Law Students, Technology, 21st Century Law Practice and the Access to Justice Gap

    •   Track 4
    • Presentation speakers
      • John Mayer, Executive Director, Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI)

    Video (starts at 50:40)

    In a 2002 research project conducted by the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology “Access to Justice: Meeting the Needs of Self-Represented Litigants”, the authors defined the problem thus…

    “Civil justice reform in the United States has failed to address the problems faced by self-represented litigants in their efforts to obtain access to the justice system. Although the great majority of cases filed by self-represented litigants are factually and legally uncomplicated, many litigants in these simple cases struggled to navigate through an unfamiliar and procedurally complex court system. Court systems employ difficult, even arcane terminology, and impose highly technical requirements to prosecute or defend cases.”

    CALI and Chicago-Kent have developed the A2J Author software which provides a unique and user-friendly interface that succeeds even with self representing litigants who are traditionally unfamiliar with technology self-help tools.

    In 2011, A2J Author was used over 400,000 times by self-representing litigants to produce over 210,000 completed forms. The limiting factor for scaling up is skilled authors of the guided interviews that assist self-represented litigants. In 2012, CALI and Chicago-Kent are launching a project to address that bottleneck by creating an online authoring resource that facilitates partnerships between legal aid organizations, court assistance efforts, law school clinics and law students.

    Guided interviews constructed in A2J Author expose law students to 21st century law practice methodologies that are becoming common as represented by start-up websites like, and The knowledge needed to guide clients through automated online forms combines legal doctrine, systems thinking, user-interface considerations and legal system experience – all skills that are useful to law students graduating into a rapidly transforming legal marketplaces.

    Open access to the law is just the beginning. Lacking sufficient legal aid or low-cost attorney representation, many public will need to navigate the complexities of legal processes by themselves. A2J Author provides a way for them to do this and law students can gain experience and help the address the problem of access to justice.

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