Access to Justice

Legal innovators are re-imagining our current justice system in a way where technology is fully integrated with the formal processes of the court and where the private delivery of legal service is viewed through a lens of accessibility. Meanwhile, others turn focus to how innovation in legal education must remain a central focus if change in the justice system is to be sustainable.

Access to justice is an unmet social need for which innovation is necessary. The Canadian Bar Association sites several innovations that could improve access to justice, each of which could be address through new inventions and use of our current technological advancements to accomplish it. Examples include: assisted self-representation, online dispute resolution, unbundled legal services and expanded duty counsel services. Read more here.

A judge from the ‘Final Pitch’ Competition in Ontario (hosted by Ryerson University’s Legal Innovation Zone (LIZ)) wrote:

Successful companies within legal innovation “did so because of their commitment to improving outcomes for people with everyday problems. These companies prioritized serving a human need first with the legal one coming second. It is worth noting that while the founders of these companies were lawyers, their teams were comprised of diverse professionals – engineers, developers and other technologists that are critical to the development of sound solutions.”

Steps to Justice

One of the most serious concerns about the current legal system is its adversarial nature — one of focused on hostility over resolution. However, there has been a major shift whereby parties have been encouraged to settle claims privately through effective dispute resolution before turning to the courts. Increased mediation improves the overall mental and physical health of those parties involved, while reaching settlements quicker and more efficiently. The Justice Education Society in British Columbia has already taken steps towards this through an online dispute resolution tool with Small Claims BC. Find out more information at their website.

As clients are increasingly choosing to represent themselves in court, legal innovation can help ease this process through assisted self-representation and unbundled legal services. New technology provides resources for clients to resolve everyday legal problems. Otherwise, individuals can purchase ‘unbundled’ legal services from lawyers whereby they can pick and choose which tasks they need legal counsel to help with, while completing the rest on their own.

The goal of legal innovation in access to justice is not to completely eliminate the traditional legal system but to better address our complex legal problems through cheaper, quicker, more convenient methods than traditional approaches.

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