Josef Partners with Volunteers of Legal Service to Automate Advice

At Josef, we believe that access to justice shouldn’t be reserved for a select few.

That’s why we’re excited to partner with one of NYC’s biggest pro bono legal service providers, Volunteers of Legal Service (VOLS), to ensure residents of the Big Apple can access the help they need sooner & better than ever before.

Helping more people in need with automation

Peter Kempner, Legal Director, and Senior Law Project Director at New York non-profit firm VOLS, sought to partner with Josef to help manage high demand with a small staff.

As the overseer of the VOLS pro bono program, Kempner and his team manage a variety of requests for legal advice. Unemployment inquiries are among the most frequent of these requests, with most clients calling to ask about eligibility for benefits.

Social impact at scale

In 2020 the pandemic sent unemployment numbers skyrocketing. What was once a routine task doubled — if not tripled — in scope. 

“It really was the project that had the biggest crisis with respect to the needs of the community and the volume of clients that we were seeing,” he said.

In an effort to continue providing quality advice to a larger number of inquirers, VOLS turned to Josef to automate unemployment insurance advice and streamline how they facilitate common inquiries. VOLS now redirects inquiries to the bot and a preprogrammed chat – using an easy-to-use and unintimidating communication style – collects their questions and automatically provides guidance. For inputs that the bot can’t answer, the requests are automatically triaged and forwarded to the proper member of the VOLS team. 

For Kempner, automating high-volume tasks like this one was an obvious choice to benefit both his team and their clients.

“We now have this other tool that allows you to get an answer quicker, that is always a good thing for us. As opposed to calling us in the middle of the night when we’re not here anyway that’s a good thing.”

3X faster advice

For clients already struggling with the woes of unemployment, the shift to automating intake through a Josef bot meant less time waiting for important answers and fewer barriers to accessing legal services.

“As a legal service provider, to be able to get access to tools like Josef that big law firms and others in the private sector use is really great,” said Kempner. “And to the extent that low-income clients are also able to access these tools, it does really provide a more rich and robust set of services.”


About Volunteers of Legal Service

Founded as a nonprofit organization in 1984, when New York City Bar leaders responded to severe federal government budget cuts to legal services, VOLS partners with New York City’s law firms, companies, and community-based groups to provide free, civil legal services when and where they are needed most.

Fast forward to the present and the VOLS team is one of NYC’s biggest pro bono legal service providers and through their network of partners stands by New Yorkers as they face their legal challenges. Through their six law projects and initiatives, VOLS helps to reunite families, to stave off evictions, resolve immigration issues, start small businesses, and much more.

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