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Providing Access to Justice Through Technology in Rural Communities

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Brooke Trottier, a third year law student at the University of St. Thomas School of Law and a 2021 Student Fellow in the Rural Summer Legal Corps, shares her summer of service experience, and the challenges facing rural communities.

Last summer, I served in the Rural Summer Legal Corps with Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota (LASNEM), a legal services organization that serves eleven counties in the Northeastern corner of the state, including the small town in which my family resides. I was drawn to this program due to its focus on providing access to justice through technology in rural communities.

Photo of a legal kiosk network location

The Reach Justice Minnesota is a project by the four regional legal aid providers of Minnesota. This project entails a series of initiatives, two of which I contributed to: the legal kiosk network and the Justice Buses.

The legal kiosk network consists of more than 200 computers located in community partner host sites. These kiosks provide access to a self-help legal database and the application for regional legal aid, with select kiosks outfitted for video conferencing. In alignment with the growing challenges the COVID-19 pandemic brought upon the community, the end of Minnesota’s eviction moratorium saw district courts requiring parties attend Zoom court by video.

While at LASNEM, I focused on maximizing host site experiences with the legal kiosks. As community partners opened their offices to the public again, it was important to ensure that the kiosks were functioning, each site had the tools it needed, and we were available for any questions or concerns that arose. This led to a fun field trip where I drove across LASNEM’s service area and visited five host sites!

Photo of Brooke Trottier and Justice Bus colleagues at the Minnesota State Capitol in July 2021

Another part of my work involved The Justice Bus, a mobile legal aid office affiliated with each regional aid office. I was responsible for ensuring LASNEM was well-equipped for providing legal aid services out of the bus: drafting internal policies, defining expectations and procedures, and connecting with community partners. This project culminated at the end of July when the four Justice Buses met at the Minnesota State Capitol. It was quite the experience to see the project come to life, and to witness the Minnesota Attorney General and Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice’s support for the initiative.

The Justice Bus project required vast collaboration across the state: legal aid staff, attorneys and Executive Directors, community partners, technology support companies, and the Minnesota Judiciary. Although it could be difficult to coordinate involvement from each group, the value of collaboration was clear.

My Equal Justice Works Student Fellowship introduced me to the expansive reach of civil legal aid. I not only have a renewed energy towards providing equitable access to justice and legal aid, but see a future for myself as a civil legal attorney.

I not only have a renewed energy towards providing equitable access to justice and legal aid, but see a future for myself as a civil legal attorney.

Brooke Trottier /
2021 Student Fellow
Rural Summer Legal Corps

I am immensely grateful for this experience and would recommend the Rural Summer Legal Corps to anyone who is considering a future in civil legal aid. This Student Fellowship was hands-on and allowed me to own my projects, while being supervised by experienced attorneys and legal staff.

If you are interested in embarking on a summer of service like Brooke, apply to the Rural Summer Legal Corps by 11:59 p.m. ET on February 14, 2022. For more information about program eligibility and requirements, please visit here.

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow