Access to Justice Innovations

We Have Twin Crises in Law

How might we design products and services that allow for better delivery of legal services to more people in society?

Are there ways to do it using technology and DIY measures?

This project considers what such interventions have been tried before, how they have fared, and what other measures might be tried in the future.

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Posts on Access to Justice

Sketching the LSC Innovations in Tech conference

Last week I was in New Orleans at one of the largest legal aid and self-help Innovacion conferences, sponsored by the Legal Services Corporation. I presented on a few panels, around community led system design, and around a better Internet for legal help online. But the real phone was in the networking, and hearing leaders


What are ways to structure online legal help resources?

A page from my notebook during a recent conference, all about structuring legal help online in better ways. Engagement is such a huge challenge — and we can think through different models to get people When we think about how to build trust and follow-through with a person visiting our site, do we present resources


One year of legal community design in the Escambia Project

Last week I went to Orlando to participate in a share-out to the Florida Bar Foundation, by the core design team that worked over the past year to conduct a community-driven design process to create new legal services in Pensacola, Florida — and Escambia County. You can read up on the initial design work we


Escambia Project: community-driven legal design in Pensacola

I’ve been honored to be the design facilitator on the Escambia Project, a community-driven design initiative in Pensacola, Florida, to reimagine, prototype, and pilot new ways to get people access to legal services. It’s funded by Florida Bar Foundation, spearheaded by Melissa Moss (who leads special initiatives of the Foundation), and driven by Pathways for


For online legal help, people need Escape Hatches

In some recent testing of possible online court scenarios (with “Wizard of Oz” prototyping — not really coding these online court scenarios), our research team has observed an interesting trend. Many users will click on a button to ‘Skype with a Judge’ or to ‘Start Online Court’. They are intrigued and a little excited to


What might an on-the-street participatory justice lab be?

After reading and thinking about various participatory design and open innovation strategies, I’ve been brainstorming around how to get more community input into the redesign of the legal system. Could we have a roving laboratory, a pop-up place that would consult with people about what services they want, how they want to get them, and


Jumping Off the Ivory Tower podcast

My  listening this week: a podcast, Jumping Off the Ivory Tower, from Prof. Julie MacFarlane, of Canada’s National Self Represented Litigant Project. Here’s how Julie presents her vision for the podcast: Jumping Off the Ivory Tower with ProfJulieMac is a weekly podcast of about 30 minutes – perfect commuting time, or time to walk the dog


What can courts learn from airports for customer service?

I have been scouting out service design inspirations, particularly from airports, that courts could use. This one is from JFK airport, in the Delta terminal. I was very impressed with their service design. They had taken over an entire gate with a help center that had all kinds of touchpoints: paper, phone terminals, people, kiosks.


How will courts be disrupted?

Courts aren’t used to thinking about competition. Most have been used to be the only provider of dispute resolution. They haven’t had to think about the public as customers with choice. David Slayton, the court administrator of Texas scourts, presented on court disruption at the National Association for Court Management. If courts can “self-disrupt”, they


Why are courts struggling to engage (minority) communities?

At the National Association for court Management, I attended the session on how courts are focused on better engaging minority and disadvantaged communities. There are many dynamics that feed into the poor relationship: Predatory Practices by municipal courts -with bail, fines, fees practices that take money from people in punishing ways Implicit Bias of police


How can AI improve courts?

A quick sketch of some of the takeaways from a presentation I gave, along with Karl Branting of MITRE corporation at the National Association for court Management. We spoke on AI and Big Data in the courts, and what the near future could look like with new tech integrated into court processes and services.


Courts need Empirical Data about their Users

A drawn dispatch from this week’s National Association for Court Management– from the plenary on how we might use evaluative frameworks to improve how courts perform.


Is the user experience of going into a court building like dying?

Last week’s New York Times Magazine features a beautiful quote and accompanying exploration of what it means to a person in a bureaucratic building. The original quote from Elif Batuman’s (terrific!) 2017 novel The Idiot observed how going through airport security is like death. You, the person, give your precious things up, and subject yourself


Access to Justice through User Experience and Experimentation

Today I am in sunny, lovely Vancouver, British Columbia at a symposium of the Canadian Administrative Tribunals’ adjudicators, advocates, and other professionals. It’s co-hosted by the Council of Canadian Administrative Tribunals and the British Columbia Council of Administrative Tribunals. The theme of the kickoff panel and keynote has been one of keen interest to me:


What can legal innovators learn from evolutionary biologists?

Earlier this week, I presented my Design for Justice work to a group at the Gruter Institute, with a mix of lawyers, biologists, computer scientists, economists, and more. It was a wonderful force for analogous thinking — because the questions I faced in response to the insights and design work were not the usual questions


Chatbots might be bringing low quality justice soon #futurelaw

Joshua Lennon lays out an argument for wariness of the coming rise of law chat bots.  – they often are not jurisdiction based – they may give people false confidence in quality of the advice –  they are too linear and don’t allow people to go back and see how the conditions or answers change


Visabot builds immigration applications over Facebook #futurelaw 

Andrey Zinoviev and Artem Goldman have built a Facebook bot — VisaBot — to help people figure out their eligibility for different immigration paths and then complete forms, letters, and other application matters.


Hilbert bot, helping you to navigate your health plan #futurelaw

Stanford law student Kevin Xu and his team has made a bot, Hilbert, to help people understand and navigate their health insurance plans. They are focusing on young breastfeeding cancer survivors as a pilot group. They used design thinking to get to a more empathetic and thoughtful experience. Tweet at @askhilbert


Legal innovation’s paper roots #futurelaw

Radical– a historian at a Futurist panel! Prof. Norman Spaulding explains the populist roots of legal tools, to drive greater public access to what the law is. Before software, the technology was paper-based, gathering info, details, structures — making it more discoverable and, udeally, usable.


What ethical standards should guide legal algorithms? #futurelaw

We see more discussion of predictive algorithms to judge people in criminal justice, to analyze whether / how to grant probation, bail, etc. But there are serious risks of False Positives, or racist/ biased algorithms. What standards will we use to evaluate proposals for use of these algorithms? And how do we build these tools


Where are emotionally intelligent legal tools? #futurelaw

A panel on law, algorithms, ethics, and future tech. How do we build tools that understand when a person says, “I want a divorce,” they might be mad & not really want divorce- but counseling. Or, they might be truly in need of a divorce. How do we build smarter tools that don’t presume what


The UX of the Internet for Legal Help: Defining standards for a user-friendly legal internet

One of my academic articles has just been published in the Virginia Journal of Law and Technology. It’s called “The User Experience of the Internet as a Legal Help Service.” The article presents findings from my research into how people experience the Internet when they try to use it to solve legal problems. As more


Ending Poverty with Tech + Lawyers

This afternoon I was privileged to attend the final presentations in the new Stanford class Ending Poverty with Technology. This class is taught by Sociology professor David Grusky, in conjunction with the Stanford Center on Poverty & Inequality, of which he is a co-director. I came to hear and review these presentations because one of the


Justice For All: saving the Legal Services Corporation #LSCmatters

The Office of Management and Budget released its proposed budget this week, in which they propose the elimination of the Legal Services Corporation. The LSC is the closest thing we have in the U.S. of a public fund to support legal help for people in dire need — whether it’s to protect against domestic violence,


Know Your Rights magic word app from Brazil

One of my Brazilian students in my Prototyping Access to Justice class alerted me to a very cool app in Brazil, all about empowering people about their legal rights. It’s called Carteirada do Bem. It’s a native app (on Android) and (on ioS) + a website. It is put out by the assembly of Rio


Photo Walkthroughs as legal guides

What are better ways to help people follow a legal process? To get all the tasks, forms, consults, and decisions made to get to resolution? One mode I’ve been experimenting with in my Prototyping Access to Justice class is the photo storyboard. Using Google Sheets (or Powerpoint), I lay out a series of photos I’ve


Evidence collection app for human rights abuses, eyeWitness

The International Bar Association has published the app eyeWitness, to allow people on the ground, in situations where atrocities are occurring, to gather evidence. The system they’ve set up also verifies this evidence. The central value is to help the gathering of court-admissible evidence, to help bring justice to those perpetrating crimes and empower human


Lawbot as a chatbot lawyer for crim

A team from the University of Cambridge have launched Lawbot (BETA), an interactive conversational tool that can consult people on their possible legal situations. It’s a British tool, covering only criminal offenses in England and Wales. It lets people ask questions about their situation and figure out what the law would say. The team built


Center for Civic Design and usable elections

Thanks to Aaron Stienstra for linking me to the Center for Civic Design, an effort to bring good design to elections and ballots. They are a non-profit who take information design, usability, and plain language to the cause of making election materials easier to comprehend and ballots easier to use. The Center publishes Field Guides


Collaborative legal services with the Center of Out of Court Divorce

During a recent visit to the University of Denver, I was so impressed to hear about a project that has come out of IAALS (the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System). It’s user-centered, collaborative, and coordinated in-person services, specifically for people going through a divorce. It’s called the Center for Out of


The Bots Are Coming! (to legal services…)

Last week, it was great to see a short article making the rounds about a new chat-bot legal service coded and launched by a Stanford undergrad student, Joshua Browder. It’s DoNotPay, a bot that asks the user questions and figures out if they can get out of parking tickets or compensated for another ‘service gone


What would an effective, useful Legal Health Checkup look like?

I have been in different working groups and conferences over the past year, all focused on access to justice innovation, and we keep coming back to one new product idea: the Legal Health Checkup. This seems to emerge out of the research finding (from Becky Sandefur primarily) that people don’t even realize they need to


What would a good online legal help resource look like?

If we were to build a 2016 tool to help people, searching online for help with a life problem (that we know has a possible legal solution/redress), what would that look like? What are some of the key features and heuristics we can use to define what this next-generation type of tool should be? (Hint:


Lessons from Personal Finance Design for Legal Design

Last week I went to an evening talk at Intuit, hearing from a collection of designers, technologists, and strategists working to make personal finance more engaging for laypeople. The panel was moderated by Leslie Witt (Design director of Intuit Small Businesses.), and had 4 thoughtful speakers: Mike Tschudy (head of design,, Ben Knelman (CEO


White House Access to Justice forum

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the White House Forum on Increasing Access to Justice. It was a gathering of lawyers, judges, law clinic leaders, business-people, and politicians to talk about both the pressing needs for greater legal services (and innovations in how we pursue getting more legal services to more people), and


The IRS’ Tax Design Challenge: Rethinking the (miserable) UX of paying your taxes

I realize that I am outing myself as a full-on dork with this post, but I am unreasonably excited by coming across the IRS’ Tax Design Challenge — an open call for new ideas about to how make the taxpayer’s experience less horrible. (Thanks to tax lawyer Michael Gould in DC for flagging this to


Design for Bureaucracies: envisioning user-centered medical-legal-health care

Earlier this week I found myself at lunch with an expert in sustainable finance, another expert on healthcare and patient engagement, and a user experience designer. Then there’s me — a lawyer and designer working on redesigning the legal system. We didn’t know exactly how we were all connected — just that each of our guts said that we


CourtHack in Salt Lake City with the National Center for State Courts

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to be a judge at the CourtHack hackathon in Salt Lake City, sponsored by the National Center for State Courts. The event brought a whole room full of technologists and lawyers together, and set them working for about 24 hours on problems around court user experience, data, and


Branding access to justice

I was going back through my notebook from conferences I’ve been at for the past few months. One of the themes I was sketching out was about branding legal aid. How we can make access to justice and improving the legal system something that more people than just lawyers care about? Here are some of


Rapid prototyping on-site for access to justice designs

As I plan out what I might teach next quarter, I’m increasingly decided against having another classroom-based design class. I want to be in the field, where the users and service-providers of the legal system are, and where we can quickly spot failpoints and opportunities, create new interventions, test them, and improve from them. I


Using Open Data Sources to Seek Out People with Legal Problems

One of the most exciting ideas that came out of last month’s Legal Services Corporation/Technology Innovation Grants conference in San Antonio was the idea of using data to engage people with legal problems to use the legal system to address them. The concept came from a lawyer in Maryland, Matthew Stubenberg who serves as the


Open, Coordinated Data and the User Experience of Law

I have a much longer post on this coming — but after the session I ran last week at the Legal Services Corporation’s Technology Innovation Grant conference in San Antonio along with Greg Bloom of the Open Referral Initiative, and Sam Halpert of Pro Bono Net, I just wanted to capture in sketch form what


Coordinating client & legal services data for better access to justice

Last week I spoke on a panel of access to justice & technology at the Google/Baker McKenzie event, the Children’s Rights Summit. The goal was to explore how the tech sector could come together with the legal sector to provide more meaningful and effective help for foster youth & other children in need. The main


City-center pop-up legal and social service parks

Last Friday I was a guest judge at a program on the future of cities. I was responding to student teams’ proposals for ‘Tactical Urbanism’ projects in San Francisco, to make the city a better place to live and connect. One idea that was exciting was a student project about putting Social Service Kiosks


Access to Justice movement 2.0

Why doesn’t it resonate with more Americans that we need a better justice system, that gives equal & universal access to all people who need to use law to deal with their life problems? Why don’t we have huge philanthropic funds, corporate support programs, and a political movement driving for legal aid to all people


Sargent Shriver free lawyers for civil legal needs pilot program

Today at the Judicial Council’s Beyond the Bench conference on innovations and user experience in family law & the justice system, I had the privilege to hear a presentation from Bonnie Hough & 3 different lawyers on the Sarget Shriver Access to Justice pilots that are being run to provide lawyers to people in civil


Welcome to Court! Triage poster #beyondthebench

This poster is my slightly improved version of a paper-sharpie-poster concept from yesterday’s Beyond The Bench user centered legal services design workshop. I led it with a small team from the Legal Design Lab. We posed the challenge to court workers: how can you serve your client communities in more effective, accessible, and coordinated ways?


F#*$ Court – a foster youth feedback

The voice of Sade Daniels, about what it feels like to go through the court system as a foster youth, at the Plenary of Beyond the Bench.


Listening to Court Users

Setting the tone of a priority on User Experience at the California Beyond the Bench conference.


The legal system needs to be redesigned, by normal people for normal people

Today I had the pleasure of hearing LSC President Jim Sandman speak to a conference hall full of Legal Service Providers from Floria, at the Florida 2015 Legal Aid Summit. He reinforced one big message at the end: the civil legal system in the US is dysfunctional. We need to reform it, because access to


How law and medicine in the US share the same fundamental crisis

   Some insights from Ben Barton at the UCHastings Equal Access to Justice conference, about the convergence of the same massive problem in the US legal and medical systems.


Getting beyond Lawyers vs Non-lawyers

   A thought in the room, at the conference at UCHastings on equal access to justice. Justice Goodwin Liu made a comment along these lines, seconded by other speakers.


Thinking macro on Access to Justice strategy 

   Darrell Steinberg speaking at UCHastings about how we in the access to justice movement can be more strategic, more impactful, and more politically savvy.


Getting to 100% Access to Justice

   A vision from the Judicial Council’s Bonnie Hough at the UCHastings conference on equal access to justice.


Simple at the front, Smart at the back: design for access to justice innovation

A colleague working on improving the legal system in New Zealand from a user-centered design perspective mentioned this phrase to me in a recent email: Simple at the Front, Smart at the Back. Now it’s my constant refrain. What does it mean? That when we build tools, guides, explainers, or anything else for laypeople to


Everyone is starting to get it: innovating access to justice

Here is a small sketch I made while listening to talks at the Legal Service Corporation’s 40th Anniversary celebration in downtown San Francisco last month. It was from Justice Jonathan Lippman, the Chief Judge of NY’s Court of Appeals. The conversation was about the growing momentum from courts and lawyers to invest in new ways


6 orders of legal design: how we can intervene in the legal system to improve it

I’ve been thinking systematically over the past few months, as I’ve been looking back over design work and initiatives going on in the world of legal innovation, and bringing design into law. Here’s one of the schematics I’ve created, to make sense of what I’ve been observing. These 6 Orders are the categories of interventions


OpenJustice: open data from the California Department of Justice

I was excited to discover the OpenJustice Initiative, a move from the California DOJ to make its data more open, and provide a basis for more usable tools, interfaces, and processes for people who interact with the DOJ. See it in action: State of California Department of Justice – OpenJustice OpenJustice is a transparency initiative


User-friendly legal services from British Columbia

Talking to Bonnie Hough of the California Judicial Council last week, she recommended checking out several great projects coming out of Canada — specifically British Columbia — for inspiration about how courts can be more user-friendly. Many of them are efforts of the Justice Education Society, which is a public-oriented organization that is developing new


Moving Legal Innovation from Waterfall to Agile

How can we develop new solutions in agile, responsive ways? So that if we see a problem or hear a user need — that we take action, try something in a lightweight way, small way — a hack, rather than a huge undertaking? This is the idea that is coming out of the world of


Court innovations at the Code for America Summit

I’m excited to be speaking at the Code For America Summit this week in Oakland — and trying to make the bridge between the robust & big-energy civic tech world, and the world of legal innovation. Very excited to see a small subset of people interested in making the government better (more accessible, more user-friendly,


My (sketched) vision of the future of accessible legal services

How can we help people on-ramp into the legal system in much easier & accessible ways? This is the solution that’s been growing in my mind (but still obviously a little rough) over the last few months. We need to invest in several layers at once: 1) The especially hard one: Building a central repository


What would a better Internet for Legal Help look like?

This week I have been finishing up my research paper on what user-centered standards for better online legal help sites would be. I had surveyed lay adults about how they’ve used the Internet in the past to respond to legal issues, and then also had them do some searches for legal help & reviews of


Sketches for Self-Help worksheets

I have been sketching out some possible templates for what a good one-pager worksheet would be, to guide a lay person through a legal process. Obviously the one-pager has enormous limits, so instead of thinking about it as a total ‘process guide’, I’m thinking of it more as an ‘orientation tool’ that gives the person


How can social service providers to get people to legal help?

During my Spring 2015 class at Stanford School on Intro to Legal Design, we were lucky enough to have Sacha Steinberger visit us and present on her Project Legal Link. I drew up some notes during her presentation, about what she’s working to do — bringing social service providers into the world of legal


Why are government and court websites so bad?

I was delighted that one of my favorite new podcasts, Reply All, spent an episode in August all about horrible government websites (see as prime example 1) — and how they got that way. When we talk about terrible websites, it’s not just that they look like they’re from 1999 (though that’s definitely a


Legal Health Checkup Interventions

A few weeks ago, when I logged into my browser, I got a notice from Google that they wanted to walk me through a Privacy Checkup of my Google Account. I agreed, more to observe how they treated me as a user & how they guided me through the experience of understanding my status quo


Access by Design concept: a resource-rich legal smartphone

During the Legal Design Bootcamp that I was running last week, one of the participating groups came up with a very interesting concept that I wanted to share. We spent one day going through a design cycle, and they began by choosing a very particular user — a young Guatemalan girl, aged around 16 year


Designing a Usable Online Privacy tool

I am working with a team at Carnegie Mellon to create more Usable Privacy Policies. One of the main deliverables we’re creating is a plugin for web browsers, that shows the user information about the site that they’re on. The goal is to present information about the site’s legal and privacy policies in compelling ways,


Legal navigator concept sketches

One of the projects on my front-burner is getting a great legal navigator built, that takes a person step-by-detailed-step through a legal process. Here are some of the sketches from my notebooks on how I hope to actually lay these out on a webpage and/or printed page. Composition has turned out to be a fun


Another rough mockup of a Legal Help portal

Looking back through my iPad sketchbooks, I came across this sketch of what an online legal help portal might look like. It’s a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot — what the right kind of entry point might be for a lay person trying to figure out what their legal issue is and how


What does a good Court Self-Help website look like?

Last summer, I started a design review of the California Judicial Council’s Self-Help webpage. It is meant to be a central hub for lay people in the state to find legal resources & referrals for their life problems. The goal is that the state court can provide a trustworthy & centralized hand-off to either local,


Can we crowdsource justice through tv? Primetime courts & audience juries

News appeared today that NBC picked up a pilot from the man behind Law & Order, Dick Wolf, to create a show for next TV season, called You The Jury. On the show, a civil court case will play out, and the TV-watching public will play the jury. Like with American Idol or other reality


How do we make the Internet a great legal service? Centralize & Coordinate Legal Help Online

I was fortunate to be able to participate in last weekend’s ABA Summit on Legal Innovation. Watching all the presentations, and participating in Blue Sky innovations — my main priorities and agenda items for innovating services all got boiled down to one blaring message: Here are some of the people that called for centralizing, coordinating


Every state should have a single legal help portal #abafutures

More calls for streamlined legal help services, this time from Jim Sandman of the Legal Services Corporation.


Legal Innovation Blue Sky Agenda #ABAFutures

My sketches from this morning’s agenda-setting working group: what are the big challenges to legal innovation? What do we as a profession (and beyond) need to focus on to build a better 21st century legal system?


Can we build single legal help portals? #abafutures

An agenda for making legal help into a proper service-driven user-centered  system.


Why is getting help for legal problems such a labyrinth? #abafutures

A great, rousing talk from Bay Area Legal Aid executive director Alex Gulotta. Looking at legal help from a person’s perspectives.


How do we get law out into immigrant communities?

We need to think from immigrants’ points  of view — where they are now, what tech they use, who they trust.


To innovate lawyers must democratize their client relationships #abafutures

Some more radical thoughts from Denis Weil, provoking lawyers to rethink how they relate to their users to find effective paths toward innovation.


Can we build family law tech?

A challenge  from Justice Cuellar’s at the ABA Legal Innovation Summit.


Tino Cellar on legal innovation

We are in a new era, shaped by technology  and globalization. How will we respond? Judge Tino Cuellar’s challenge to the ABA.


Using choice architecture for better legal services

I’ve been reading a bunch of behavioral economics texts & taking notes on how it all might be made useful for legal services design. Here are some of my sketched notes from while reading Nudge by Cass Sunstein & Richard Thaler, and then another article by Richard Thaler & Will Tucker in Harvard Business Review


Project Legal Link for legal-social service coordination

I’m excited to see the development of Project Legal Link, a new type of resource that links social & legal services together in the Bay Area. I was introduced to it last year by the woman who is making it happen — Sacha Steinberger. Sacha is a lawyer, & and decided to focus on the


An Agenda for Next Generation Legal Services

In the world of access to justice, consumer law, and even big law services, we need to think more clearly about what kinds of new products and services we should be developing. Rather than being reactive or tech-driven, we should begin with what lay people want & need to do (these are the functions we


The National Expungement Project: a web app for crim law procedure

The National Expungement Project. is a Maryland-based effort to guide people with a criminal record through an eligibility check (can I expunge my record) and then direct them to how they can follow through on this procedure (where can I find good — and maybe even free — legal help?). Right now, there is a


Mobile tech for dispute resolution

From my growing ideabook for new legal services, here is a sketched out note on what mobile tech could do for how we resolve small disputes between people. Whether it’s through the government courts or through a private solution, how can we use interactive communication tech to help people have a say about a problem


The DOJ’s Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable Toolkit

Last week I was at a symposium at the Univ. of South Carolina Law School, all about access to justice and doing more empirical, data-driven research about how to create better & more impactful access initiatives. Karen Lash, the Deputy Director of the DOJ’s Access to Justice Initiative, presented on what the federal government is


Can we use games for legal engagement? from Stephanie Kimbro

A sketchnote of the start of a talk from Stephanie Kimbro, speaking at Univ. of South Carolina Law School about her research on how games & gamification mechanics and motivators could be used to improve the delivery of legal services.s


Cartoon interventions for legal engagement, from Jim Greiner

Some quick sketchnotes of a talk from Jim Greiner of Harvard Law School, speaking with Univ. of South Carolina Law School about how to engage people in debt procedures — how to get them to show up in court. They tried to reach out to people in debt proceedings with paper-based, cartoon-based interventions. They created


Exploring Models of Triage Tools

I’ve been thinking systematically about the suite of tools that we need to be building for better access to justice. I wrote earlier about the different product families — what some of these different camps of tools are. One I’m circling around with some intent is the Triage Tool. A triage function would help take


Access to Justice ideabook

From my notebook, sketches from a brainstorm around what possible models for access to justice initiatives might be.


Could we build an Open Source Legal Software Hub

One item on my ever-growing Access to Justice agenda is an online hub full of worthy software solutions for legal organizations to use. Ideally, with software that is affordable if not free — and designed to be easily updated & changed. As opposed to software that is proprietary to one company, who, after they sell


How do people use the Internet for legal services?

I have been working over the past few months on a research paper about how people use the Internet for legal help. I’ve been doing online questionnaires to develop insights into who legal users are — what a core typology of user types are, what their mental models are when searching for legal help for


Integrated Legal-Medical care at health centers

The National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership has a New issue brief on medical-legal partnership and health centers. Marsha Regenstein, PhD, Joel Teitelbaum, JD, LLM, Jessica Sharac, MSc, MPH, and Ei Phyu authored the piece “Medical-Legal Partnership and Health Centers: Addressing Patients’ Health-Harming Civil Legal Needs as Part of Primary Care.” You can download it as


Ideas for Know Your Rights redesigned

Last night, I helped organize a group of lawyers & designers to kick off a longer design process, about reimagining how we convey Know Your Rights materials to lay people. We had a great mix of people who work on Know Your Rights initiatives as a part of community law groups, legal aid groups, and


Google offers health info in its Knowledge Graph: what about law?

The Official Google Blog has a post “A remedy for your health-related questions: health info in the Knowledge Graph”. It announces that Google is going to treat certain health-information searches differently from the average search. If a user searches a query that likely relates to some common health conditions, Google will surface reliable knowledge —


Plain Language & Legal Design

I have been reading through articles documenting how ‘Plain Language’ came to be a standard by which legal communications are judged — and which courts, firms, and companies are willing to invest money and time in. From my limited research, I’ve been able to trace the rise of ‘Plain Language’ as a standard from the


Why is it so hard to implement social good tech?

I came across this video essay by Laura Walker Hudson, the CEO of Social Impact Lab, which houses the open source messaging system Frontline SMS. She speaks of her experience trying to implement scalable implementations of tech-for-good. She profiles why it’s so hard to get projects off the ground — from the complicated tech questions,


Wise Design (or why are human systems so screwed up?)

This post is not just for lawyers — it is for people who work in hospitals, banks, insurance companies, government agencies, loan companies, accounting firms — people who work in complex systems that are supposed to be serving lay people. I propose a new field of Wise Design — to build out tools, principles, and


What would you spend $10 million on for Access to Justice?

I made another visual based on a short questionnaire I ran back in November-December last year, on people’s thoughts on Access to Justice. Earlier visuals of the questionnaire responses are here (Is there a coherent Access to Justice Movement?) and here (What’s going wrong with the Access to Justice Movement?) I asked respondents where they


Law content on Wikipedia

Last week, I was a facilitator at a Shaping Davos design thinking workshop at Stanford’s  Several local non-profits had brought some big social impact challenges they’re facing — around gentrification, housing, food waste, community-building, and information access. Then small groups of engineers, public policy-makers, business people, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and other professionals spent 2 hours


Law’s PDF Problem (a short manifesto)

As I’ve ventured into the world of public legal education — helping lay people figure out and navigate their legal problems — I keep hitting my head against one thorny wall over & again. Materials are buried in PDFs. Excellent cartoon stories telling immigrants how to deal with the government are only available in PDFs.


What’s going wrong with the Access to Justice movement?

At the end of November 2014, I published a short survey on this site, asking respondents to weigh in on the ‘Access to Justice movement’ (if we can speak of one at all, as if it were a cohesive thing). I’ve published some of their responses in an earlier post, and here is another visual


Can we use TV-law-love to improve real-life legal services?

I have been writing up my findings from a recent research study I did, on how lay people use the Internet to respond to legal problems that crop up in their lives.  I’m doing this as part of a longer design research inquiry, to develop best practices, guiding standards, and new models for online legal


Is the Internet the place for legal help?

I’m working this week on pulling together an academic paper I’ve been writing on best practices & design standards for online legal resource sites, aimed at helping lay people begin to address a legal problem that’s cropped up in their life. In my literature review, I keep circling back to articles coming out of University


Court Innovations: tech-based platform for improving court users’ experience

There is an interesting court redesign organization that’s come out of the University of Michigan Law School.  There is an Online Court Project that Univ. of Michigan has funded, and developed through the company Court Innovations, Inc. I had written about it previously when my colleague Briane had mentioned an initial write-up of it on


Consumer Law product families

I am working on a paper right now that stakes out a framework for those of us who are working on building access to justice innovations & accessible law tools.  After having led & participated in so many innovation sessions about what kind of tools would help lawyer-client relationships, self-help/DIY lay people trying to navigate


Is there a coherent Access to Justice Movement?

From November’s 5 Question Friday, I have compiled some of the responses and quotes I received in response to this question — Is There a Coherent A2J Movement? There is a trend to the lower points of the scale — and lots of insights into what could be improved,


Design Lessons from the 1980s Legal Clinics for the Access to Justice

As more talk grows about Internet & mobile-based technology opening up a new era of Consumer Law, it’s useful to look back a few decades when there was a similar tide of activity around expanding access to civil legal procedures to the middle classes of Americans. After the Supreme Court ruling of Bates v. State


What if we redesigned legal systems for the end user?

A quick talking head sketch of a ‘What-If’ for legal design. What if we started over with our legal systems? Instead of patching over the problems with better interfaces — we imagine what a user-centered legal system would look like from the ground up. This sketch came from a Children Right’s Summit held yesterday at


Legal Health Checkup online

I got a comment on an earlier post on Legal Health checkups, from Kristina Brousalis who works at CLEO, a public legal education and information organization in Toronto, Ontario. She sent me a link to a Canadian online health checkup site, that serves consumers in Ontario. The site asks some questions to get a profile


Access to Justice & self-representation tools

As I’ve been writing up a paper on new legal tools & an agenda for access to justice innovation — I keep coming back to the same point. To really address the access problem, we should be focusing on scalable, modular tools.  They could be in the form of software & other tech — or


Immigration Game: Toma El Paso

Communication professor Lien Tran of the Univ. of Miami has developed an offline game for users of the US immigration system — called Toma el Paso, or Make  a Move.  It uses a familiar board game structure to present the legal system to the youth who are currently proceeding through it.  She developed it along


Access to Justice Innovation sketchnote

This is a sketchnote that I’ve drawn out while at different Access to Justice meetings, talks, and roundtables — where the discussions have been about how to get more underemployed lawyers better work opportunities, and how to get better legal services to more people in the US. I’ve been going through my notes to start


Buscando: a holistic service portal for unaccompanied immigrant kids

In response to the surge of Unaccompanied Immigrant Children coming into the US over the past year, a group has come together in Maryland to produce a social service-finding portal for these kids. Buscando offers a very clean, usable platform for a child or her advocate to find the right kind of help. The site


Text-enabled Legal Services

I’m working on a project right now to bring court reminder messaging systems into some California courts.  I’ve been reaching out to different open-source platforms that offer text-messaging systems to be customized in local installations. I’ll be publishing a full-blown write-up of the project soon enough — but first a note about another pilot going


ZoningCheck: Easing the zoning clearance process

ZoningCheck is a legal web app to help business owners navigate zoning regulations.  It’s a winner of one of the grants from the Knight Foundation’s News Challenge from last year. It’s an Open Government app, that processes local city codes into searchable, navigable experiences online. Rather than going in person to a government center, a


Devolving Legal Services out of law offices: Medical-Legal Partnerships

Among the many camps of ideas for how to increase access to justice, one of the strongest I keep returning to is Devolved Legal Services.  What I mean by this: How can we devolve legal services out of offices — out of legal bureaucracies — and into community spaces? How can we integrate legal help


Roompact: Contracting & Conflict Resolution software for roommates

The New York Times profiled the start-up Roompact yesterday, framing it as a roommate dispute tool.  It also is a legal product — it’s a platform for two parties to come together and create a contract about the terms on which they’ll be roommates, and then flag potential violations & failures after the agreement is


Project Nanny Van: a legal service design

Project Nanny Van is an excellent new example of creative legal service design.  Dan Jackson from Northeastern Law’s NuLawLab clued me in about it. The NuLawLab & its law students have been working with Rev Tank & Marisa Jahn in creating this mobile van that comes to locations where nannies might be congregating, and provides


Law for Normal People

Originally posted on the’s Whiteboard: Over this past fellowship year, I’ve run so many workshops and pop-up classes on how to make law more engaging and usable for “normal people”. People with legal problems or who aren’t highly educated are not alone in this “normal” bucket. People with PhDs, highly paid professionals, even law


Legal Design Ideas: Crowdsourcd Parking Ticket Map

One branch of Legal Design Ideas I’m working on is using crowdsourced information to improve transparency of how legal regulations are implemented & processes are carried out. An idea in this branch is a Parking Ticket Map — that could use a crowdsourced map like Ushahidi, or other reporting platforms. Individual users can report when


Pangea Legal Services, lowbono immigration support

Pangea Legal Services is a San Francisco collective of lawyers who are working to support immigrants with legal support — through a low-bono and pro-bono model that provides services on a sliding scale of fees.   It works on asylum cases, deportations, DACA and U-visa applications, among other services. It also does policy work on


Immigrant Justice Corps legal incubator

Immigrant Justice Corps is a fellowship program (or legal incubator) to train people to serve as legal assistants for immigrants in the US. Its application is currently open for a new round of fellows — with applications due in just over a week.  Both JDs and non-JDs can apply to serve immigrants through the Corps

03/05 App for youth

A group out of Chicago, the Mikva Juvenile Justice Council, is making an app to help young people understand & go through an Expungement legal process. The Knight Foundation is funding the project through its Prototype fund. The project aims “To create a prototype version of, a mobile app designed to aid juvenile offenders


Modest Means Incubator project in California

Last week I attended the presentation about Modest Means Incubators at the State Bar of California. There were judges, private lawyers, law school admins, legal service providers, and court staff there to talk about how new models of legal practices can be built. The goal is to provide new access to lawyers to those with


Court Hearing SMS Reminder systems

Two years ago, there started some talk about US courts using SMS and other phone-based communication to issue reminders for court hearings to people. It seems several other countries have already launched such pilots. The Qatari government’s Supreme Judiciary Council has one such program live, at Court Hearing SMS Reminder – Hukoomi – Qatar E-government.


Kiran Jain, City of Oakland attorney, on Law & Design

Lauren Dyson at Code for America wrote up an interview/discussion with Kiran Jain, an attorney in the City of Oakland who has been trained in design & is leading experiments in civic & legal design in the city.  She’s running workshops, launching projects, and piloting new ideas using the design methods she learned at the


Online Court Project from the University of Michigan

I’ve started scouting out different courtroom based service & system designs.  Here is one, that my colleague Briane alerted to me: the Online Court Project based out of the University of Michigan.  It features new ideas to integrate tech and automation into court processes. Led by U-M Law School professor J.J. Prescott, this Global Challenges


The Parole Hearing Data Project

Check out a new data-gathering & redesign project from Nikki Zeichner, The Parole Hearing Data Project. The Parole Hearing Data Project is a repository of New York State parole hearing data based on: 1 records scraped from the New York State Parole Board’s website; and 2 parole hearing transcripts crowdsourced with help from attorneys, advocates


Tools for Citizens

The recent UX Sprint for Security & Privacy Tools in San Francisco featured a great list of projects that work to empower citizens. Most center on: How can we enable citizens to communicate free of government surveillance? and How can we help people report on & document atrocities and abuses? Here is a list of


Fixed: Parking Ticket advocacy

Fixed – The easiest way to fix a parking ticket. Fixed is an app that lets you hand off your parking ticket to the company, for them to fight it for you on your behalf. You pay them nothing if you lose the contest and have to pay the fine. You have to pay them


NYC Housing Court Navigators

via NYC Housing Court – Resolution Assistance Program (RAP). New York just began a pilot program of Court Navigators for Housing Courts in some jurisdictions.  Non-lawyers would help self-represented litigants navigate the court system. The Court Navigator Program was launched in February 2014 to support and assist unrepresented litigants – people who do not have


Better Lawyering for the Poor

via Better Lawyering for the Poor – The New York Times Editorial Board published a piece spotlighting various New York-based initiatives that might transform the structure of the legal industry, and thus open more access to legal resources. These highlighted projects include 3rd year law students in New York can take the Bar in


The Justice Index

  The Justice Index is a new project out of the National Center for Access to Justice at Cardozo Law School. It collects & displays data about how people in the US — particularly those who are traditionally disadvantaged in the legal system — are faring when it comes to access to legal aid services


Reinvent Law: Richard Susskind on tech & access to law

This visual made it up to Twitter last Friday, but here it is for a more permanent home on Open Law Lab. It was a great conference & an inspiring keynote from Richard Susskind — thinking twenty, thirty years into the future.


Beyond Online Intake: access to justice solutions

Here is a recent slide presentation of online intake models from a few different projects around the country. Webinar Next Week: Beyond Online Intake: Looking at Triage and Expert Systems from Legal Services National Technology Assistance Project (LSNTAP)


The Rechtwijzer justice platform

In the Netherlands, HiiL & the Dutch Legal Aid Board are developing a second version of their Rechtwijzer platform, to provide consumers with legal help. Here is the summary of their 1.0 platform (mostly around triage — getting someone with a legal problem to services) and then the 2.0 platform (around resolving disputes online). Conflicts


Law By Design: consumer law pop-up class at the

Through the Program for Legal Tech & Design, I’m co-teaching a 5-session class at Stanford’s this January & February. It will be a hands-on session on how to make law more usable to people — and how to help make people law-smart, and in control of their legal futures. If you’re interested in attending,


Notes on Legal Design

I originally posted these up on the blog The Whiteboard, earlier today.


Fwd.Us Immigration Hackathon: Immigration Visualization Project

I’ve just posted a project summary up for my team’s work at the DREAMer Hackathon at the Program for Legal Tech & Design’s site. Come over & read about what we built, see our demo, and read about our future plans. And I uploaded my entire photo log of the event, from Day 1


Making Immigration User-Friendly workshop report

My Program for Legal Tech & Design held its first Law By Design workshop this past weekend at Stanford’s  We challenged attendees to go from one-line ideas to full-blown prototypes of new immigration products.  The goal was to develop better design patterns, concept ideas, and possible products for supporting ordinary people through the immigration


The Program for Legal Tech & Design

I’m excited to announce that Ron Dolin & I have started a new Program for Legal Tech & Design at Stanford.  We’re based out of Stanford Institute of Design ( for now, which is where I’m doing my one-year fellowship to bring Law & Design together. Our goal is to push law forward with innovative


Judgepedia & crowdsourcing court-user info

I just found out about Judgepedia, a site that collects information about courts and judges, in a shared wiki. Its primary user seems to be someone interested in how the judicial system in the US works, and how individual jurisdictions have established judicial systems. It’s a project out of the Lucy Burns Institute. Judgepedia aims


Good Consumer Law Design: Finding & Hiring a Lawyer

I’ve been thinking a lot about Consumer Law Design — meaning, how do we build new products & experiences for lay people who want to get their legal tasks accomplished well. These are the subdomains of Consumer Law that I’ve drawn out — step by step in a linear process. How to figure out you


Berkman Center Report on Access to Justice in courts

I just discovered a rich design document & user research study conducted by a team out of Harvard’s Berkman Center in 2010. It looks at how more access & usability can be built into current civil court processes. And one of its co-authors is Phil Malone, who has just joined Stanford Law School’s team, as


State Court Redesigns

Ted Olson and David Boies, the legal team behind Prop 8, have been working with the ABA, worked with a task force on the Preservation of the Justice System. They gathered input from stakeholders around the country on how the court experience could be improved — at the same time as state budgets are cut


Pocket DACA

Here is another current initiative for Access to Justice through design/tech: Pocket DACA. Pocket DACA is an app, released this summer for free for Android & IOS, to help people who came to the US as a child, who might be eligible for DACA.  It was produced by Pro Bono Net & Immigration Advocates Network.


Access to Justice Tech: Concepts

I’ve been searching around for the current landscape of actual initiatives & concept designs for tech tools to provide more access to justice. I went back to a presentation, Assisted Legal Decisionmaking, by law professor Josh Blackman at Stanford last year. He showed some screenshots of legal products he’s been thinking of. The concept app


Legal Barbershop

Another offline idea for Access to Justice (thanks to Briane for the mention!) — this time being piloted by attorney Donald Howard in New Britain, Connecticut. The Connecticut Tribune reports on how he has opened a barbershop inside of his legal office, as a hybrid-business to serve more people’s legal needs.  He cuts their hair


SF Law Open + Buildable

The San Francisco city government launched SF Open Law this week — to make all of its laws open for people who code, build, and design to use. It’s a repository for hackers to make better legal apps & tools for the city.  And it’s a collaborative too, allowing people who have made things to


Tech Tips for Legals

Here’s a short, unnarrated overview of legal tech tools from Legal Services NTAP that lawyers & others could use to organize their projects, do better research, work on the road, take notes, use visuals, create media, analyze data, and use all the tech they already have in better ways. 50 Tech Tips 2013 EJC from


How Might We: Provide DIY Legal Diagnosis

For a paper I’ve been working on, here is a preliminary mind-map I’ve been sketching out. It’s a quick brainstorm of how DIY legal tools may be provided to non-experts. It considers what models might be breakthroughs, how technology might interact with the person, and what challenges might block their success. The map is a


Citizenship Apps

Citizenshipworks is building online and mobile apps aimed at non-citizens in the US — trying to give them resources and tutorials to navigate their way through citizenship. They have checklists, expert system interviews, and tutorials to help the users along. Damian Thompson of the Knight Foundation, writes of the new app. I’m also proud to


Consumer Immigration Law Brainstorm

Here are a big collection of my notes & brainstorms from a recent weekend, focused on how to bring Immigration self-management tools to non-citizens living in the U.S. There is a strong potential, to pioneer some new Consumer Law applications, that would provide foreigners in the US with support to figure out their own legal


Legal Jacket concept

A quick sketch of a concept for wearable law… Of course fictional now, but only slightly tongue-in-cheek…


Legal Health Checklist

I am writing a paper on ways to bring good design to create new models of access to justice.  I have been scouting out some such threads, to see what might be worth developing further. In my browsing, I came across this pdf pamphlet from the State Bar of California.  It is an overarching list,


Redesigning the Courthouse?

At Georgia Tech’s school of architecture, they are investigating the physical design of the courthouse experience.


Juror’s User Experience, part 2

More wonderful insights into how citizens called to be jurors experience the court system in the UK — from the RED project, by the Design Council —read more,


Design Insights Re: Jurors

Great, rich, human insights into how citizens called to be jurors experience the court system in the UK — from the RED project, by the Design Council —read more,


Citizen as User, Design Research

Great, rich user insights about Citizenship and people’s relationships with the government, from the Red – Touching the State project  


Touching the State

RED was a UK initiative that was operational between 2004 and 2006.  It was set up by the Design Council in the UK, to tackle public policy, social, and economic issues through design-driven innovation.  Its themes included health, aging, energy, democracy, and — of interest to this project — Citizenship.  They summarize their initiative as


FrontlineSMS:Legal Blog

FrontlineSMS:Legal Blog: A collection of great observations about how mobile tech is being used to strengthen governance & rule of law around the world. There are some projects around strengthening citizen’s access to law, the openness of resources, and connectivity of underprivileged people in the population.  


Law Schools’ Access to Justice programs

A USDOJ report on Law Schools’ Access to Justice programs:meaning, what pro bono & public service offerings the schools have. The report allows schools to present what offerings they have, but it is a more a spotlight on programs, and less a detailed or critical summary of what’s working & what’s not. Overall, it’s a


Access to justice, the problem

A drawing I had made during the Law Without Walls conference, based on a great passing comment…


Online Mediation: Design Process notes

I am on a design team, working on how to redesign the small claims mediation & family mediation (that now would occur offline, in a court house, in a room with a mediator and the parties) into an online experience. My team interviewed a mediator who has expertise in these offline mediations — these are


Law Kiosk in action

Back in 2004, the Legal Services Corporation sponsored a law kiosk for an “online legal service center” on Navajo territory in Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico.  Read an article from back when it was debuted.  It meant to deliver access to justice, specifically for consumer and tax law. “DNA Peoples Legal Services installed computer kiosks


Online Dispute Resolution in British Columbia

Canada — in particular British Columbia — has been the leading light in using online tools for providing dispute resolution to citizens.  They have found most success in small property & zoning disputes, and also with consumer protection cases. They have done some empirical research and found that people in family law disputes actually DO


Does the Internet improve young people’s legal access?

A blog post from Richard Zorza’s rich blog on Access to Justice discusses an issue I am currently working on — whether the Internet is a usable and effective resource for non-lawyers to get legal information and support. Some findings of particular interest: Non-lawyers use search pages to find legal information to diagnose their situation.


New Generation of Tech for Access to Justice

A great article from Slate on Tech being used for Legal Aid & Access to Justice, with lots of specific examples of how SMS and other basic tech can give reminders, process updates, basic advice, and more lawyering to people who can’t afford lawyers. The concepts: Automated Call Back Systems from legal services to people


Radio as Governance Tool

An article about how radio technologies are mashed up with SMS tech to allow community members to text into radio programs, to talk back and participate in discussions.  Instead of having to go through expensive voice calls, they can use SMS to send in messages or participate in surveys. FrontlineSMS: Giving Radio Listeners a Voice


Assisted Legal Decision Making

Assisted Decision Making from Josh Blackman Here is the presentation from today’s Stanford Law lunch, with law professor Josh Blackman discussing his startup to rival Pacer in distributing case information in a more usable way, with better ways to see relations between firms, judges, cases, companies, etc. Assisted Decision Making from Josh Blackman He also


Can Online Dispute Resolution reduce the justice gap?

LawTechCampLondon from tmcgn7 LawTechCampLondon from tmcgn7 A presentation from a member of the team, on the current problem of Access to Justice, and looking at how online tools — particularly around online dispute resolution and diy legal tools for pro se individuals — could address it.


What about a WebMD for law?

For my excellent class at Stanford Law School on the future of legal technology, I am proposing to build a WebMD for law. My central question is ‘how might we build tech that could help a lay person diagnose their own legal problems’? I am asking it because most legal technology currently is being built


How can mobile tech be used to promote justice?

Sri Lankan tech researcher & TED fellow Sanjana Hattotuwa has laid out some of the basic capabilities that mobile phones in the field can be used in dispute resolution and rule of law. Data gathering Plotting the GIS coordinates of the disputed territory, including details of the location, resources and details of adjacent territory Details


Mobile Dispute Resolution, not PC Dispute Resolution

A paper on “An Asian Perspective on Online Mediation” puts forward an agenda for making all the advances made in Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) transition to mobile devices.  ODR had been PC-based, but this isn’t relevant for the majority of the world, who do not have reliable access to PCs, but who are regular users


Tech to Fight Rumors

A major problem in governance is the spread of misinformation and rumors. Sometimes these result from concerted campaigns by political actors, to manipulate politicians with rumors meant to make them suspicious or fearful about something.  Other times rumors are not driven by anyone, but snowball on their own.  Either way, flare-ups of rumors can wreak


Mobile Dispute Resolution for Access to Justice in Afghanistan

The Internet Bar Organization has fielded a proposed design, the Internet Silk Road Initiative, that would use online and mobile tech to provide access to justice & dispute resolution capabilities to Afghanistan. The project’s website is down now, indicating that perhaps the proposal has been shelved right now. But its ambit is of interest: “The


Using Tech to Improve Lineups

An article from Ben Paynter at Good Magazine about Gary Well’s work in the Austin Police Department to use a computer program to improve crime witnesses’ identification of suspects. an excerpt “It’s an experimental protocol designed by Gary Wells, the guru of eyewitness reliability—or rather, unreliability. The director of social sciences at the American Judicature Society’s Center for


Virtual Live Charity Interventions

Sarkissian Mason, a digital innovation agency, worked with the non-profit Pathways to Housing, to make a Virtual Homeless interactive experience for people walking down the street in New York, to encourage donations + engagement. From the agency’s site: As originators of the Housing First model, the non-profit engaged SM to help spread awareness in NYC


311 Local Governance Apps

Many cities are using “311 Apps” on mobile devices or on Facebook to let citizens report basic city problems — potholes, graffiti, etc — to their local representatives. They can supply the details, photos, and requests directly to the city official that should be responding to them. It also allows citizens a better way to