Some Reflections on a Foundational Access to Justice Technology Summit.

While LSC will in the future be releasing a full Report from this week’s Access to Justice Technology Summit, I thought it appropriate to share some of my own personal impressions and hopes.

It was a powerful event, with a strong consensus at the end in support of a transformative goal and a five component agenda in support of that goal.

The goal:  providing some access services to 100% of those unable to obtain access to justice because of financial barriers.

The five chosen components bring together the major themes and opportunities for the next few years.  The components (in my own words and my own order):

  • Distance services supported by a customer portal (hopefully integrating access to both legal and court services, if possible, and including ways for litigants to generate, e-file and save their own documents.)
  • Mobile access to such services with location aware tools.
  • Universally available and comprehensive document assembly services (this one is very much about making full use of an already significantly deployed innovation.
  • Checklists and protocols for optimization of both the effectiveness and efficiency of services to litigants.
  • Triage to tie all this together with data generated algorithms that route litigants and others to the most cost effective way of getting meaningful access.

For each of these components, we detailed a deployment strategy.  In the case of triage, for example, we agreed that we needed a court/legal aid laboratory to test and track triage rules developed by experts, tested by research, and then to use aggregated data to modify and improve those protocols.

Indeed, the need for cooperation with courts and other partners was a theme running though most of the Summit.  Few, if any, of the components can work properly if developed by legal aid alone (the exception may be the checklist/protocols component).

Part of the long-term implementation challenge is to develop the cooperative relationships with courts, bar and community partners that are required to make this interrelated system work.  The management of the initiative will need to include elements of regular communication and perhaps shared decision-making with leadership of all the stakeholder groups.  This alone could be transformative, and we need to start working on it now.

Congratulations again to John Greacen, the Summit consultant, and LSC and its leadership for committing to this initiative.  We now anxiously await the Final Report on the Summit.

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About richardzorza

I am deeply involved in access to justice and the patient voice movement.
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6 Responses to Some Reflections on a Foundational Access to Justice Technology Summit.

  1. Pingback: Some Thoughts on the LSC Technology Summit Report | Richard Zorza's Access to Justice Blog

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  5. Claudia Johnson says:

    On “client portals”–I think it is helpful to think about client portals AND non-client portals. In the health care setting, client portals are available if one is an established patient of that practice. So patients that are members of other groups, have their client portals under different practice groups. Since only 1 out of 10 of those who apply and qualify for legal services receives legal services by a non profit law firm, maybe we need to think instead of portals–but w/out the word “client” attached to it. “Client” is a legal term of art. To avoid confussion, or the appearance of representation when none is intended maybe the portals will be best when attached to the LSC approved information and referral web sites, rather than individual non profit law firm websites. The recently passed Model Rules that came out of Ethics 20/20–support this position. It will be hard for someone proceeding pro se, who might have applied but not received representation, to argue that they had an attorney client relationship with a statewide website (which might be run by a consortium of groups) than with a non profit law firm’s website. Since the majority of low and middle class litigants are pro se in certain dockets–portals should be considered for those who end up not being “clients”. Documents, case management tools, and some of the other vision that was laid out at TIG could be integrated from these “non client” portals, including linking to court materials and resources. What do other think? Client portals? Non client portals? Just plain portals?

  6. Jim Greiner says:

    Hi, Richard, great report. I’m heartened by your suggestion of a consensus regarding “a court/legal aid laboratory to test and track triage rules developed by experts, tested by research, and then to use aggregated data to modify and improve those protocols.” I’m curious to hear more about this. I can see at least two visions. A first vision would be a set of folks housed in an existing court or legal aid institution that produces reports demonstrating the benefits of each new initative and providing numerical data showing how well each new step the field takes works. A second vision would be along the lines of the Jameel Poverty Action Lab at MIT (http://www.povertyactionlab.org/), which produces rigorous and independent evaluations suggesting that some new initiatives work while others do not, and attempts to understand what the problems are in those that don’t work.

    I’m curious as to whether there was any discussion of which of these models might generate the most interest among the conference attendees. The two visions have big differenes in terms of staffing/leadership and institutional location. For example, take staffing/leadership. In the first vision, because the primary goal is advocacy, the staffing should consist of lawyers (perhaps with joint degrees), since lawyers are trained as advocates. In the second vision, because the primary goal is to generate useful information, the staffing should consist of researchers. Or in another example, take institutional location of the lab. One of the things that has made the MIT Poverty Action Lab so successul is its institutional independence from the actors who implement the programs it evaluates. Because of this independence, and because it sometimes reports that initatives don’t work, funders trust the reports it produces, and they are more likely to fund both Poverty Action Lab evaluations and underlying programs that Lab will evaluate. Any thoughts on what vision folks at the TIG Conference had?

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