How Volunteers of Legal Service automated their community legal advice with Josef

Legal help is often considered something only available to those of a certain financial status.

This simple fact can keep people from accessing help in times of need.

At Volunteers of Legal Service, a nonprofit legal services provider in New York City, staff work hard to provide a huge array of legal advice and services to their wider community.

During extraordinary conditions in the recent global pandemic, service user numbers spiked and the phones were hot.

As part of their service, the VOLS team provide advice on unemployment insurance benefits, so when 1000s of New Yorkers suddenly found themselves without a job, the team faced a tactical and material challenge.

How do you juggle rising call volumes without compromising on quality legal services?

For VOLS, Josef offered a great solution. 


On call after call, staff would respond to questions like, “How do I navigate the benefit system?”,  “What are the eligibility requirements?” “How does (a lack of) US citizenship impact the likelihood of receiving financial help?”.

VOLS had the knowledge. They just needed a new way to share it en masse in a quick, easy way that’s accessible to as many of their clients as possible. 

Assessment requires time and resources. For VOLS Senior Legal Director Peter Kempner, automation provided an opportunity to streamline and expand their reach. 

Peter Kempner, Senior Legal Director, VOLS

Peter Kempner, Senior Legal Director, VOLS


Ensuring a new tool improves the experience of a given client base requires a thorough examination of their needs

With that in mind, the VOLS team identified the common caller questions and created a flow to accommodate for each user’s circumstance. 

Once finalised, the team then mapped each flow onto Josef, tested its efficacy and successfully launched!

Their ‘Eligibility for New York State Unemployment Insurance’ tool now provides vital knowledge & advice 24/7, 365 days a year.

Its content is accessible and engaging, featuring concise breakdowns of legal requirements, visual aids, and document excerpts to help users navigate an otherwise complicated process.

Each user is provided with recourse to further help and particularly complex cases are triaged and forwarded to the appropriate VOLS team member. 

“Even if a few calls are diverted using the bot, the extent that it saves our staff time is really awesome.”
– Peter Kempner, Senior Legal Director, VOLS


Significant time savings

In the months following the tool’s launch, VOLS saw their call volume fall by half.

By providing an easy, accessible self-service option to clients, the team no longer had to spend hours answering repetitive questions for each individual caller. Instead, they could address more complex client questions and offer their services on a larger scale. 

All within the context of a global health crisis! 


Help around the clock

Rather than limiting their availability to business hours, VOLS could now help around the clock — anytime, anywhere. 

“Folks who are going to our website can click on the Q&A bot as opposed to calling us in the middle of the night when we’re not available,” Kempner said. 


Community-wide benefits

Looking forward, VOLS hopes to use this precedent to raise awareness among legal professionals on the importance, and means by which, one can serve their community. 

Through partnering with Josef and the international law firm Clifford Chance, the VOLS team have furthered their mission and championed volunteer legal work.

Reflecting on the project, Kempner noted,  “This partnership promoted the work we do as an organisation, promoted pro bono generally, and has gotten private attorneys to understand the needs of the community.”

Scale & streamline with Josef

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