Legal Aid of Nebraska (LAON) provides a full range of civil legal services across numerous projects and programs at various service levels, including advice and counsel, brief services for limited scope or self-representation, and direct representation in court. As the only statewide provider of direct and free civil legal services to the poor, Legal Aid and its workforce strive to “promote justice, dignity, hope, and self-sufficiency through quality civil legal aid for those who have nowhere else to turn.”

To carry on its mission statement and core values, Legal Aid of Nebraska entered into a contract with Avèro Advisors in June 2020 to assess LAON’s current technology landscape and develop a long-term integrated technology plan for resolving gaps related to expanding access. LAON desired to utilize the proposed plan as the cornerstone of the agency’s efforts to improve the balance between demand for increased technology adoption and available IT resources, capital, and operating funds for the next three to five years.

During this project, Avèro worked with approximately 32 key stakeholders from LAON to develop a solid understanding of the organization’s current state and desired future-state regarding expanding access through technology adoption. Our team also conducted a comprehensive SWOT analysis to identify existing and/or potential gaps and opportunities for improvement regarding LAON’s IT infrastructure and organizational structure (e.g., systems, processes, disaster recovery protocols, partnership information, and standard operating procedures.)

Avèro utilized the perceived key findings to develop a strategic roadmap to enhance strengths, seize opportunities, and mitigate any identified weaknesses and threats. In August 2020, our project team completed and provided LAON with a thorough Technology Implementation Plan Report consisting of a strategic action plan, based upon a prioritized Technology Roadmap, for expanding access across the state to low-income Nebraskans who are in desperate need of LAON’s services.

Below are highlights from the ITMP’s strategic action plan that the Avèro team identified and provided to LAON with strategies to mitigate the gaps within its IT environment:

Hire an IT Project Manager

LAON lacked an internal technological strategic vision for planning, monitoring, and executing processes and activities relating to the agency’s IT projects. Avèro recommended LAON hire an IT Project Manager to ensure internal project operations are running smoothly and keep external vendors accountable to the project’s scope, timeline, and budget. Additionally, the IT Project Manager could also assist LAON leadership in evaluating proposed IT investments to ensure that they align with the agency’s vision for future state technology.

Replace Amazon Connect/Allworx Phone System

LAON implemented Amazon Connect to provide its staff with teleworking capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the software did not offer enough sophistication that LAON needed to support its long-term business operations. The Allworx phone system did not allow the LAON staff to work remotely and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Avèro suggested LAON look for an integrated communications platform that is cloud-hosted and virtual to provide LAON with the agility to respond quickly, as business needs and remote access requirements change. The optimal solution would also allow the agency to immediately take advantage of new functionalities without waiting on upgrade cycles.

Implement Electronic Document Management System

Lack of a reliable Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) made it difficult to locate files and led to other issues, such as version control and heavy use in local drive storage. Avèro recommended LAON to procure and implement an EDMS, which allows for the creation, storage, managing, indexing, protection, and retrieval of digital documents from a centralized repository.

With an EDMS, LAON’s documentation would be located in a secure and easily managed centralized location to allow access to important documentation to individuals throughout the organization. Furthermore, workflows could be created for documents to be automatically routed to designated LAON staff for review and e-signature before moving forward in the document’s lifecycle.

Optimize LAON Website & Intake System

LAON’s website was challenging to navigate and not intuitive. LawHelp Nebraska, LAON’s intake system, was lengthy and lacked a guide or application wizard to show applicants how far they were in the process. Avèro suggested LAON re-organize and optimize its website to allow for greater self-sufficiency and reduce the volume of service calls. Additionally, an optimized, intuitive application portal with a scheduling enhancement and voice/chat/virtual meeting would ensure that all client communication was logged from application inception and allow attorneys to review client note transcripts that were automatically attached to the application.

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