Glimpse the Future at LSC's Innovations in Technology Conference
Twenty years ago, 32 people gathered in New Orleans for the Legal Services Corporation’s first Technology Initiative Grants (TIG) Conference, named for the then newly developed LSC program to promote innovative technology to extend the delivery of legal services to low-income Americans.
Next week, LSC will welcome more than 575 attendees to this year’s event in Portland, Oregon, now called the Innovations in Technology Conference , the broader title reflecting an agenda that has expanded well beyond the TIG program.
This year, 180 presenters will explore a wide range of technological developments to promote civil legal aid. A number of sessions will focus on how artificial intelligence and machine learning can help expand access to justice. Other panels will look at how regulatory reform could unleash more legal resources for low-income Americans. Still others will explore how innovative design can help organizations improve the delivery of legal services.
LSC President Jim Sandman will join me in delivering opening remarks, and keynote speaker Shannon Salter, Chair of the British Columbia Civil Resolution Tribunal, Canada’s first online tribunal, will talk about dispute resolution in the digital age.
Over the years, this wide-ranging conference has proven to be a productive opportunity for leaders in legal technology to share their ideas with each other and with the legal aid community. It is, however, just a part of LSC’s commitment to promoting innovation in legal technology.
LSC’s TIG program has helped drive innovation in legal technology since that first conference in New Orleans two decades ago. It has supported more than 755 projects totaling nearly $69 million.
TIG-funded projects have created mobile apps, video-conferencing technology, triage and online intake systems, and multi-language legal education resources. TIG has funded nationally popular platforms and products, including the A2J Author interviewing software; Upsolve, the free bankruptcy tool that slashes the time it takes for low-income people to file for bankruptcy; and StatesideLegal.org, the first--and in my opinion, still the best--national website focused on common legal problems facing veterans and military families.
LSC has also convened two technology summits that brought together leaders in the field and produced results that stretched well beyond the legal tech community.
The second summit, held in two sessions in 2012 and 2013, issued a report that set an ambitious goal to provide all low-income Americans with some form of effective assistance with their essential civil legal needs.
Technology can and must play a vital role in transforming service delivery so that all poor people in the United States with an essential civil legal need obtain some form of effective assistance.” - LSC’s Report of The Summit on the Use of Technology to Expand Access to Justice
The Conferences of Chief Justices and State Court Administrators adopted this as an aspirational goal in 2016, and it has helped shape the discussion of civil legal aid during the past two years, placing technology at the center of that discussion.
A number of important developments in civil legal aid, many funded by the TIG program, also flowed from the recommendations in the summit report.
A nationwide network of statewide websites has continued to grow, providing information about legal aid offices, pro bono opportunities and subject-matter support for volunteer lawyers, and self-help resources.
Some states now use live chat, chatbots, and other technologies to provide information most useful to low-income users, and some guide users to the legal information most appropriate for their needs. LSC is currently working on a cutting-edge online portal being piloted in Alaska and Hawaii.
Document assembly and other automated systems are now in widespread use, helping both self-represented litigants and overburdened civil legal aid lawyers and pro bono attorneys. TIG-funded LawHelp Interactive, which uses technology to improve the process for self-represented litigants in preparing legal forms and other documents, is now used in more than 40 states and U.S. territories. Other states are using Docassemble, an open source software package created by a legal aid attorney to build similar interviews and expert systems.
Many legal organizations are now using online intake systems and leveraging mobile technology to stretch staff resources and more efficiently deliver legal services.
These are remarkable initiatives, but in technology, every day brings a new opportunity. What new tech developments are in the offing and how will they shape the delivery of legal services to low-income Americans? I can think of no better way to glimpse this future than through the many presentations at this year’s Innovations in Technology Conference, January 15-17.
You don’t have to attend in person to follow the action. Many of the sessions will be live-streamed to LSC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed. You can also keep track of developments at #LSCITC.