CLSMF Teams Up with Upsolve

We are taught that we should live within our means, saving for the future is important, and budgeting is essential to financial security. However, sometimes life throws a curve ball impossible to dodge.

When this happens, expenses accumulate, leaving those facing hardships buried underneath a mountain of debt. The weight of this mountain may seem impossible to carry and the stress it brings can even cause a strain on one’s health. Fortunately, our justice system has a way of unburdening someone caught in a financial hard place. That escape route – bankruptcy. It may seem like a dirty word to some, but to others it really is a fresh start. A chance to get back on one’s feet and move forward with their lives.

Community Legal Services of Mid-Florida (CLSMF) knows all too well what someone goes through when stuck in this deep financial burden. That is why our attorneys and advocates work with community members who are struggling to make ends meet and are suffocated by a mountain of debt. When clients are guided through the bankruptcy process by an attorney, a huge weight is lifted off their shoulders. The gratitude pours out when they realize they have a chance to start over. 

Unfortunately, many do not have access to this critical help. The bankruptcy process was designed to have attorney involvement, for without it, it is far too easy to get lost in the system. Enter Upsolve, a nonprofit legal technology developer that created a way to help people file Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Upsolve founders Rohan Pavuluri and Jonathan Petts told Forbes, “We’ve built the first online platform to guide users with routine cases through every step of the bankruptcy process. The core of the product is an online survey that uses cartoons and plain language inspired by the Financial Distress Research Project at Harvard Law School. Once a user fills out the answers, we populate the official forms that are filed with the court after pro bono attorney review.” This is where CLSMF comes in to play for Central Florida.

CLSMF recently became a part of Upsolve’s national pilot project designed to assist pro se (self-help) litigants file Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. As the Upsolve founders put it, “…when you consider our national access-to-justice crisis[, f]our out of five people who need a civil lawyer in this country can’t get one.” With this program, litigants can use the technology they have created to go through 90% of the bankruptcy process easily. Then CLSMF works on partnering the litigant with one of our volunteer attorneys who takes them the rest of the way. It is a win-win for everyone involved.  

When asked about the impact this kind of technology and legal aid partnership can have, Upsolve founders state, “it erases constant anxiety and gives them a new sense of what’s possible. Our users have already gone on to get new jobs. As the Supreme Court stated, bankruptcy gives hard-pressed Americans, “a new opportunity in life and a clear field for future effort.”

CLSMF has great expectations to empower hundreds of community members through legal tech like Upsolve, helping them find freedom from legal issues and a fresh start in life.