- technological innovations that allow more people to better access lawyers and information, like online portals to connect people with lawyers, online dispute resolution systems, triage and intake systems, and automated document preparation systems (if I had a dollar for every time I heard "Legal Zoom" and "Rocket Lawyer"....)
- big data, small data, and just about any other kind of data you can imagine
- strategies to get law schools to graduate practice ready lawyers and teach students about access to justice issues (i.e., questions about ATJ issues on the bar exam?)
- recent research finding that many people don't know that they have a legal problem or that a lawyer could help them (again, if I had a dollar for everytime I heard this...) See report here.
- Limited License Legal Technicians (the legal system equivalent to nurse practitioners)
- Connecting people in need with lawyers looking for work - Jim Sandman, President of the Legal Services Corporation said that we have a market dysfunction: an oversupply of people who need affordable legal services and an over supply of lawyers, especially younger lawyers. We need to connect these people. ILAO already connects website visitors who qualify for free legal services to legal aid organizations through our online triage and intake system, but we need to expand that to include more legal aid and pro bono programs and more problem types. We also need to figure out how to connect people who don't qualify for legal aid but still may not be able to afford traditional legal fees. This could be through online referrals to branded networks of lawyers, or to individual lawyers who have committed to serving those of moderate income and/or who have limited scope practices. Legal aid needs to get over its reluctance to refer people directly to private lawyers!
- Legal Check-up - Similar to a medical check up, which we all should get once a year as part of our preventative health care, a legal check-up helps people make sure their legal ducks are all in a row. Expert systems could be designed to tell people what legal protections they should have in place for issues relating to their family, finances, job, health, business, and future. If they need help to implement solutions, the system can refer them to a lawyer or self-help, depending on how complex the problem is. (H/T Mark Britton, CEO of Avvo, who discussed legal check-ups in testimony to Futures Comm'n.)
- Deeper engagement of community partners and consumers - We need to create better pathways for people who are 'first responders' for people with legal problems (i.e., clergy, librarians, social workers, legal self-help center navigators) to more easily recognize when legal problems exist and steer people to appropriate help. A good example is Call For Justice, winner of this year's Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access, which connects people who call 211 to legal resources. We also should engage end users at every step of the way in our process to transform systems. After all, lawyers don't know what people really want or need, so let's ask them.
As ILAO progresses in our tech transformation, I'm excited to bring these ideas (and more) to the table. Through this process, we want to turn good ideas into real solutions to problems people are facing every day. I'd love to hear what you think of these ideas and what other innovations you are thinking about.