Whenever there is a conversation about using technology to enhance access to justice for the poor, there is sure to be talk of A2J Author. Developed almost 10 years ago by the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction and the Center for Access to Justice and Technology at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, A2J Author is a tool used by legal aid programs and others to create automated guided interviews to guide individuals in need of legal help. The interviews use graphics and easy-to-understand text to enhance their accessibility and usability.
Often, the interviews are used in conjunction with the Hotdocs document assembly program to help self-represented individuals create court and legal forms. The interviews are also used for online intake and to help guide individuals to appropriate legal help and resources. You can see examples of these at Stateside Legal and find many others at LawHelp Interactive.
The main idea of A2J Author is to make it easy for those who have no programming background to create these guided interviews. The principal users are staff people at legal services programs and in court systems.
Until now, A2J Author has been delivered as a locally installed software package and it worked only on Windows computers. (The resulting interviews were accessible on any Web browser with Flash installed.)
That all changes today, when an all-new, Web-based version of A2J Author is launched. According to John Mayer, CALI executive director, the new version will officially roll out today at noon Central time. “This is not an upgrade,” he writes, “this is a whole new platform.”
The new version of A2J Author is a single page web application designed to run in modern browsers and does not require a software package to be downloaded and installed on the author’s machine. This is because the software that runs the application is downloaded every time you visit the website. This has the advantage of allowing for rapid and continuous bug fixes and feature enhancements. It also means that A2J Author will work on your PC whether it runs Windows, Mac or Linux.
The old version of the software will remain available for at least six months at the old website, which will remain accessible at old.a2jauthor.org.
Mayer writes that the legal aid community has used A2J Author to deliver over 2.5 million interactions with users seeking legal assistance. He hopes to see this number grow to 20 million a year or more.
Access to justice isn’t just about quantity, but quantity does matter. Our goal is not to replace lawyers, but to make the limited human lawyer resources more valuable by concentrating their work where it can have the greatest impact. Technology vs. Lawyers is not an either/or. The greatest benefit will come from our strategic and intelligent use of Technology + Lawyers to increase access t justice.
Check out Mayer’s post for more details about the new A2J Author.