stakeholder organizations was convened to develop a website for Ohioans who needed legal information,” David Kutik, Ohio Legal Help board president, said. “This comprehensive process, which resulted in the creation of the Ohio Legal Help website, has ensured that Ohio Legal Help will meet the diverse needs of potential users.”
To lay the groundwork for Ohio Legal Help, the steering committee commissioned a survey of potential users. Eight hundred Ohioans responded to the survey. Half of the respondents made less than $30,000 per year.
The survey showed that costs and confusion of dealing with legal issues were most frequently cited as barriers to accessing the legal system. Sixty-one percent of survey respondents believed that they needed more legal education, and 68 percent strongly supported a legal access portal website.
Ohio Legal Help addresses these concerns with straightforward legal information that helps Ohioans resolve legal problems in common, critical legal areas, such as housing, family, consumer and income maintenance. The website’s mobile-first design will meet users where they are, and the tailored, personalized approach will ensure that users only receive information and referrals specific to their individual needs.
“People living in poverty often have several legal needs at a time because of the domino effect of income instability,” said Janet Hales, executive director, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality. “I’m confident that Ohio Legal Help will provide legal information and tools that will enable people to protect their legal rights when legal aid cannot serve them due to our financial limitations.”
Ohio Legal Help is expected to attract more than 300,000 users in its first year. The information available on Ohio Legal Help is free. Ohioans can visit the site at www.ohiolegalhelp.org.