By Shaunna Mireau
In Late September 2020, supporters of the Free Acen adopted by courtscess To Law Movement from around the world joined together to attend the Virtual Law Via the Internet 2020 Conference. As with many other educational opportunities in 2020, the in-person event was pivoted to virtual. The #LVI2020 event was coordinated by CanLII, Lexum Inc and AfricanLII. I wrote about this amazing event at Slaw.ca.
When I think about the free access to the law movement, I consider it from both the Access to Law/Access to Justice aspect and also from the perspective of technology assisting with Access to Justice. Free access to legal information is not the only support for access to justice that is tied to technology but it is certainly a foundational element. Once you have access to digital legal information you can build on that.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world, and one of the positive changes is the swift learning that we can work and connect and achieve our goals using technology tools. I am certain that readers of this post either work from home, have worked remotely, or have used the services of someone working remotely. The pandemic problems have elevated the acceptance of a technology intervention for many people who would have previously resisted a rapid technological change. How resilient we humans are!
I want to highlight a couple of legal technology themes that are directly supporting access to justice.
Whether you are gathering with a group of friends and family or working remotely, 2020 is the year of the home based video chat. Zoom, Google Meets, Microsoft Teams and others have become an easy way to attend a conference or webinar. While some of the technology companies have adjusted their security protocols as they themselves have learned through the pandemic, other, traditional market players are seen as secure enough to be adopted by the courts. The Alberta Provincial Court offers a conduct guide for remote hearings.
Legal Data Services
Legal data services is a broad umbrella for emerging technologies in the legal sphere that are making best efforts to help lawyers and sometimes the public work better, faster, and cheaper. I work for one such company, Alexsei. Alexsei creates legal memos for lawyers using advanced artificial intelligence supported by quality assurance lawyers. Blue Jay Legal helps lawyers predict what a court outcome might be in tax or employment law. Loom Analytics has a goal to bring an analytics driven approach to Canadian Legal Research.
Online Legal Services
Goodlawyer provides on demand legal services to businesses helping to keep business startup legal costs low. Though most consider access to justice a personal law issue, access to legal services can be cost prohibitive for small businesses as well. UNDO Divorce is an excellent example of an online legal services company that does work in the personal services area. As their website states, UNDO is “Interactive software helps you make financial decisions and generates your court documents, which are reviewed by a lawyer. We send someone to you to sign and file your documents at court. Get divorced without leaving home.” There may be few friendly divorces, but this technology does allow for a COVID-19-friendly process for a divorce.
There are many legal technologies that assist or intervene or provide legal information that supports a better, faster, cheaper justice system.