Posted by: Ray Brescia | October 22, 2018

Legal Tech in the Classroom to Promote Access to Justice

With Albany Law students Alexandria Decatur and Julia Kosineski, I have posted a piece forthcoming in the Albany Law Journal of Science & Technology entitled “Civil Society and Civil Justice: Teaching with Technology to Help Close the Justice Gap for Non-Profit Organizations.”  A draft is now available on the Social Science Research Network here.  Comments welcome; it is very much a work in progress.  Here’s the abstract:

Technological innovation, climate change, economic inequality, globalization, and the increased migration of individuals and families to urban settings are all changing the way humans work, relate to each other and themselves, engage with the wider world, and form community. These forces are altering the relationship of the individual to the state, and between the individual and civil society: that loose sphere of organizations, associations, and collections of individuals that exist beyond government and the business sector. These groups that make up civil society play a significant role in the lives of individuals and families throughout the world. They mediate religious worship, educate youth and adults alike, heal us when we are sick, channel competition in sports, and help individuals work collectively to topple dictators. Technological innovations are affecting how these organizations function and communicate and often play a role in the social change such organizations and networks pursue. But the organizations themselves must adapt to changing environments, new needs spurred by such change, and the ways in which the legal ecosystem is itself also changing, spurred on by technological innovation as well. This Article explores whether the technological changes afoot in society generally, and the legal services sector in particular, can expand access to justice for non-profit organizations through the delivery of web-based legal guidance. It does so by exploring one effort to help non-profits that wish to form under New York State law obtain information and guidance that helps them generate the critical documents such organizations must prepare to organize themselves under state law. This effort was the product of a class taught at Albany Law School, led by one of the co-authors, and in which the two other co-authors were enrolled as students. In this class, entitled “The Law of Social Entrepreneurship and Exempt Organizations,” the students learned not just the substantive law of non-profit entities, they also learned how to incorporate technology into the provision of legal services to non-profit groups to help address the justice gap such organizations face. This Article explores the work of this class and the ways in which the students were able to incorporate technology to improve access to justice for non-profit entities. It is our hope that this process yielded helpful insights into the ways in which one can use technology to improve access to justice for non-profit groups in particular, but also for individuals and other corporate entities as well. This Article will identify these insights and examine what implications they might have for the use of technology to improve access to justice, for both organizations and individuals. It also shows how law schools can incorporate technology-based projects that help close the justice gap generally.

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