Ohio Legal Help’s website helps balance the scales for low income Ohioans

When we started Capellic in 2012 we made a conscious decision to only take projects we strenuously support based on our own values, exclusively for nonprofit and government clients. No project reminds us of that early commitment more than the work we do with Ohio Legal Help.

Three years ago, Ohio Legal Help was launched with the purpose of providing accessible legal help for low income Ohioans. This help came in the form of an ambitious mobile-first website: www.ohiolegalhelp.org.

The site launched several months before the pandemic hit. The impact it had was immediate and dramatic. Since the start of the pandemic through 2022…

  • 1.4 million users assisted
  • 158,000 users assisted on unemployment issues
  • 200,000 users assisted on eviction issues
  • The list goes on

Sitting behind this deceptively simple-looking site are a series of remarkable capabilities designed to make it as easy as possible for people to access the legal help they need.

A guided triage system quickly gets visitors to a dynamically curated legal information page designed to help them understand their rights, options, forms, and organizations that can assist them. The triage system takes into account the visitor’s legal issue, where the visitor is located, their relationship to the poverty level, and other demographic factors (if they decide to provide them).

A guided interview written in plain language helps users understand, fill out, and print complicated legal forms. If the forms are needed for court proceedings, users can opt-in to receive SMS and email reminders and updates, to help them navigate legal processes that can take months or even years, and where penalties for missed deadlines can have harmful ripple effects.

And that’s just the beginning of what the site can do. But it’s easy (for us) to get wrapped up in the technology, when the content plays an even more crucial role in the site’s impact. The Ohio Legal Help team takes painstaking steps to get every aspect of the content right for its users – from how questions and answers are written in the guided triage, to summarizing complicated legal rules throughout the site. They validate the content with real site users through a combination of surveys, site usage analysis and user tests.

By any measure, the impact of the site has been truly impressive.

What’s next? The Ohio Legal Help team is just getting started! The site just introduced full Spanish-language support. They are also working with Ohio courts to develop a series of Virtual Self Help Centers based on the core ohiolegalhelp.org platform. These Virtual Self Help Centers will bring both the technology and signature user-centered content development approach to simplify and improve filings and other interactions with the courts themselves. It’s exciting and inspiring to be a part of, and we can’t wait to share what they do next!