Access to Justice on a smartphone
Imagine answering a few short questions on your cell phone and being directed to a form on the Internet, which you will be able print out and file in court. What sounds like science fiction will soon be a reality.
A redesigned A2J Author® will allow pro se litigants greater access to A2J Guided Interviews® by allowing the application to be used on any Web browser—including the browser on a cell phone. Now, anybody with access to a computer or a smartphone will be able to create a fileable legal document by answering a series of simple questions about their legal issue.
This redesign of the A2J Author® Software, originally unveiled by the Center for Access to Justice and Technology (CAJT) at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law and the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) in 2005, will free the software tool from some of its current limitations as a Flash application and allow the software to work with any Internet browser. Support for this project will be provided by a new Technology Initiative Grant from the Legal Services Corporation, signed last week to rewrite the software for A2J Author® and develop the new Web App in cooperation with CALI and Idaho Legal Services, Inc.
As an Adobe Flash application, A2J Author® currently can be used only on Microsoft-equipped machines, but the new version will run on machines with any operating system. Similarly, pro se litigants using the A2J Guided Interviews® to create their litigation documents will be able to access the interviews from any device with a Web browser, including most smart phones and tablets.
"Our number one goal is to provide access to justice to as many people as possible," said Ronald W. Staudt, professor of law and director of the Center for Access to Justice & Technology. "This grant will allow us to expand our software and provide access to anybody with a computer or a smartphone."
Instead of downloading the A2J Author® application to run independently on a Windows-based machine, legal aid authors will be able to access a website running the A2J Author® Web App from any machine. Authors will have login accounts to access the upgraded A2Jauthor.org website, where they can back up their A2J Guided Interviews® during development and access their progress from any machine. For those authors uncomfortable authoring through the A2J Web App, a new, downloadable A2J Author® application will also be developed. The Mobile A2J Viewer will be compatible with existing A2J Guided Interviews® as much as possible.
"With 60 percent of people now using their smartphones to access the Internet-and that number is expected to increase in the next several years—legal aid organizations can reach millions of pro se litigants by delivering A2J Guided Interviews through smartphones," Professor Staudt said. "The Mobile A2J Viewer will fill this gap by maintaining the same design elements, but condensing the questions and interactions into the smartphone environment."
A2J Author® is currently used in 35 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and Canada. More than 550 A2J Guided Interviews® are actively being used on the national server, Law Help Interactive. A2J Guided Interviews® are increasingly popular as a means to conduct online web intake for legal aid, and A2J Guided Interviews® creators are now able to designate graphics more in tune with the purpose of their A2J Guided Interviews®. Step-by-step instructions and graphics virtually lead users along the path to the correct legal aid office.
The Center for Access to Justice & Technology at IIT Chicago-Kent was established to develop Internet resources to improve access to justice. The CAJT developed A2J Author® in 2005, in partnership with the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction, a nonprofit consortium of law schools whose mission includes promoting "access to justice through the use of computer technology."
IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law is the law school of Illinois Institute of Technology, a private, Ph.D.-granting institution with programs in engineering, psychology, architecture, business, design and law. The Center for Access to Justice & Technology was established at II Chicago-Kent to make justice more accessible to the public by promoting the use of the Internet in the teaching, practice, and public access to the law. The Center conducts research, builds software tools, teaches classes and supports faculty, staff and student projects on access to justice and technology.
A2J Author® 4.0 is available at no charge for non-commercial purposes at www.a2jauthor.org. Those seeking to use A2J Author® for commercial purposes, such as court vendors who may wish to incorporate the software into proprietary e-filing or case management system offerings, may purchase a commercial license from CAJT and CALI. For information on acquiring a copy of the A2J Author® software or general information on the A2J Author® Program, please visit www.a2jauthor.org.