Legal Assistance Via E-mail!
12 November 2001 at 12:11 pm
The challenges and benefits of providing legal advice and assistance via e-mail have been brought together in a new publication for legal practitioners and community and government agencies.
E-mail Law: a planning guide for the delivery of free legal assistance via e-mail has been developed by the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW to help organisations consider how e-mail can be incorporated into their delivery of service to clients with legal problems.
For 34 years the Law and Justice Foundation has sought to advance fairness and equity of the justice system, and to improve access to justice, especially for socially and economically disadvantaged people.
E-mail Law is an initiative of the Law and Justice Foundation’s Online Legal Access Project (OLAP).
OLAP Director Sue Scott says E-mail Law is a timely guide to the issues associated with incorporating new technologies into traditional service delivery models.
Scott says that in the past twelve months 50% of Australians accessed the Internet and people are increasingly using e-mail to contact organisations for assistance.
She says the planning guide encourages legal service providers to consider how best to balance the benefits of e-mail with basic tenets of the justice system such as confidentiality and integrity.
As well she says, with e-mail, services can be provided faster and with more flexibility. It is not defined by distance, and has the potential to provide remote and regional communities with great options for accessing legal assistance. It can help service providers reach new audiences who may be more comfortable seeking out assistance via e-mail than they would via the telephone or in person.
The guide highlights how using e-mail brings its own challenges that must be factored in to service delivery models.
Scott says e-mail might not be the most effective way of delivering services to people who are emotionally distressed, or enabling service providers to identify client needs in the way face-to-face or telephone contact might.
Many people do not have easy access to e-mail or are uncomfortable using the medium.
However, she says an e-mail service may also function as a valuable gateway to the provision of more traditional services such as telephone or face-to-face help.
As well as discussing the benefits and challenges of e-mail, the guide alerts organisations to legal, policy and procedural considerations.
The Law and Justice Foundation acknowledges the contribution of the NSW Attorney General’s Department; Law Society of NSW; Legal Information Access Centre: NSW Legal Aid; Gilbert & Tobin; the Communications Law Centre; the NSW Department of Fair Trading; Multimedia Victoria; and the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre in the development of the guide.
E-mail Law has just been launched in electronic form and as a special offer to Pro Bono Australia readers it can be purchased at the special price of $10 in either PDF or Word format from the Law and Justice Foundation.
Please email email@example.com or call Sue Nicol on Tel: (02) 9221 3900 to place orders.
Hard copies are available for $12.00 (including postage and handling).
Pro Bono Australia also has a hard copy of E-mail Law to give away FREE to the first person to e-mail us their response to our lead article about the possibility of a peak body for the Not for Profit Sector. Send your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.