A forum being held at RMIT on 6 July will focus on how lawyers, design thinkers and artificial intelligence experts can work together to improve access to justice in Australia.
According to RMIT’s Centre for innovative Justice, the majority of those in need of legal assistance are often sandwiched between eligibility for public assistance and a realistic capacity to meet the costs of the private legal aid market.
A national survey of legal need in Australia conducted by the Law and Justice Foundation NSW in 2012 found that legal problems were widespread and often had adverse impacts on people’s physical and mental, relationships and finances.
In a recent speech to RMIT students, Bevan Warner, Managing Director, Victoria Legal Aid, set the issues out in stark terms. Fifty per cent of our community will experience a legal event this year and 50 per cent of those will be classified as serious. Many people will do nothing, most won’t see a lawyer, many will forsake their rights altogether and many will not qualify for legal aid assistance.
There have been numerous inquiries established to find ways to improve access to justice but with little overall impact. While there is no shortage of legal information, information is often not enough to help those in need.
So what are we to do? For the Centre for Innovative Justice and Victoria Legal Aid it is time to think differently - to draw on the potential of human centred design (design thinking) and the disruptive technologies such as artificial intelligence to dramatically improve access to justice. We need to make existing services more efficient and effective and provide greater access to assistance to empower people to resolves their own disputes.
Design thinking provides a way to draw on ideas and thinking from a range of other disciplines. It can challenge the stereotypes and assumptions that are barriers to making progress. It puts the needs of the user or client at the centre of the process. It also allows for experimentation and a non-expensive way of developing and testing prototypes, of moving from an idea to implementation.
Artificial intelligence is already being applied in a range of industries and services, including the law, and in a range of devices, including our mobile phones. Hello, Siri!
IBM has already developed the world’s first digital legal adviser called Ross, based on Watson, their famous cognitive computing technology. Indeed, Joshua Browder, a 19-year- old British programmer with no legal background, has been able to develop a robot lawyer to help people appeal their parking fines.
Both of these approaches come together in Rechtwizjer 2.0 the first on-line dispute resolution platform for difficult problems such as divorce and separation, landlord-tenant disputes and employment disputes. This platform began in 2006 as an electronic system to check eligibility for legal aid and has been progressively developed. The system is drawing interest from a range of jurisdictions, including Scotland, Ireland, British Columbia and now Australia.
The forum on 6 July will demonstrate the revolutionary Rechtwijzer 2.0 and explore how lawyers, design thinkers and artificial intelligence experts can work together to significantly improve access to justice in Australia.
The event is supported by the Centre for Innovative Justice, Victoria Legal Aid and the National Directors of Legal Aid Commissions. Key speakers include Peter Van den Biggelaar, Executive Director, Dutch Legal Aid Board and Maurits Barendrecht, Research Director, HiiL Innovating Justice.
Story: Mark Madden