This chapter provides an anecdotal case study of the adoption of open source software by governmentfunded nonprofit organizations in the legal services community. It focuses on the Open Source Template, a Web site system that provides information to the public on civil legal matters, and collaborative tools for legal aid providers and pro bono attorneys. The successful aspects of the adoption within this community are traced to the funders’ emphasis on developing re-usable, non-proprietary technology tools, the strong communitarian ethic which nonprofits share with the open source community, and the presence of an active support network to broadly leverage intellectual capital. It is hoped that this chapter will assist those considering the adoption of open source software by identifying the specific factors that have contributed to the success within the legal services arena and the real-world benefits and challenges experienced by the members of that community.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Nonprofit: An organization that does not include the generation of a profit as a core part of its overall organizational focus or strategy.
Technology Initiative Grant (TIG) Program: A program within the LSC which directs funds specifically to technology projects. The program subsidized the development of the Open Source Template.
Adoption: The process of accepting and using particular software as a standard within an organization.
Open Source Template (OST): A combination of Web site tools built exclusively on open source technologies, funded by the Legal Services Corporation, that allows clients to obtain assistance on civil legal matters and enables collaboration between legal aid providers within a state.
Legal Services Corporation (LSC): A private, nonprofit corporation established by Congress to provide civil legal assistance in areas such as family law, housing, and consumer issues to those who otherwise would be unable to afford it.
Zope: A leading open source content management system, written in the python programming language. It serves as the underlying platform of the Open Source Template.
Community: A group of individuals who come together due to a common interest or a shared focus on a particular item or idea.