Future Law

Where Does Technology Fit in Access to Justice?

Technology and access to justice Many people don’t seek legal assistance because they simply don’t know that they need legal help. They don’t realize they have a legal problem that has a legal solution. This education gap is where the access to justice issue begins, but isn’t where it should end. Can technology help improve access to justice?

Increased accessibility and technology that identifies and addresses legal problems are gradually reducing barriers to equal justice under the law for all. Yet, we have a long way to go. For instance, over 90 percent of Americans have a smartphone, yet only one percent have a legal services app.

“The legitimacy of the rule of law depends on equal justice,” said Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. “Equal justice depends on equal access. So, in the end, the rule of law depends on the thousands of men and women who do the extraordinary difficult work of providing legal services to those in need.”

Building a Bridge to Information and Justice

Experienced practitioners may forget that the legal system can be confusing and scary to navigate without an attorney. When faced with unknowns, many give up before even starting. The high number of default judgments across the country is one testament to such failed just relief.

Even if someone recognizes their problem has a legal solution, they may be too intimidated to pursue it. Luckily, many are exploring how to use technology to break down access to justice barriers.

At this year’s The Future is Now: Legal Services 2.019 conference, MJ Cartwright (@MJ_Cartwright), CEO of Court Innovations, will take the stage to discuss online dispute resolution (ODR). Cartwright will explain how ODR not only addresses impediments to access, but also increases the efficiency and effectiveness of our justice system. ODR is demystifying the court system for many and resolving disputes easily and comfortably online.

What tools are being used across the country to resolve tens of thousands of disputes without stepping foot in a courthouse? How will ODR impact your organization and alter various areas of the legal practice?

Creating Access, from Research to Practice

As we consider evolving to meet the demands of a changing legal landscape, the profession needs data to inform decision-making.

April Faith-Slaker (@AFaithSlaker), Associate Director of Research Innovations at Harvard Law School’s Access to Justice Lab, will address data’s role in this evolution at The Future is Now. Faith-Slaker will discuss how empirical research can drive interventions to increase effective legal assistance in a system with limited resources.

In previous years, speakers at The Future Is Now have emphasized the power and even ethical requirement (!) for lawyers to collect and analyze data. Faith-Slaker will continue that journey. She’ll explore how evidence-based decision-making (EBDM) in the legal world can serve our justice system in the criminal and civil arenas, from policy making to the delivery of legal services.

“The way the [legal] system was designed versus how it plays out is very different. How do we correct that?” Faith-Slaker asks. She turns to data to answer questions of client need and to determine what services can meet those needs. This is especially relevant to small and solo practitioners serving the majority of clients with legal problems.

Technology and Access to Justice

The Future is Now: Legal Services 2.019 will address where technology fits in solving the access to justice problem on Thursday, May 16, from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at Venue SIX10 (610 S. Michigan Ave.) in Chicago. The conference qualifies for five hours of professional responsibility CLE, including 0.5 hours of diversity and inclusion CLE.

Seating is limited. Register before we reach capacity!

How are you using technology to improve access to justice?

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