Florida Access to Justice (A2J) Using Self Help Tools

Hialeah, Florida 33002

Access to Justice In Florida


We've been tracking free online law resources since the dawn of the Internet.* And here we are, 29 years later, still giving our two cents about the best way to access to statutes, case law, procedures, and forms at the federal, state, and county level.

*  Law on the Net, Nolo Press, 1st ed, October, 1995, 2nd ed. January, 1997

Online Self Help Tools

  • Nolo
  • eForms
  • UpSolve
  • Means Test Calculator

Best Websites for Traditional Legal Research

AI Tools


Self Help Tools for Consumers

Bankruptcy Means Test Calculator (On This Website, here...)

LegalConsumer.com has been offering a free bankruptcy means test calculator to all web users since 2006 free of charge with no obligation to sign up for anything.

The calculator applies the current income and expense standards for your state and county to determine whether you qualify for Chapter 7 bankruptcy under the means test formula as expressed in the official bankruptcy means test forms.

Nolo.com (Books, Software, & Online Legal Document Assembly)

Nolo has been offering do it yourself legal software (Fist WIllWriter, then WillMaker) since the 1980s and no one does it better than Nolo, who started the self-help law movement by publishing books in the 1970s. Although Nolo was sold to Internet Brands many years ago, it has retained its quality standards.

WillMaker (Software and Online Legal Document Assembly)

Nolo's WillMaker software is an excellent tool for making legal documents associated with end of live issues. Not only can it make a will, but also other documents like a living trust, Powers of Attorney and transfer on death deeds that are available in 30 states.

(And in an odd twist of "I didn't' see this coming 40 years ago" stuff.... Nolo is now owned by folks that own the old Martindale-Hubble directory of large bound volumes of names of lawyers. Now Internet Brands lawyer lead network is know as the "Nolo/Martindale Network".  

For someone who worked for Nolo in the 80s and 90s when they were the "disruptors" and had a slogan, "Don't Feed the Lawyers, Just Say Nolo!"..., No, I didn't see that coming....

eForms.com (Online - Legal Document Assembly)

eforms.com it's a private company based in Tampa, Florida, and is a relatively new entrant into the field of consumer-facing access to justice tools.

It looks like they are doing their homework and producing quality content.

They offer an impressive number of state-specific forms and videos on how each form works in each state, and how to fill them in.

This kind of service fills a gap that government should be providing for free, just like my means test caclulator does.

Government should be offering these services, but they don't. So I'm all for the private sector filling in the gaps like this, if it's done well. And these folks seem to doing this with care and the proper attention to detail.


UpSolve is an attempt to make the bankruptcy process like filing taxes with an online TurboTax style interview interface, that walks then step by step through the process.

Upsolve's tool isn't for everyone; it's for people who have a "no-asset" bankruptcy.

Upsolve's tool does't work for folks who own a home but can be a good solution for debtors who have little property to lose and what they own is protected by the exemption laws available in their state.

If you don't fit the proper profile, you're referred to a bankruptcy lead to LegalZoom, I believe. 

If you DO fit the profile, their tool walks you through the process of filing and takes on one of the most pesky tasks, that of gathering and delivering the necessary pay stubs and tax forms and other documentation that filing bankruptcy requires.

And it helps you fill in the forms. 

All in all, it performs a valuable service to those who can use it. And it seems to work. 

Traditional Legal Research Tools: Best Websites

Even in this new world of AI, there is still a role for traditional legal research websites like this one. Here are the sites we find most useful.

State Law (Florida)

  1. CaseText Library of State Codes and Regulations:  (LC Rating: 10 out of 10)
    • Codes and Regulations
      The 50-state collection "/library" is a fantastic repository of up-to-date, free (for now) state codes for every state, including Florida. It's the best resource out there for primary law research. Who knows If it will remain free under its new ownership.
  2. Justia: Owned and operated by Tim Stanley, a pioneer of the "free law" movement, Tim has offered consumers free access to federal case law and statutes since the dawn of web browsers, first as the founder of FIndLaw, and then, for the past 20 years, as the owner and operator of Justia.
    • Florida Law- Repository of state laws and regulations. 
  3. Nolo: Nolo has been writing plain English summaries of consumer law since 1971. It's still is the best place for:
  4. NCSL (The National Council of State Legislatures) This site offers outstanding 50-state surveys of laws on a variety of topics, where you can find information on:
  5. NCLC (The National Consumer Law Center) This is primarily a paid site for attorneys, but they offer a few free, consumer-facing 50-state surveys of laws on the following topics:
    • Florida Debt Collection Laws
    • Florida Evictions Rules
    • Florida Covid 19 Restrictions
    • Florida Wage Garnishment issues

County & Local Law

Local Law

  1. Municipal CodesOne of two free websites that has codes for many major cities and towns.
  2. American Legal Publishing: Municipal Codes for Florida.

Local Government Boards, Agencies and Districts

  1. BallotOPedia: Find out who's on your local school board, and when your next local election is.
  2. DemocracyByZipcode.com: ( aka LegalConsumer.com/democracy); Local information to help citizens stay involved in government at all levels and know how to communicate with those who represent them.

Federal Law & Federal Courts

  1. CaseText Library of Codes and Regulations:  (LC Rating: 10 out of 10)
    This free directory "/library" is now a well-hidden, free, free (for now) resource. They offer the following resources
  2. Justia:  ( LC Rating: 9 out of 10)  Owned and operated by Tim Stanley, a pioneer of the "free law" movement, Tim has offered consumers free access to federal case law and statutes since the dawn of web browsers, first as the founder of FIndLaw, and then, for the past 20 years, as the owner and operator of Justia.

AI Tools & ChatGPT:
Do They Work for Legal Research?

If you’ve read any news lately, you've heard about how generative AI tools like ChatGPT will change how America works.

The Next Generation of  “Access To Justice” Tools For Consumers Has Arrived

Consumers can now use AI tools like ChatGPT 4, Microsoft CoPilot, Claude 2.0 (Amazon/Anthropic), Perplexity.ai and Google Gemini to get answers to questions about law and procedure.

As of this writing (February 2024), these AI chatbots have tremendous potential to empower consumers by quickly and clearly delivering local information about the laws and procedures they need to succeed in handling their own routine legal affairs.

What AI Is Good For

Helping People Access Legal Knowledge and Remedies Through a Conversational Experience

AI is good at taking questions from any starting point, and then generating followup questions to help you flesh out your knowledge of relevant legal rights, and the procedures to enforce those rights.

Providing Step by Step procedures

Generative AI generally does good job of breaking things into steps, especially if you specifically ask for steps, and you're asking about a process that is well-established.

Where AI Still Needs Work

Avoiding wrong answers

AI is still like a spreadsheet that is 95% accurate; you can't totally rely on it, but it gets most things right most of the time. Sometimes it either makes things up, or scrambles things by including laws from other jurisdictions that do not apply, or basing its answer on outdated information on the web. So you need to check any AI generated answer before relying on it. We show you ways to do that.

AI is intelligent, but not wise, but it does know how to make a good argument

Law has nuance, and its language is precise and changing words can change meaning. AI is may not be sensitive to this.

Knowing what to ask

AI works best when you know how to prompt it in such a way that is most likely to generate accurate answers that give you up to date legal information for your jurisdiction. That's where our prompt library comes in...

AI prompts for learning about law and procedure in Florida

In this experimental section, we plan to curate a growing library of AI prompts that, in our experience, will deliver pretty accurate results for you most of the time. As AI engines get better we're constantly reviewing and tweaking these prompts to deliver useful answers to you.

  • Debt & Credit 
    • Bankruptcy
    • Debt Collection
    • Liens and Property
    • Secured Debts
  • Inheritance Law
    • What's needed at death
    • How probate works
    • Faster options for small estates
    • How to record property transfers in your county
  • Student Loan Prompts
    • What are the latest federal income-based repayment programs?
    • What are the existing loan-forgiveness programs and who to qualifies for them?
    • State-specific loan forgiveness programs?
  • Personal Injury (coming soon)
    • What a personal injury lawyer will want to know from you and why

Prompts to avoid (because of faulty answers)

Our experiments have demonstrated that some kinds of prompt-based research,  asking about case law, are very likely to produce so many fake results that makes relying on them problematic.