Michigan Legal Help (MLH) is celebrating a decade of providing free legal information to litigants representing themselves in Michigan. Since 2012, the MLH website has given access to high-quality legal information, launched 26 self-help centers throughout the state, and built dozens of Do-It-Yourself tools to guide users through legal processes.
In that time, MLH has continuously worked to expand accessibility. In 2013, the website was optimized for mobile to ensure that the many people who are using cell phones instead of computers were able to receive information and guidance. Recognizing the importance of increased language accessibility to the information contained on the site, MLH launched Ayuda Legal de Michigan in 2014, allowing Spanish-speakers to receive information in their own language. In 2017, MLH launched the Guide to Legal Help, a tool that walks users through a series of questions in order to guide them to the best source of assistance based on their legal issue, location, and a number of other factors.
MLH faced perhaps its biggest challenge at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. As courts closed and legal offices across the state went remote and had to figure out new ways to serve clients, MLH became a more important tool than ever. MLH staff immediately mobilized to provide critical information about the court systems in jurisdictions across the state and accurate explanations of ever-evolving laws and policies. Traffic to the MLH site jumped to more than 4 million page views in 2020, demonstrating once again the incredible need for its services. As the legal needs created by the pandemic develop over time, MLH staff keep creating and distributing content and guidance to meet the moment.
Since the pandemic, MLH has continued to find creative ways to reach those who need legal help. In 2021, MLH launched What’s Next Text, a text flow application designed to receive feedback from site users to analyze issues those without attorneys are facing in understanding the website’s information and moving forward with their cases. The information gathered from What’s Next Text is being used to continuously improve the functionality of MLH.
MLH has been recognized several times for its innovative work, receiving the 2015 Innovations in Equal Justice Award from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association and the 2017 Access to Justice Award from the Michigan State Bar Foundation.
MLH continues to evolve to meet the needs of Michigan’s low-income populations in need of legal assistance. Later this year, MLH will unveil a brand-new website that will make its information and tools even more accessible and easy to use. We’re looking forward to seeing what the next decade brings for MLH!