With wide interest in closing the access to justice gap, lawyers at South by Southwest’s “Crowdsourcing Justice” panel on March 13 discussed creative ways to use technology to meet the rising demand for legal assistance.
The panel focused on how lawyers have used several new crowdsourcing projects—which consist of gathering information from a large number of people remotely using the internet—in an effort to meet the needs of a mounting number of immigration clients and cases.
“This is a work in progress,” said Texas patent attorney and panelist Rafael Baca, “but ultimately it’s all about using the multiplier effect to use technology to bring access to justice.”
Renee Schomp, a California attorney with OneJustice, talked about her project, Rural Immigrant Connect, which uses existing video-chat software to connect experienced volunteer attorneys in the state’s Bay Area with immigrant asylum seekers in the rural Central Valley.
Stephen Manning, a human rights lawyer with the Portland, Oregon-based Immigrant Law Group, said he was able to use crowdsourcing through the Innovation Law Lab to tap into the expertise of volunteers lawyers, document translators, and investigators across the country and as a result process and win an influx of cases for immigrant asylum seekers held in detention centers.
“It’s really about using technology so the client remains the center,” Manning said.
The intricacies of the legal system can sometimes make it difficult for lawyers to use new technological tools to solve problems, said Jennifer Gonzalez, founder and CEO of Torchlight Legal.
Still, Gonzalez said she remains hopeful as her organization works to create a platform that can centralize and streamline lawyer and non-lawyer volunteers across the country with specific expertise to assist with cases.
“How do you optimize technology for legal spaces? We are just starting to answer that,” Gonzalez said. “We are finally at the point where we can understand that legal users are different than consumer or business users.”