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TIG 2013 - Bits and Pieces


Hello everyone! Just to wrap up on all things TIG, I wanted to include a few more “bits and pieces” about the conference that I at least found interesting. First, though, if you haven’t read these summaries of the conference, you may want to check them out:

Next, I just wanted to briefly talk about a few of the sessions I attended (see Video to Reach Clients for a more in-depth look at that session).

The first of these was “Capturing the Untapped Resource: Using Law Students to Create A2J Guided Interviews,” with Ronald Staudt and Jessica Bolack Frank from the Center for Access to Justice and Technology (CAJT) at Chicago-Kent College of Law and John Mayer from the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI).

For anyone unfamiliar with A2J Author (developed by CALI), Guided Interviews can be used to (1) populate forms in document assembly processes, (2) complete online intake and send results into a case management system, (3) complete triage for clients, and (4) e-file, or send information directly to courts’ case management systems. Additionally, Benefits Calculators and stand-alone info guides can be created. The use of Guided Interviews can dramatically increase efficiency – for example, intake times are reduced by 10 to 15 minutes per applicant, which adds up to a huge benefit throughout the course of the day. Check out A2J Author’s YouTube channel for information and how-to videos.

Essentially, CAJT has developed a program which matches law students to legal aid organizations that need new A2J Author Guided Interviews built. The program has been increasingly successful at Chicago-Kent, and is now being piloted at other schools: Concordia, Columbia, the City University of New York, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Miami, and Georgetown University.

Legal aid organizations submit a description of what they need, and a list of available projects is presented to students by a clinical instructor. Students select a project (some examples include an interview concerning uncontested divorces in North Carolina, or getting a name change in Illinois), and work with CATJ, their clinical instructor, and the legal aid organization throughout a semester to complete the project. CATJ typically provides technical support, the instructor ensures that all course requirements are met, and the legal aid is responsible for guiding the subject matter portion of the project. By the end of the semester, students should deliver a full interview built in A2J and HotDocs.

This seems like a great way to get new interviews built for free and with a minimal time commitment, although CATJ doesn’t recommend using the program to build an Interview that you absolutely need by a certain date (due to the possibility that a student doesn’t come through with it). For more, see CATJ’s A2J Author project website.

Another session I wanted to talk about was the one on “Scalable Language Access” with Mytrang Nguyen of LSC, Matt Benefiel from the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, and Kristi Cruz of the Northwest Justice Project.

First, Cruz talked about the problem in Washington State of not having a single database of available language interpreters and translators. So, in partnership with the Washington State Coalition for Language Access (WASCLA), NJP created the Interpreter and Translator Directory (due to go public soon!). The Directory, once live, will bring together representatives of the legal, medical, government, and education fields in Washington and make lists of interpreters and translators available to them.

Users will be able to search for Translators, Spoken Language Interpreters, and Sign Language Interpreters; they will be able to sort results by a variety of factors such as language, certification, location, gender, and more. They will then be able to view translators’ and interpreters’ profiles, listing things like their education, professional accomplishments and certifications, and so on. The site is specifically designed to be replicable, so aside from some set-up fees, it should be available soon for a very low cost through Pro Bono Net. Stay tuned!

Next, Benefiel reviewed the Ninth Circuit’s Virtual Remote Interpretation (VRI) project, which allows for immediate interpretation in courtrooms across the region. The project first went live in October 2007 using security cameras for a one-way video stream and bidirectional audio between a defendant and an interpreter at a remote location. The system was built in-house using infrastructure that was already in place, meaning that no extra budget money was requested for the project.

The system has since been refined to include bi-directional video as well as audio (it turns out that the court likes to be able to see the interpreter at work instead of just hearing a disembodied voice). So, from a cubicle or office in one location, the interpreter can choose to “plug in” to a courtroom elsewhere in the area. The interpreter controls the audio: he or she can speak to the whole courtroom in broadcast, to just the defendant, or on a private line to the defendant’s attorney.

The system has been beneficial to the Ninth Circuit because of the time and money it saves in not needing the interpreter to travel. Services are on-demand: a judge requests assistance in a particular language, and the next available interpreter is notified. It also ensures that the court is only paying its interpreters for services that it actually uses, instead of having them sit in a courthouse all day waiting to be needed. The project is currently being piloted in Florida’s Seventh Circuit, and should be scalable to multiple circuits and even the national level.

Finally, at one of the last sessions of the conference, called “Wormhole to the Future: Unfettered Brainstorming About the Future of Legal Services Technology,” some wacky yet intriguing ideas were proposed by Molly French of Colorado Legal Services, John Mayer of CALI, Jeff Hogue of Legal Aid of Western New York, Vince Morris of Arkansas Legal Services Partnership, Gwen Daniels of Illinois Legal Aid Online, Peter Campbell of LSC, and William Guyton of Legal Services Alabama. Among these ideas:

  • Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding based on a Kickstarter model; i.e. “Kickstarter for Lawsuits” that would allow the “crowd” to fund or collaborate on a lawsuit
  • Translation of jargon into plain English based on the model of Rap Genius, which allows users to easily annotate rap songs into plain English (like you probably used to do with Shakespeare in English class). A similar version for the law would allow lawyers to translate legal documents into plain English.
  • Storage of legal information in a supercomputer like IBM Watson, or, alternately, in an everyday smart phone like iPhone’s Siri. Using these systems, users could ask basic legal questions – such as how to file a document – and receive answers culled from the Internet.
  • Computer-assisted testimony that “games out” the things that may be said. Such a system would tell the user, for example, that if the witness says A, they should say B.
  • Raw reviews, similar to Yelp. These would allow users to quickly review courts, organizations, polling places, and other institutions from their mobile phones.
  • Instant translation like that used by Microsoft’s Rick Rashid in China.
  • Triage systems built around statistical outcome analysis (is so-and-so likely to get a favorable outcome? If not, what’s the best alternative?) and taking into account real-time changes in funding or staff resources available
  • Senior Witness, a project that would equip senior citizens with a $5 baseball cap with embedded microphone and video camera. If something interesting happened, they could be paid for recording it (a project in sousveillance)
  • Similarly, “Drones for Law” would basically be a drone equipped with camera and microphone that could follow you around to record stalking and other undesired but hard-to-prove activities, thereby providing a measure of security. It could also go for help if you find yourself in a pickle (“Timmy fell down a well!”).

For more, see the slides used in the presentation.

Thanks to all the presenters who made TIG great!