By: Paul Black and Dina Franch. Published by: Georgia Senior Legal Hotline. Published in February 2012.
This study looked at clients provided services by the Georgia Senior Legal Hotline in an attempt to measure the clients’ ability to take recommended legal action and further sought to quantify the positive impact the services provided had on the lives of clients. The Hotline attempts to solve a client’s legal problem by providing brief services and self-help advice. This Outcomes Study is part of a larger effort by the Hotline and the State of Georgia’s legal services community to develop and focus resources on the most critical legal issues and the most vulnerable populations.
Study modeled on the AARP Foundation’s 2006 Legal Hotlines Client Outcomes Study. Six categories of cases were selected in which the Hotline routinely provides self-help legal advice: 1. Consumer; 2. Public Benefits; 3. Landlord-Tenant; 4. Power of Attorney or Advance Directives; 5. Qualified Income Trusts (QITs); 6. Probate and Wills.
Six different surveys were drafted, one for each of the six areas of law targeted. Each of the surveys contained approximately 40 questions. The first section of the survey captured demographic data, including indicators of social isolation: Does client live alone? Is client disabled and/or homebound?
The second section captured data on: the specific type of case, the specific action the attorney recommended, whether the attorney mailed written materials, and what specific written materials, if any, were mailed.
The remainder of the survey captured data on: whether the client was able to take the specific action recommended whether the action solve the client’s problem whether the client understood the written materials whether the client called the Hotline back if she found that the action was too difficult to complete on her own and, outcomes data – e.g. monthly amount of food stamps received, amount of recovery in a consumer case, number of people retaining housing – which was not known at the time we originally closed the case Surveys were conducted by telephone. A total of 174 surveys were completed.
The Hotline’s self-help materials and advice can be used by seniors to achieve favorable outcomes in the following types of cases: Debt collection harassment cases (sending letters to stop harassing calls) Debt collection lawsuits (filing answers to raise common defenses) Contract disputes Credit report disputes Landlord tenant disputes (where a dispossessory has not yet been filed) Qualified Income Trusts Simple probate cases.
Clients are not as capable of taking recommended actions in the following cases: Mortgage disputes Executing Financial Powers of Attorney and Advance Directives Public Benefits applications and appeals, especially QMB/SLMB and veterans benefits Filing pro se lawsuits.
Findings also showed that: clients are confused or overwhelmed when we provide advice on more than one legal issue at a time, “disability” more than “age” was an indicator that the client would have more difficulty taking the recommended action.