Under the auspices of the School of Law, the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation (AVLF) and Atlanta Legal Aid Society (ALAS) have established sites on the law school's World Wide Web detailing public interest projects. The law school Web site is the largest educational publisher of federal appellate court decisions in the nation.
Attorney and law school alumnus Eric Ogrey, who works for the Atlanta firm of Jones, Day, Beavis & Pogue, coordinated the effort among his firm, the two organizations and the law school. Emory, which already helps support the two organizations through student internships, "sees the project as an opportunity to promote volunteerism by providing space on our computer system and access to e-mail and discussion lists," said Deborah Keene, associate director of the MacMillan Law Library.
Both AVLF and ALAS expect to reap enormous benefits from being on the Web, said Ogrey. "Establishing an internet presence enables these organizations to publish all of their materials and solicit volunteers and donations on-line," he said, a big advantage over telephone calls and expensive newsletters.
Users of the Web sites also will have access to Emory law library's Electronic Reference Desk, which indexes every legal site in existence. "Legal research can be time-consuming, cumbersome and expensive," said Ogrey. "An on-line service can do this research in a fraction of the time, but these services cost hundreds of dollars an hour and are beyond smaller organizations' means." By accessing legal research through Emory's Web site, AVLF and ALAS will be able to compete with larger, better funded organizations of the same caliber without having to worry about costs.
AVLF is a non-profit foundation that provides legal help to low-income people, arranging pro bono representation in civil matters for financially eligible residents of Fulton County or those who have a case pending in Fulton County. The AVLF Web page will list cases that need attorneys and projects that need firms. The page also lists various programs and projects of interest to lawyers and students. For example, AVLF has a Saturday Lawyers Program that "runs the gamut of civil practice," a clinical Guardian Ad Litem Program in which law students participate, and a Domestic Violence Project that incorporates volunteer panels. The Web site, which is interactive, will develop an e-mail list for those who request information on the programs AVLF offers, and lawyers and law students alike can volunteer on-line for specific opportunities.
"This is more efficient than just a Web site--it's an outreach internet management system with e-mail, a list service--it's an entire package," Ogrey said. "People anywhere can get to the sites quickly, learn about the organizations and choose whatever options they like." Ogrey added that the sites have a fast internet connection, and the quality of the pages may make them ideal models for other legal aid service providers.
Atlanta Legal Aid, which has a staff of attorneys but accepts volunteer lawyers in certain fields to represent indigent clients, will publish its newsletter on-line and will list specific volunteer opportunities. Other services available on the ALAS Web site are the Home Defense Program, which tracks housing scams; access to legal sites through Emory's Electronic Reference Desk; and the ability to download federal circuit court cases in RTF ( rich text format).
The Web address for AVLF is
<http://www.law.emory.edu/PI/AVLF/> and the new address for Atlanta Legal Aid is <http://www.law.emory.edu/PI/ALAS/>. The Emory law school Web site, which has approximately 150,000 visitors per week, is at <http://www.law.emory.edu>.
-- Elaine Justice