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NYC Consumer Help Finder

New NYC Consumer Help Finder Optimizes Intake & Referral Process

by CBJC Staff November 3, 2017

Over the past year and a half, Hotline Deputy Director Christopher Schwartz and Managing Attorney Alice Morey have lead a team of five legal services providers to collaboratively design and program the NYC Consumer Help Finder, an online intake and triage tool, which allows 24/7 access from any web browser to low-income New Yorkers applying for legal help with a consumer issue. The Consumer Help Finder, which launched on Friday, October 20th, is an exciting development for NYC consumers.

Through a grant from The New York Community Trust and with technology donated by LegalServer, a case management software company, the five organizations (the City Bar Justice Center, CAMBA Legal Services, Mobilization for Justice, the Feerick Center for Social Justice at Fordham Law School and the Urban Justice Center) developed a common portal that operates like a decision tree to determine clients’ eligibility and needs, categorizing the kind of assistance to provide them and referring them to the most appropriate source of further legal services through a so-called Automated Routing Tool.

Over a secure connection, applicants enter information about themselves and the legal matter they want help with into the portal interface. Using branch logic, the portal asks questions and the client answers electronically trigger either responsive legal information or more questions. Using the Automated Routing Tool, the portal triages this information and intelligently refers each applicant to the appropriate partner organization based on a combination of factors that may include the type of consumer issue, where the applicant resides, the language spoken by the applicant, and how many referrals an organization has recently taken.

In addition to obtaining a referral to an actual legal services provider, the Consumer Help Finder provides applicants with legal information about their legal issue. Using branch logic and a series of short questions, the Consumer Help Finder provides limited legal information on particular consumer issues and provides a direct link from the application site to LawHelpNY.org. For some applicants, that information might be sufficient help; for those needing more assistance, the Consumer Help Finder refers each eligible applicant to a live legal services provider who will provide the applicant with direct legal representation.

Currently, New Yorkers seeking help with a consumer issue often have to contact the intake programs of multiple legal services offices. Each program requires the applicant to provide basic demographic information, financial information, and a description of the legal issue in order to be assessed for eligibility. With the NYC Consumer Help Finder’s Automated Routing Tool, an applicant only has to enter this information once. Once a case has been received by the “referred to” organization, the information entered by the applicant is automatically entered into that organization’s case management system and a case handler from that organization contacts the applicant within two business days. This intelligent routing of applicants frees up resources on the organizational end, and eliminates the need for applicants to seek assistance with each partner organization separately, thus saving every applicant an immense amount of time and frustration.

Once the structures are in place, more organizations can be added to the rotation schedule with relative ease. With the goal of enhancing access to legal assistance to NYC consumers, the five partner organizations view the Consumer Help Finder as a powerful tool for getting applicants the assistance they need in an efficient manner. More importantly, it will enable the partner organizations to spend less time routing consumer cases to the right place and more time on the substantive legal work that benefits their clients.

The NYC Consumer Help Finder can be accessed at: http://bit.do/consumer-help-finder

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