Talk Justice, an LSC Podcast: Emerging Trends in Legal Tech from the Innovations in Technology Conference

Carl Rauscher 
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WASHINGTON—Legal experts came together at the recent Innovations in Technology Conference to discuss their primary takeaways in the latest episode of Legal Services Corporation’s (LSC) “Talk Justice” podcast released today. Jason Tashea, a member of LSC’s Emerging Leaders Council, hosted the discussion with Quinten Steenhuis, clinical fellow at Suffolk University of Law; Vivian Hessel, chief information officer at Legal Aid Chicago; and Teri Ross,executive director of Illinois Legal Aid Online.

Their conversation centered on legal tech topics like data security, user-centered design, cross-jurisdiction collaboration and the digital divide, which were at the forefront of this year’s conference. Nearly two years into many legal processes being online for the first time, lawyers and legal aid providers continue to grapple with the increasing need to support digital literacy and create accessible platforms.

While Steenhuis admits he was concerned about a regression after the initial leaps forward in embracing technology, he is pleased that the advancements have largely stayed in place. He explained that while it may have seemed from the outside that the shift to digital processes happened overnight, this was not the case.

How did some of those innovations get adopted so quickly? It’s not because the courts had to build everything from scratch, it’s because many of these [systems] had already been worked on quietly and were ready to go,Steenhuis says.

Now that many tech tools have been rolled out or scaled up, legal providers are thinking about how to improve user experience. To do this, Hessel says they should learn to think like technologists.

“People who work with technology are used to seeing things fail and having it be okay because there is so much that you learn from that, but lawyers aren’t necessarily trained to think that way,” Hessel says.“It’s important that we actually do try different thingsand we do let them fail when they failand then learn from those experiences.”

Beyond the obvious technology changes to court processes, Ross thinks that the basic outlook of the courts is changing for the better. “The court system is designed for lawyers and judges, and I think that we are seeing this very gradual change and many courts are realizing that their customer is not the lawyer or the judge, the customer is the person who is trying to access justice,” Ross says.

Talk Justice episodes are available online and on Spotify, Stitcher, Apple and other popular podcast apps. The podcast is sponsored by LSC’s Leaders Council. Future episodes of the podcast cover a new tech trade association that will support access to justice and provide a look at how the pandemic has impacted pro bono legal services.

Legal Services Corporation (LSC) is an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974. For 50 years, LSC has provided financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. The Corporation currently provides funding to 131 independent nonprofit legal aid programs in every state, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.