IIT Chicago-Kent's Center for Access to Justice & Technology and the Center For Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction release A2J Author® 4.0

Free upgrade of award-winning legal software may be downloaded for noncommercial use at www.a2jauthor.org

The Center for Access to Justice & Technology (CAJT) at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, in partnership with the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), has released Access to Justice AuthorTM 4.0, an upgrade of the popular legal software used by those who assist low-income individuals who are not represented by attorneys in certain legal matters.

A2J Author® is a software tool that helps nontechnical users from the courts, clerks' offices and legal services programs develop low-cost, user-friendly instructions and forms for use on the Internet without requiring the services of a professional software developer. The A2J Guided Interviews® created with A2J Author® enable many self-represented litigants to easily complete court documents that are ready to be filed with the court.

"More than a million people visited Illinois Legal Aid Online in 2010 for help in solving their legal problems," said Mary K. Neal, automated documents manager at Illinois Legal Aid Online. "A2J Guided Interviews® are one of the most valuable services that we provide for our website visitors. The step-by-step instructions and just-in-time help features make complicated legal forms simple, which our visitors really appreciate."

The New York State Courts also use the program. "The New York State Courts Access to Justice Program works to ensure equal access to justice for the ever growing number of New Yorkers who appear without lawyers in our courts each year," said chief counsel Rochelle Klempner. "A2J Author® technology has allowed us to create the user-friendly interactive self-help tools that we call 'DIY' (Do-It-Yourself) forms that are free, fast and easy. Thanks to A2J Author® software, thousands of New Yorkers with cases in Family, Surrogate's, Supreme and New York City Civil courts generated their court forms in 2010 using A2J-based DIY forms."

A2J Author® 4.0, which is available at no cost to anyone using it for noncommercial purposes, may be downloaded from the A2J Author® community website: www.a2jauthor.org. A2J Author® 4.0 features several exciting enhancements, many of which were suggested by users of earlier versions. The upgrades in 4.0 build on the audio and visual improvements in earlier versions. They include:

  • a save and resume feature which enables users to continue interviews at the point at which they had exited
  • a scroll bar for text bubbles that gives users the option of lengthening or shortening questions, explanations or lists of options
  • the ability for users -- especially those with limited literacy skills and impaired hearing -- to adjust the volume, start, stop and rewind controls of audio and visual clips
  • the ability to enlarge the text size in A2J Guided Interviews®
  • calendar and calculator features that help ensure accuracy and make it easier and more efficient for users to complete questions.

"We are very excited to start using the new features in A2J 4.0 to make the interview even better," said Mary Neal. "The 'Save and Resume' feature in particular promises to be very popular with people using our longer A2J Guided Interviews®, because they will now be able to complete forms without having to do all the work in a single session."

A2J Author® currently is 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 a graphic 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 Chicago-Kent was established to develop Internet resources to improve access to justice. "From the beginning our focus has been on providing access; access to technological tools to help legal services organizations and pro bono volunteers better serve their clients and access to the legal system for low-income individuals who represent themselves in court," said Chicago-Kent professor Ronald J. Staudt, CAJT director and IIT associate vice president for law, business and technology.

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."

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 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. In 2008, the CAJT received the Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access from the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services.

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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