It takes a somewhat pessimistic view of what has been achieved.
Here are his observations on the US:
One would have expected the United States, home of silicon valley and the cradle of the internet, to provide good examples of what can be done through web-based materials, particularly because of the relative dearth of civil legal aid funding as compared with the UKor The Netherlands. It would be helpful to be pointed to more USwebsites. To an outsider on a quick look, it seems very much as if the driver for use of the net comes, to a large degree, from the courts. Judges feel swamped with unrepresented litigants and they have every interest in supporting them up to – and perhaps sometimes a little beyond – the line between providing legal information/advice and legal advice/representation. Thus there are a number of self-help court based programmes with a supporting network of their own (http://www.SelfHelpSupport.org ). The law schools are also key players in this field with the Center for Access to Justice and Technology atChicago-KentLawSchool in the fore. The Center has developed an interesting internet package, A2J, which uses a cartoon-type format to progress someone through answers to a series of questions towards an appropriate document assembly. This is how it describes itself:
The simple act of filling out forms raises unique challenges that the many self-represented litigants have trouble overcoming. Without a very simple front end, a user unfamiliar with web conventions would be unable to use online form systems. To be effective, guided interviews for self-represented litigants must be very simple.
The A2J Author® tool … translated several of the conceptual models for a redesigned court system into a Web-based interface that gently leads unsophisticated users through a guided interview for determining eligibility and collects all the information needed to prepare the required court forms. Elegant, simple and powerfully effective, the A2J AuthorTM Web-based interface is the “front end” needed to make court document assembly more widely accessible to self-represented litigants.
The drawn figure of a woman takes you through a series of questions, represented along a road to a courthouse through which your answers fill in a form which you can then print at the end of the process. Examples of its use include applications for fee-waiver and name change applications. This is the same sort of interactive process as lies behind the road traffic accident programme discussed above. The A2J format seems potentially useful but a little wooden – particularly to anyone familiar with the possibilities that are usually displayed on an iphone or ipad app. There may well be other examples that need to be considered in any more comprehensive review.
I get a clear sense of the different regulatory environments having a major impact on the analysis.