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New ways technology can expand access to justice

The Legal Services Corporation has released a report of a national summit on ways to use technology to provide all Americans some form of effective assistance with essential civil legal needs.

More than 75 representatives of legal aid programs, courts, government and business, as well as technology experts, academics and private practitioners, convened at two sessions in 2012 and 2013 to explore the many ways technology can expand access to justice.

The “Report of The Summit on the Use of Technology to Expand Access to Justice,” available at www.lsc.gov, presents a number of recommendations bringing the knowledge and wisdom of legal experts to the public through computers and mobile devices.

“This report is important,” said LSC President James J. Sandman. “It charts a path to a future where, through the smart and disciplined use of technology, the legal aid community can provide some form of assistance to everyone with a significant civil legal problem — and not have to turn people away with nothing.”

The strategy has five main components:

• Creating in each state a unified “legal portal” which directs people needing legal assistance to the most appropriate form of assistance and guides self-represented litigants through the entire legal process.

• Deploying sophisticated document assembly applications to support the creation of legal documents by service providers and by litigants themselves.

• Taking advantage of mobile technologies to reach more people more effectively.

• Applying business process analysis to all access-to-justice activities to make them as efficient as practicable.

• Developing “expert systems” to assist lawyers and other services providers access authoritative knowledge through a computer and apply it to particular factual situations.

LSC hosted the summit and formed a planning group to design it that included participants from LSC’s grantees, the American Bar Association, the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, the National Center for State Courts, the New York State courts, the Self-Represented Litigation Network, and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Access to Justice Initiative.



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