Nearly ten years ago, leaders across the nation from legal services, legal education, and court administration assembled in Chicago for the Leadership Workshop on Access to Justice. The workshop hosted by Chicago-Kent College of Law and The Center for Computer-Aided Legal Instruction (CALI) set out to explore new and innovative ways to leverage law students and technology. In addressing the access to justice gap. The results and findings of the workshop that took place in 2006 can be found here. Richard Granat, Founder of DirectLaw and participant of the workshop stated:
By assembling student resources across law schools it is possible to create a national community of law student technologists who can relate to each other and support each other. This project would draw out those talented law student/programmers who see a way for them to make a public interest contribution as well as further their future careers.”
One of the proposed models at the workshop involved law students across the nation using A2J Author® to create guided interviews for legal aid organizations. A guided interview refers to an online program that gathers user information. Most often this information is used to populate web-based court documents used by self-represented litigants.
This model has been successfully implemented over the years at Chicago-Kent College of Law, where their A2J Author Student Editorial Board works in collaboration with Illinois Legal Aid Online and other participating legal service providers to create guided interviews.
Fast-forward ten years later, as CALI recently announced its new A2J Project Matching Portal. This scaled model of collaboration used to create partnerships between legal aid organizations, courts, and law schools to create A2J Guided Interviews around the nation. The matching portal creates an online national hub to leverage law students in automating legal forms for legal aid organizations and courts. Law school professors can find available projects for their students posted by the legal organizations’ and courts.
CALI believes the A2J Project Matching Portal will contribute to lowering barriers to justice. CALI’s marketing director, Scott Lee stated:
Legal aid organizations and courts can save time looking for help to automate forms. In turn, law students will have an opportunity to do important public interest work while gaining technical competencies that are crucial for professional development. Through those collaborative efforts, self-represented litigants will have access to more self-help tools covering a wide array of legal issues.”
As this model gains traction and widespread adoption in jurisdictions across the nation. The legal profession should take note, and seriously explore and invest in other innovative and collaborative solutions that engage law students and technology to increase access to justice for low-income and self-represented people.