Late last year, I wrote about MetaJure’s innovative program here as part of a piece with my hopeful prediction that 2018 would be the year to move the needle on access to justice with technology. I am excited to announce that, with the official launch of Legal Tech for a Change on April 30, 2018, we are off to a great start.
I recently connected with the ABA Center for Innovation leadership — Andrew Perlman, Chair; Marty Smith, Vice Chair; and Janet Jackson, Managing Director — and David Bonebrake, Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Program Counsel to discuss the Legal Tech for a Change (LTC) program.
Mary: What is the objective of the project?
LTC: The objective of LTC is twofold:
- To get cutting-edge technology into the hands of our nation’s legal aid providers for free so that they can increase their capacity to serve more clients; and
- To help legal tech companies demonstrate how their products and services can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of legal services.
By facilitating the donation of legal technology, we hope to produce a win/win for legal innovators and legal aid providers. We will help legal aid providers sort through various possible solutions and select those that are most worth implementing. We will then help coordinate the legal tech provider’s installation of the technology.
Legal tech companies benefit as well. These companies are often founded by lawyers who have a deep personal interest in helping to improve access to justice for the millions of Americans who are currently underserved, but these companies often don’t know the best way to make a contribution. By participating in the program, legal tech companies not only find a way to give back, but they also receive feedback on their products from lawyers and entities whose primary mission is serving more clients with fewer resources. A side benefit can also be exposure of their products to potential customers, such as private practice lawyers who volunteer at legal aid offices.
Mary: How is LTC funded?
LTC: The Center and LSC both have committed staff time to help make this project a success, but the lion’s share of the work in vetting potential donors and then matching them with recipients will be done by volunteers.
Mary: Are there any pilot projects within LTC planned?
LTC: The program was piloted with MetaJure, a legal tech company based in Seattle, to make sure the concept would work for both legal tech companies and legal aid providers. Based on that pilot, Ross Intelligence will be the next legal tech company to participate in the program, with other legal tech providers in the pipeline.
Mary: What is the role of LSC versus the ABA in the Legal Tech for a Change Project?
LTC: This is very much a joint project that will allow both organizations to leverage their strengths. The Center will use its resources and connections to help recruit legal tech companies to the program. LSC will use its deep knowledge of the legal aid community to help identify which technologies would make a difference to the delivery of legal aid services and which LSC grantees are best positioned to benefit from a given technology.
Mary: How will the impact be measured?
LTC: There are multiple ways to measure the impact. One measure will be the number of donated or reduced-fee services that are offered to legal aid providers. We will also seek to measure how the program affects the delivery of legal services. Unlike most private practice law firms, the productivity metric for many legal aid clinics is the number of clients served. The unique nature of legal aid clinics and how they measure their productivity offers an opportunity to see how legal technology can drive operational efficiencies.
Mary: Finally, what will success look like?
LTC: In the broadest sense, we will be successful if more low-income Americans receive the civil legal services they so desperately need. According to LSC’s 2017 Justice Gap Report, in the past year, 86% of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans received inadequate or no legal help. If we can move the needle even a little bit with respect to this group, that alone will be worth the effort. In a narrower sense, if we can help to promote the use of good legal technology, that also would be an important achievement. And if we can generate data that show the positive impact that legal technology can have on the delivery of legal services, that will be the proverbial icing on the cake.
The LTC program officially launches on April 30, 2018, but you can visit the website now for more information about the program at www.legaltechforachange.org. I will be sure to reach out to do a follow-up in a few months. #onwards
Mary E. Juetten lives on the West Coast, holds a J.D., and is both an American and Canadian professional accountant. Mary is passionate about metrics that matter and access to justice. She founded Traklight and Evolve Law and consults as an Access Advocate for LegalShield. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @maryjuetten.