“Access to Justice;” that’s a buzzword we hear often in the legal community. Why? Because there is a documented justice gap across the nation, in which low to moderate income households disproportionately are unable to secure affordable legal services.
What have we done to combat this problem? In Massachusetts, the state’s highest court established the Access to Justice Initiative in 2009, which works closely with the Massachusetts Access to Justice Commission, the courts, legal services organizations, and local bar associations to “broaden access to civil justice for all litigants.” Solutions that have been offered include:
- Materials for limited English proficient litigants.
- Self-help video tutorials
- Lawyer for a day programs and limited assistance representation.
- Electronic court filing pilot programs.
- Even a proposed additions to the Massachusetts Bar Examination to include access to justice topics.
On a national level, last year, the Legal Services Corporation held a summit on how to use technology to increase access to legal services by low-income households. As a result, LSC prepared a report that identified five components for using technology to meet these needs. Encouraged by this call to action, the ABA Journal in collaboration with Suffolk University Law School and its Institute on Law Practice Technology & Innovation are using the LSC findings as the foundation for a hackathon competition aimed to tackle the justice gap with innovative technological solutions.
The Hackcess to Justice Hackathon at Suffolk University Law School in Boston will kick off on August 7th immediately preceding the ABA’s Magnitude 360 Annual Meeting. What better venue than Boston for this competition, home of Boston Startup Weekend, Harvard’s Innovation Lab and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Cambridge Innovation Center, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, an ever-expanding tech community, and a demonstrated commitment to access to justice?
Hackathon participants are expected to span far and wide, both in terms of geography and expertise. Likely, many will stem from Boston’s own booming startup community. For those non-techies who would like to participate, there is no requirement that you know how to “code;” you need only present a creative “technology-enabled solution” that embodies one of the five LSC components.
The hackathon is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on August 7 with submissions due at 5 p.m. the following day along with in-person presentations to judges. Prize money will be awarded to the top “hacks.” Suffolk Law School will provide facilities for individuals and teams working on their projects over the course of the two days.
For program updates, including official rules and judging criteria (TBA), and to register, visit the Hackacess to Justice ChallengePost website.
Featured image: “Boston skyline at dusk, Boston, MA, USA” from Shutterstock.