I’m in the midst of preparing a presentation for Manitoba’s upcoming Pitblado Lectures describing various online and new media approaches to access to justice. In doing so, I have been struck by the range and variety of players in this game. Though they may be providing access to justice services and supports for different reasons (whether for profit, for the public good or as a public service more generally) the resulting innovations show great promise to enhance access to justice and reduce gaps.
Groups like HiiL based in The Hague, are supporting innovative approaches to access to justice worldwide. Technology firm Modria is developing tools to assist both corporate giants like eBay and PayPal and small local governments with dispute resolution. For-profit firms like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer are delivering lower cost legal service options to consumers and in doing so, are effecting increased access to justice.
Margaret Hagan, through Stanford’s d.school and her Open Law Lab blog is contributing to projects across North America using a design-based approach to access to justice problem solving. Hagan this week posted a(nother) terrific graphic on Open Law Lab with this comment:
Right now, there are many stakeholders & experts working in this area, but there is not a clear agenda or priority hitlist. That is what I want to see, and contribute to: a more defined Access Innovation movement.
She makes a keen observation and one that has been confirmed by the resources I’ve recently been reviewing and pulling together. Innovation in access to justice is happening everywhere it seems, but like Hagan, I’m seeing little evidence of either coordination or collaboration toward what seems to be a common goal, at least at some level.
Perhaps the scattershot approach reflects that the access to justice innovation “movement” if indeed there is one is still in early days. But maybe it reflects what Hagan suggests — that there is no clear agenda or strategic plan for innovation in access to justice. If she’s right, then I won’t be at all surprised if the outcomes of those innovations are likewise sprayed all across the map, assuming they are tracked and measured at all.
A complex and multi-faceted issue like access to justice requires a clearly defined, coordinated and measured response. So long as financial resources for access to justice remain in short supply most everywhere, there is a great need for efficiency and collaboration in developing innovative, cost effective responses. Any other approach will only result in half-measures and ongoing gaps.
All of which leads to the further question of how that can happen most effectively. I’ll be interested to hear the answer Hagan comes up with, but in the interim, I’d love to hear what you think.