Legal Aid Process Design: An Interview with Americorps Fellow Evan Ruda

Evan Ruda is helping a Chicago-based legal aid save time and serve more people by introducing technology into administrative workflows.

By Thomas F. Officer

May 28, 2019

Hi Evan — You're the Technology Integration Coordinator at LAF Chicago. What is that role and how did you come to hold it?

I worked in finance after graduating from business school. I didn't really enjoy it so I decided to take a break and work at a software startup, which I ended up really enjoying. I had to leave the startup early because of a family matter back in Chicago. That's when I saw that Americorps had an open Tech Integration Position. It sounded like a lot of the work I had already done and it was for a good cause. I happily applied and got the position.

Currently, my primary job at LAF Chicago is to find ways to use technology to make various workflow processes less arduous and complicated.

Which processes are you working on right now?

I'm working on our client intake process. Currently, the intake process happens primarily on paper. There is a lot of information to keep track of during an intake and this results in a ton of paperwork. I'm trying to find a way to make more of our client intake process happen on mobile devices. I have a science background but I'm not a software engineer. That's why we're experimenting with Community.lawyer’s App Builder.

What is your goal at LAF Chicago?

Ideally, we will create a document assembly app for every document we have. These apps will not only assemble documents but provide end-users with helpful information, collect signatures, and feed data into our database -- and all of this will happen from an ipad. That's my goal.

What is the biggest obstacle standing between you and this goal?

We're a nonprofit, so money is always an issue. That's why we're taking advantage of the App Builder's pricing model.

We also think a lot about the different user experiences between completing a document on paper and electronically. We want to make sure that the electronic process doesn't fall behind the experience of in-person document assembly. That's how we approach our app design: we want to use the apps to present the information as openly as possible to give the client the same experience as if they were looking at a paper version of the document. We never want someone to sign something they haven't seen.

Which is more difficult — deciding what to build or building it?

The App Builder is easy to use. You can figure it out for yourself and, if not, you can just reach out and chat with the Community.lawyer team.

My biggest challenge is implementing an app on the scale of our organization. It's a big change to go from physical to electronic documents, which is why we're going slow and just starting with a few documents.

What’s next?

Up next, I'd like to take on the process by which we assemble retainer agreements. We have a lot of different retainer agreements and I've been told that I would be "everyone's hero" if I somehow managed to make these agreements 100% mobile.

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