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Research and Development

Research and Development

Illinois Legal Aid Online (ILAO) has a long history of developing new and innovative technologies in the legal aid community. Below you can find information on recent projects, documentation, and code samples. For more information on any of these technologies, please contact Gwen Daniels, Director of Technology Development.

Statewide Online Access System

The Statewide Online Access System is a statewide initiative involving ILAO and the three Legal Services Corporation (LSC) funded programs, LAF (Legal Assistance Foundation), Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance, and Prairie State Legal Services. Funding for the project was provided by the LSC through its Technology Initiative Grants (TIG) program.

The overall goal of the Statewide Online Access System is to improve the legal services delivery system in Illinois by developing and implementing an automated, online process for getting lower-income individuals and families to the most appropriate legal resources for their problems. The process contains three components:

  • An administrative interface built into that allows organizations to manage their intake settings. For example, they can limit the zip codes/counties where intake is open and number of intakes allowed per problem code as well as set income limits and system messages.
  • A triage module built on substantive rules created by the programs designed to guide users to an end point: falling silent (not allowing intake, but allowing them to call if they choose), directing to self-help materials and other resources and affirmatively telling the user that the program doesn't handle their problem or that they won't qualify, or allow an intake application to be submitted to the program. For each problem code, a master set of rules is being developed that can easily be modified via a web interface by individual programs.
  • An intake module built on rules created by the programs to allow users to apply for services. The website then transforms the application into XML that can be imported into Legal Server, the case management system used by the three LSC programs.

This project rolled out to full launch in Spring 2014.


  • System Technical Documentation--full system technical documentation
  • User Scenarios--short stories of how the system could be accessed.
  • Use Cases--baseline specification for the system, broken into use cases for the many different users of the system (end users, administrators, report readers)

Sample Triage Rules

Pro Bono Volunteer Search Redesign and Law Student Internship Application

Working with members of the legal aid and pro bono communities, we rebuilt the volunteer system on and create a statewide internship application system, building on earlier work we did with the Public Interest Law Initiative to move their law student application system to a few years ago.

The new volunteer search features a new SOLR-based search engine, custom views for law firms and corporations, an online application system, and an improved user interface both for volunteers looking for opportunities and for the legal aid agencies posting opportunities. In addition to the search, the system offers the ability to browse by opportunity type, practice area, skills acquired, population served, and organization.

The law student internship system allows legal aid agencies to post any law student internship or post graduate fellowships, and accept and manage applications online. It integrates with the existing PILI law student and graduate fellowship system on

Ayuda Legal Illinois: Building a Spanish Website with the Google Translate API

In partnership with LAF (Legal Assistance Foundation) and with TIG funding from the Legal Services Corporation, ILAO created the Ayuda Legal Illinois website which launched January 23, 2012. The project included technology development to integrate the Google Translate API into ILAO’s statewide content management system to allow us to duplicate English content into Spanish using machine translation (it is then reviewed by a human) and to create a site generator that allowed us to generate the website without building a completely new website. As a result of this project, we created several resources that may be of use to others looking to do similar work:

Mobile Apps

As part of an LSC TIG awarded to Pine Tree Legal Assistance (PTLA) in January 2010, PTLA partnered with ILAO to develop two Illinois-specific native mobile apps, the Illinois Legal Aid app, both available through iTunes and Google Play.

They are written using a combination of JavaScript, HTML, CSS and PhoneGap, which provides a way to wrap essentially web standard code into a native app as well as a way to use JavaScript to connect to native smartphone functionality (such as GPS, calendar, contacts, camera) that mobile websites do not have access to.

The Illinois Legal Aid app provides a subset of our Legal Guides, modules that provide common questions, forms, instructions, related articles, and referrals to legal aid agencies. We’ve included Legal Guides for the 25 most common legal problems, including divorce, eviction, child support, small claims, mortgage foreclosure and orders of protection.

The Illinois Pro Bono app provides a volunteer search to allow lawyers, paralegals, and law students to look for volunteer opportunities and contact the sponsoring organization. It provides a calendar of upcoming events for the next three months, including events, webcasts, and MCLE-eligible webcasts. It also includes a legal library that includes the Illinois Attorney Desk Reference Manual, which covers a variety of poverty law topics, as well as a handful of other pieces of content related to pro bono.

Our Websites
Legal information for the public
Información legal en Español
Support for legal aid advocates
Tools for volunteer attorneys

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