IIT Chicago-Kent to develop ebook for national Cyber Clinic pilot program

Professor Ronald Staudt’s Justice & Technology Practicum serves as course model

Legal education changed forever in the 1960s with the development of clinical education, which allowed law students to simultaneously use the skills developed in their substantive classes while gaining hands-on experience by working with clients before graduation. IIT Chicago-Kent's Center for Access to Justice and Technology (CAJT), in cooperation with the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) and Idaho Legal Services, Inc., will take clinical education to the next level with the development of Cyber Clinics modeled on Professor Ronald W. Staudt's current Justice & Technology Practicum course.

"The goal of the project is to help establish cyber clinics as a permanent part of U.S. law school education," Professor Staudt said. "Cyber clinics are law school courses offering credit to law students who work on A2J Guided Interviews® and other content for statewide legal aid websites, lowering barriers to justice for low-income, pro se litigants."

A2J Guided Interviews® walk a self-represented litigant through the legal process by posing a series of simple questions on the way to creating a document. With the answer to each question, the user takes another step toward his or her desired legal document.

A new Technology Initiative Grant from the Legal Services Corporation will support the CAJT's work developing new clinical courseware and pilot law school courses that engage law students in building A2J Guided Interviews®. The CAJT will develop the content and organization for an eLangdell electronic course book with CALI. Once published, the contract will support the use of this electronic course book by three pilot law schools.

Funding will help these pilot law schools hire adjunct faculty to teach the new Cyber Clinic on assurances that the course will be continued if successful. Each law school that participates in the pilot program will have the autonomy to dictate the functioning of their Cyber Clinic and to develop the legal forms, applications and other content that they believe is most appropriate.

"Assume that seven students sign up for this program each semester at each of the three law schools and work for 12 hours per week," said Professor Staudt, director of the Center for Access to Justice & Technology. "Those students would produce 8,064 hours of work creating interviews for statewide legal aid websites. If this Cyber Clinic movement expands by three to five schools per year over the next five years, students could produce more than 80,000 hours of development work to legal aid organizations."

This project is based on the idea that law students learn to write and deploy advanced technologies used by statewide legal aid websites for the 24/7 delivery of A2J Guided Interviews®. While learning the A2J Author®, students will contribute to legal aid websites as authors, programmers, and editors. Skills learned in these Cyber Clinics will be relevant to modern law practice that increasingly relies on technology.

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. A redesigned A2J Author® 5.0 is currently in development, which will allow users to access the software from any Web browser—even a smartphone.

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 IIT 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.

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