Automations help Memphis nonprofit mitigate hundreds of evictions

As the effects of COVID-19 battered the Memphis economy, thousands of citizens are struggling to pay rent, and the city faces risks of mass evictions. To improve housing stability, NPI Memphis, in partnership with Memphis Area Legal Services and the University of Memphis Law School Clinical Program, put in place a program to match volunteer legal assistance and CARES Act funding with renters and landlords so they could reach settlements and improve housing stability in the area.
To streamline the hundreds of applications for legal aid that were overwhelming NPI legal clerks, USDR volunteers built an automated intake process that could screen applicants, collect required files and signatures, and generate case files so that legal clerks could focus on client interactions and efficiently hand off cases for assignment.

Challenge

  • The Google Form being used to collect applications would receive entries that were not eligible for the program and legal clerks would spend time reviewing entries and do their best to provide alternative resources for ineligible applicants
  • NPI legal clerk volunteers would call applicants multiple times to gather basic information like birth dates, supporting documents and to collect required signatures
  • Clerks would spend the majority of their time moving client data between documents and legal software and uploading images of documents sent to them via email or text message
  • It was challenging for an applicant to know where they were in the process and their case could stagnate for days or weeks if they missed a signature. Sometimes applicants re-submitted their applications causing duplicate cases
  • NPI Memphis needed an applicant intake and matching process that could scale so that they could efficiently leverage the $2M of funds from the CARES Act granted to them by the city and county for housing stability initiatives

Solution

  • USDR volunteers replaced the Google Form with a JotForm that collects required information and automatically filters out ineligible applicants, sending them alternative resources and freeing up legal clerks to work on eligible applications
  • The intake form can now collect all the required data including files, such as lease documents and images, and auto-uploads them to a case file in their legal software
  • The JotForm and Zapier automations now collect the five signatures required at the relevant stages of the application process and applicants receive automated emails with information about what comes next at each stage of the process
  • NPI legal clerks now work from a consolidated case document that is auto-populated with client information from the application form. This case document can then be handed off to their partners at Memphis Area Legal Services and The University of Memphis School of Law for assignment to pro bono legal counsel

The Results

300+

Applications successfully routed through the automated process

200+

Evictions mitigated and settled through the program

75%

Reduction in time it takes legal clerks to prepare a case

USDR Team Members

Zane Selkirk

Project Lead

 

Technology Used

  • Zapier
  • JotForm
  • G Suite
  • DocuSign
  • Slicktext
  • Clio Legal Software

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