Increasing access to justice through technology (and why it matters)
Dr Simon Davey
Legal advice should be accessible to anyone who needs it – no matter their background or income. The UK legal system is built on values of fairness and equality, enshrined in our laws.
But day in and day out, people cannot access the legal advice and representation they need, either because they cannot afford the fees, don’t know where to turn to or the resource isn’t available. Relatively simple issues quickly become overwhelming without the right information and support.
The consequences of this can wreck lives and families, from being illegally evicted for rent arrears (Maria), discriminated out of a job (Jordan) or even removed from the country (Adnan)*.
Cuts to Legal Aid means that more and more people like these cannot access the support and legal advice they need when they need it.
There is a way to make access to legal advice more fair, more equal and faster – and it’s beautifully simple.
Relationships are critical in putting people at ease, and expertise and experience are essential in ensuring the right questions are asked, the right information collected and the right escalations made. But access to experienced lawyers is either time constrained or expensive.
Through the Jeanie Project, we’re piloting a system which puts supportive people (in local charities and community groups) on the front line, equips them and the client with groundbreaking technology (KIM, donated under licence by Riverview Law) to ask the right questions and direct the information collection, collates what is needed and makes the material available, easily and quickly, to experienced lawyers either directly or through brokerage.
It means we can increase the number of people dealing with initial concerns, ensure critical issues don’t get missed, bring together the key information, review/triage and, if still needed, make more time effective use of the scarce legal expertise (and do so virtually, even outside office hours) so each lawyer can help more people and resolve more issues.
It’s a way of getting more support into the hands of local charities and community groups to support poor and vulnerable people like Maria, Jordan and Adnan.
Through the technology of simple-to-use online information and tools, we can equip hundreds of groups in the hearts of local communities to provide advice, information and connections to lawyers; simply, effectively, for free.
The theory works so now we’re testing in the real world. Rolling out the technology and processes with the community groups and charities who are on this early journey with us, starting in East London, to make sure it works smoothly for them and the people they help. The quicker we can do this do this quicker we can share the KIM technology with more organisations that can help.
Right now we’re crowdfunding (for 30 days, the clock is ticking) – https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/the-jeanie-project/ – to increase our support for our partners. We have some initial pilot funding from the Legal Education Foundation and a lot of pro bono support to make this happen (as well as the technology provided for free). If you can donate and/or share the link above, you’ll be making a valuable contribution to #accesstojustice
We now have 30 days to raise the funds needed. If we don’t reach our target then we don’t receive any money from this crowdfunder and more people go without help. Any surplus we do raise will go into bring more partner organisations on board.
If The Jeanie Project is as successful as we believe it will be then we can transform access to legal advice and support in this country. We are hugely excited to be part of that. We look forward to welcoming you too and making a transformational difference to access to justice.
ABOUT THE JEANIE PROJECT: The Jeanie Project is a lean, agile charitable organisation, supporting access to legal advice for those who need it most through an exciting new technology. We enable local staff and volunteers in community organisations to help identify a legal issue, and collect the relevant information to send electronically to a lawyer or adviser. www.thejeanieproject.org.uk @jeanieproject