Legal Workflow Automation Can Help Close the “Justice Gap”
On any given day, litigants from all walks of life across the U.S. are representing themselves in court due to the costs of hiring legal help. In fact, acording to the American Bar Association, it’s estimated that 80% of the impoverished and more than half of the middle-class lack access to legal services.
There are a multitude of factors that contribute to what’s been called the “justice gap”, but technology adoption has the power to start closing that divide.
While the legal industry begins to embrace technology in day-to-day operations, solutions like legal workflow automation are transforming how legal services are provided and creating efficiencies that benefit the litigator as well as the litigant. By automating systems and processes, lawyers are freed up to address complex issues, be more productive and save time.
One example of this in practice? Tonya Price, a recent graduate of the Michigan State University College of Law, says technology has changed the way she approaches legal processes, and she’s been leveraging ThinkSmart’s Automation Platform (TAP) to her benefit while in school and beyond.
Currently at Jason Wiener PC, a Denver law practice that specializes in consulting for “mission-driven companies, social impact and environmental enterprise,” Tonya was introduced to workflow automation by Daniel W. Linna Jr., Director of LegalRnD – The Center for Legal Services Innovation program at Michigan State University.
“Ways to improve the way we do things”
“After being introduced to the ThinkSmart platform, I immediately realized that there are many legal operations that are not mapped out efficiently,” says Tonya. “ThinkSmart taught me to think in terms of processes, which has served me well and helped me identify ways to improve the way we do things.”
As one of her projects for Linna’s class, Tonya used ThinkSmart legal workflow automation to develop a new automated process to help legal aid offices find and refer attorneys for pro bono cases. Her new perspective on legal processes resulted in the creation of a TAP workflow form that captured attorney name, practice area, the maximum number of pro bono cases he or she would take on annually, years of experience and which courts they are admitted in.
The State Bar would compile this data into a database. Legal aid attorneys would have access to the database and be able to run a search for attorneys based on expertise, time, and location. Selected attorneys, who hadn’t reached their allotted hours for pro bono cases, would receive an automatic email from the State Bar notifying them of the pro bono opportunity.
“Technology changes the price paradigm” for providing legal aid
The selected attorneys could then respond directly to the legal aid office if they were willing to take the case. At this point, the legal aid office would transfer the client to the attorney of their choosing.
According to Tonya, “Automation technology like ThinkSmart is valuable in the legal setting. It teaches you to work smarter, not harder. By helping us work more efficiently, technology changes the price paradigm when it comes to legal aid. Most people can’t afford legal services, including the middle class. Automation solutions have the ability to change that by allowing us to focus on what matters and better serve our clients.”
Can technology help close the justice gap? Tell us what you think. We’d love to hear from you!