Is there an app for that? Access to justice improved with smart apps
Complex legal processes can be daunting experiences for vulnerable parties seeking to follow the law or to claim social justice. The Allens Neota UTS Law Tech Challenge for Social Justice tasks law students with innovating user-friendly technology to ease the public's path to legal claims and close the gap to justice.
The second annual Allens Neota UTS Law Tech Challenge for Social Justice has concluded for 2018 with another motivated and highly collaborative effort by 20 law students from UTS's Brennan Justice Leadership Program and representatives from Neota Logic and Allens.
Each year, five teams compete in innovating a technology-driven solution to an operational inefficiency they can identify within an allocated not-for-profit organisation. The teams have six months to liaise with their not-for-profit on that organisation's needs and then, with the assistance of Neota Logic and an Allens professional, design and build an app that addresses the operational inefficiency.
The quality of the apps created and presented in this year's awards were exciting and transformational for the organisations they were designed for, with Dr Pip Ryan, UTS Faculty of Law Lecturer, describing this year's competing students as 'incredible' in 'solving their clients' problems.'
Client liaison was paramount to the teams' success, with the not-for-profit organisations working with the teams every step of the way during the development process. Tori Edwards, Head of Pro Bono Partnerships for Justice Connect, commented at the Law Tech Challenge presentation and awards night, 'We invest in technology because of experiences like this – being able to see the real world impact it can have for an organisation. We are doing more and better work, and the impact [technology] has for our clients is in the providing of these really incredible solutions to the problems they face.'
The collaborative element of the challenge – between team mates and with clients – was a special highlight for the students.
Simun Soljo, Partner at Allens, said, 'I think it's incredibly impressive the students have been able to create real apps within six months, gone through the whole process with the client of working out what the need is, designing the app, understanding the technology, and creating something that clients can actually use – and they're the sorts of skills that lawyers are going to need in the future.'
This year's campaigns were presented and winners determined at UTS on July 31. In joint first place were the teams 'Justice by Design' and 'B.Hive'. Team 'Ripple' won Best Use of Social Media.
Team 'Justice By Design' created the Dear Landlord app for Melbourne pro bono legal service Justice Connect. Focussing on people behind in rent, the app lays out the eviction process, renters' options under Victorian law, and renters' rights to remain in the property. It then drafts a letter to the landlord outlining the person's reasons for staying in the property, as well as prepare a review application to VCAT to have a hearing re-heard if the renter has missed it.
Team 'B.Hive' built the Refugee Legal Express app for the Refugee Legal Service, whose operational problem is the slowed progress of visa-application meetings when clients arrive for their meetings without the required documentation. The app steps users through the visa-application documentation and uploads photos of the completed necessary documentation prior to the client's meeting with the Refugee Legal Service, enabling the meeting to focus on higher-level matters specific to each client.
Team 'Ripple' innovated the CLC NSW Recommendation Service app for Community Legal Centres NSW. Users select the general area of law they need help with, enter their suburb, and then nominate the legally relevant personal attributes of gender, age, and Indigenous status; they receive in return a tailored recommendation and contact details for the two most appropriate community legal centres nearest to the user.
Team 'The UpCycle' created the NACLC Volunteer Connect app for the National Association of Community Legal Centres (NACL), to create an app connecting NACLC volunteers with community legal centres in need of NACL's help. After filling in profile questionnaires, volunteers are provided with a list of community legal centres matching their criteria, and can email the relevant community legal centres via a template email created from their profile information now settled in the app.
Team 'ThinkForward' built the Sample Agreement Suitability Selector for Arts Law. The app asks artists a series of questions that direct the user to the most appropriate sample agreements. It also filters for and determines the artist's availability.