Potential Project ideas
Please see the brief descriptions of potential projects below. If you are interested, I can play matchmaker and obtain more information about any of them.
Housing search log
One problem that tenants face is obtaining subsidized housing. Often they apply to many waiting lists. When you are homeless, waiting to get housed, it's difficult to keep track of the places you apply. However, every year each place you apply will require you to send them a letter confirming that you want to stay on the waitlist. This letter often gets lost and tenants have to reapply.
Intake for HomeStart
Homestart is looking for a partner that might help them produce a useful online screening intake to help people who need assistance paying their rent.
Screener for immigrants at risk of deportation
The Asian Outreach Project at Greater Boston Legal Services would like to create a tool to help immigrants who are facing deportation. While their focus is on the Southeast Asian community in Greater Boston, the tool will work state-wide and could be the basis for a national project. There is a point person who is interested in technology and this is a project that would have active engagement from the partner guaranteed. (A good way to measure success!)
The phase 1 that I would expect 2-3 students to work on would be a triage tool to help AOP identify cases that need immediate representation. It would include:
- Gathering immigration history
- Gathering information about upcoming court or immigration proceedings
- Fill-in a blank CORI (criminal record information) request for the person to mail in
Future phases could have a much more detailed questionnaire that would help with risk assessment and managing the life of a case to gather documents from many different sources, including FOIA requests to DOJ to get immigration proceedings. Part of your work would be identifying a realistic scope for a phase 1 and a plan for future phases.
Annotated Index Generator for Harvard Immigration and Refugee Program at GBLS
This project has some working code already. You'd be evaluated on the new work. The project would help asylum lawyers prepare the massive "annotated indices" that support an asylum claim. Specifically, it would focus on gathering "country conditions' which mix different attributes of an asylum seeker (e.g., gang violence or ethnicity) with a time period and country.
Guided interview for School to Prison Pipeline
The School to Prison Pipeline project focuses on school discipline. There are very few staff. They would like to create some guided interviews to help students on their own.
How to e-file : user friendly guide
E-filing is a new and potentially exciting opportunity for low-income and pro se litigants in Massachusetts. It can make it easier for people who can't leave work or can't pay for the T fare to get to court on time. However, there is a big learning curve. Creating a video and guided interview to guide litigants could be very helpful. There is likely some information from Tyler (the e-filing vendor) to look at first--I am not sure how comprehensive or high quality it is.
How much do you qualify for in TAFDC
It is enormously complicated to understand both whether you qualify for welfare benefits (TAFDC) and how much you qualify for. You could work on this project with an attorney at GBLS or MLRI, or any legal aid program.
Note: this project may already have been worked on by students in a different Suffolk class, so may not be a good one to re-do. But if you're interested, we can see where that project could be extended or falls down.
Legal Resource Finder triage tool screeners/advice tools
Community Legal Aid recently received a Technology Initiative Grant from the Legal Services Corporation to improve the Legal Resource Finder. As part of this grant, they would like to create 5 short screeners to address different housing topics. For example: * https://a2j.documate.org/interview?i=docassemble.playground81%3AHousing+v3+Multiple+Issues.yml#page1 (this is very rough but gives you an idea of what they want)
Topics would include:
- I am behind in my rent
- I have bad conditions that need to be fixed
- I live in public/subsidized housing and my rent is incorrect
- I am facing eviction
You would work with Community Legal Aid (Springfield) and Mass Law Reform Institute on this project. They are very interested in having volunteers. This would be a good team project and will definitely live on.
Depending on number of students, I'd recommend including some form documents as well as the triage/advice piece of this project.
Guide someone on using the right leave policy
Helping people figure out the best leave to use when they need to take time off from work for personal or family needs. You would work with MLRI on this project.
Here's a start at a flow chart:
- You have an illness or need to see a doctor, go to:
- Earned sick
- A family member has an illness or needs to see a doctor, go to:
- Earned sick
- Small necessities
- You are (or your spouse is) about to give birth or adopt a child, go to:
- You or a family member need to address a domestic violence problem, go to:
- Earned sick
- A family member is being called up to active military duty, go to:
- You need to vote, go to::
- You have jury duty, go to:
One classic law school tech project is taking a small legal issue and helping a client understand if it applies to them. Think of a novel issue or one that many consumers might face with clear (not ambiguous) but relatively complex rules. For example:
- Can I change my name?
- Do I qualify for a benefit?
- Should I use the income-based repayment plan for my student loans?