Law

  • Revolutionizing Access to Justice: The Role of AI-Powered Chatbots and Retrieval-Augmented Generation in Legal Self-Help

    Advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) present numerous opportunities to routinize and make the law more accessible to self-represented litigants, notably through AI chatbots employing natural language processing for conversational interactions. These chatbots exhibit legal reasoning abilities without explicit training on legal-specific datasets. However, they face challenges processing less common and more specific knowledge from their training data. Additionally, once trained, their static status makes them susceptible to knowledge obsolescence over time. This article explores the application of retrieval-augmented generation (RAG) to enhance chatbot accuracy, drawing insights from a real-world implementation developed for a court system to support self-help litigants.

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  • Being (law) technology competent

    technology competence

    The following is a summary of a continuing legal education class on ethics of law and technology I was invited to co-present:

    Lawyers (in the US) are bounded by the rules of the American Bar Association known as ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct. They prescribe the standards of legal ethics and professional responsibilities for lawyers such as conflict of interest, fees, confidentiality, scope of representation , and of course competence (Rule 1.1.)

    In the past, lawyers were evaluated on their competency based on their experience and knowledge of the substance of the law in their practice areas. As technology evolved, so did the rules and the scope of competency.

    In 2012, the ABA modified Rule 1.1 to require lawyers to stay abreast of changes in the law and its practice including the benefits and the risks associated with relevant technologies. As of 2019, 36 states adopted the ABA section regarding the need for lawyers to maintain their technology competency.

    While the Model Rules do not require lawyers to be technological experts, all lawyers are required to have at least a basic understanding of technologies they and their clients use.

    Furthermore, lawyers should differentiate between technology-related security measures that are ethically required and security measures that are merely considered best practices.

    Being hang-up on best practices, may result in unnecessary expenses that will be passed on to clients or worse, decide to abandon the idea of adopting new technologies that can potentially improve processes and provide better services to clients.

    My reasoning is based on my personal experience talking to lawyers and other professionals on this topic. The common example I hear is the use of encrypted emails. Email is the less secured mean of communication and best practices is to avoid using it when sending sensitive information. One solution to mitigate this risk is to install an encryption system to secure the transfer of messages and eliminate the risk of having them intercepted in the process. However, email encryption is a complicated process and constitute a huge inconvenience that most people either not use email for this purpose at all or use it and shift the risk to the client through disclaimers as an example.

    This is where training and staying abreast with changes in technologies become necessary. In the past years, several secure and affordable alternatives became available to allow users to engage in secured communications without breaking the bank while still having an pleasant experience.

    There are several ways lawyers can learn about new technology trends and learning opportunities. The most common ones is to check continuing education programs offered by community colleges and schools. They often provide programs focused on one subject over a short period of time. They are also tailored toward adult learners making the material practical and less overwhelming. Public libraries are another place where learning about technology take place. In addition to regular technology workshops, some libraries provide access to dedicated online training programs such as LinkedIn Learn (formerly Lynda.com) as part of their free resources.

    The ABA TECHREPORT is another place to learn about technology trends in the legal field and what other lawyers are using or lacking for that matter. The report is published annually and provide analysis of the ABA Legal Technology Survey as well as some valuable recommendations.

    Finally, we live in age of Youtube tutorials and DIY attitude. If you have a question about how to (fill in the bank), someone else probably published a step-by-step guide on how to do it online. With simple search techniques and ability to quickly identify relevant content out of the noise, you should be able to teach yourself anything you want.

    I find this topic very fascinating and I‘m glad I had the opportunity to share what I know. I you are a lawyer, I have one advise for you. You need to up your game on technology competency, for your sake and, even more so, for the sake of your clients.

  • Collaborating Across Disciplines and Schools to Bridge the Justice Gap with Legal Technology

    CALICon. June 16, 2022

    Lessons Learned: Developing Protection Order Portals

    Description: This presentation highlights the innovative projects and cross-disciplinary collaboration of the Legal Technology Laboratory (LTL), a Kauffman Foundation-supported initiative. The LTL brings together law school faculty, students, and innovators from diverse fields to develop technology-assisted solutions and data-driven policy for social, civic, and economic development challenges in the legal industry.

    The speaker will update the audience on the progress of LTL's portfolio, which comprises over a dozen projects with project leaders from 11 universities' law schools and participation from 15 additional academic institutions, industry collaborators, and organizations. Attendees will learn how to benefit from LTL's cross-disciplinary and school collaboration and resources, enabling law students and faculty to work with other innovators to bridge the justice gap through legal technology.

    Co-presenter:

    • Barbara Glesner Fines. Dean & Rubey M. Hulen Professor of Law

    Disclaimer:
    The information provided in this presentation is for educational purposes only. The opinions expressed in this presentation and on the following slides are solely those of the presenters and not necessarily those of our clients and partners.

  • First-Party Data, the "Holy-Grail" for marketers

     
    Interview by Andre Hawkins (@andyjayhawk) - The Verge (9/26/2019)

     

    For Uber, increasing user engagement in their Mobile App is the key to a better return on investment.

    "We will be able to monetize it one way or another" says Uber CEO (1).

    In post General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) era, marketers are struggling to make use of third-party data pushing the first and second-party data adoption to new heights. Under GDPR, companies are required to gain explicit consent from their customers to collect and share their personal information. Third-party data is aggregated from various sources bought and sold on data exchange markets. Often buyers of third-party data have no means to verify how the data has been collected, and if the consent was obtained making it useless for any legitimate use.

    Second-party data, on the other hand, is obtained from the collectors directly making it transparent and secure. In 2018, LOTAME, a data management platform, registered a 460% growth in second-party data adoption globally (2). 

    But, first-party data is regarded as the "Holy-Grail" for marketers:

    "First party data is defined as data that your company has collected directly from your audience -- made up of customers, site visitors, and social media followers. "First party" refers to the party that collected the data firsthand to use for re-targeting." Lotame (3).

    As explained by Uber's CEO, the pure quality of data allows companies to better understand their customers and eventually achieve a stronger return on investment (ROI). With machine learning and predictive analytics, companies are now able to predict their customers' patterns and personalize content and advertisements.

    In 2019, the average U.S. adult will spend 2 hours and 55 minutes per day on their smartphone (4). The more time you spend in an app, the faster the machine will learn about your online behavior.

    While the GDPR and the soon to take effect California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) aims to protect the right of consumers to freely navigate the web without being followed and harassed by unsolicited advertisements, no regulation is in place yet to control or limit the use of data "consensually " obtained. After all, Cambridge Analytica didn't break any laws by harvesting the personal data of millions of Facebook users. Using complex terms of use, companies are free to aggregate, track, and make sense of their users' digital interactions to increase their ROI. Their excuse is that it is the "right thing to do" in order to provide better services to consumers.

    On the other hand, policymakers are now looking at ways to curb design techniques responsible for the proliferation of technology addiction and its harmful consequences among users. In July 2019, Senator Hawley of Missouri introduced a bill to do just that (5). The bill referred to as the ‘‘Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act’’ or ‘‘SMART Act’’, if enacted, will prevent social media companies from using techniques such as infinite scroll and autoplay. It will also force companies to proactively limit the time users spend on their apps and be more transparent about their usage.

    It is without a doubt that the time has come for technology companies to join forces with regulators and privacy advocates to find better ways to collect, use, and share data in a responsible manner.

     

    Sources:

    (1) https://youtu.be/CrnVoJ358bo

    (2) https://www.lotame.com/lotame-sees-460-growth-in-second-party-data-adoption-globally-in-2018/

    (3) https://www.lotame.com/1st-party-2nd-party-3rd-party-data-what-does-it-all-mean/

    (4) https://www.emarketer.com/content/us-time-spent-with-mobile-2019

    (5) https://www.hawley.senate.gov/sites/default/files/2019-07/Social-Media-Addiction-Reduction-Technology-Act.pdf

     

  • Kansas courts now accept protection order petitions online

    Before the pandemic, we were approached by Kansas Judicial Branch to study the possibility to develop self-guided interviews for self-represented litigants seeking protection from abuse and protection from sexual assault, harassment, and human trafficking. Applicants seeking a protection order were required to visit the court to obtain and file the necessary forms. However, unlike other states, Kansas court clerks are not allowed to provide assistance with the completion of any forms or advising how a particular definition of a word applies to a specific situation. Applicants often have difficulties with legal jargon, filing the right forms, or omitting crucial information that could impact their cases. When the courts were ordered to close to the public due to the pandemic, the entire in-person process stalled and it became critical to find an alternative solution.

    With the help of a grant approved by the State Finance Council from federal coronavirus relief funds, we embarked on a project to create a scalable, accessible, and mobile-friendly web portal where a person seeking a protection order is guided through an online interview, and the answers used to populate forms a judge will review before granting an order.

    In 70 days, we created Kansas Protection Order Portal (www.kspop.org). Applicants use a short interview to determine their eligibility for a protection order and if so, what forms they need to use. If they are not eligible for a protection order, we redirect them to a directory of resources organized by county and expertise. Applicants ready to start a petition could do so from the same portal. By answering dynamic and easy-to-understand questions, applicants will generate all the necessary forms and automatically file them with the court.

    The portal was launched in December for a limited number of counties in the state of Kansas. It will become available to all 115 counties in early January 2021.

    From the preliminary feedback we have received, both applicants and clerks appreciate the new process. But most importantly, people who need a protection order will no longer have to visit the courthouse in person to file the required forms. This is a significant improvement over the in-person process which places vulnerable individuals at tremendous risks.

    Disclosure:

    I worked on this project through my consulting agency. CiviLaw.Tech can implement a successful automation strategy at your company and we can do it faster, better, and cheaper. We use JotForm, a secured online form software. We will convert your documents into intelligent online forms. Our goal is to communicate the capabilities of JotForm to you, identify your automation goals, develop a system around your goals, properly train your end-users to maximize your system's potential, and develop an ongoing relationship to support the systems we develop.

    About JotForm:

    JotForm is a full-featured online form software that makes it easy to create robust forms and collect important data on any device. We have yet to work on a project where JotForm was not the easiest, most affordable, and most user-friendly solution. We are a proud JotForm Solution Partner. We will help you explore all its features such as the Smart PDF Editor, Mobile Forms, Report Builder, Encrypted Submissions among many others.

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  • KS POP Celebrating Three Years of Tech-Driven Justice for All

    This article explores the development and impact of the Kansas Protection Order Portal (KS POP), highlighting the vital role of law librarians in the portal's design and implementation. The article showcases how KS POP has streamlined the legal process for domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking victims in Kansas, marking a significant advancement in accessible legal support and serving as a model for future innovations in the justice system.

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  • White Paper: Technology and Self-Help Centers in State Court Systems

    Technology and Self-Help Centers in State Court Systems. Assessing the Need and Offering Solutions

    This white paper examines the effectiveness of self-help tools offered by state court systems in response to the pandemic and describes the solutions CiviLaw.Tech offers to create a more robust technological response to the issues litigants face when representing themselves in court.

    Introduction:

    COVID-19 and the subsequent measures to limit its spread have had a disruptive effect on all aspects of our lives, including access to legal services and court operations. It strained an already overwrought CJ system, highlighting issues with case backlogs, evidence-sharing, and file storage.

    At the same time, COVID-19 was a catalyst for the court to accelerate the deployment of digital solutions, such as virtual hearings, electronic filing for attorneys, and in some states, the implementation of a centralized case management system. Thanks to grants from the state's Federal Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program, courts were able to respond to the immediate challenges caused by the pandemic.

    Still, the limitations of in-person access to resources (i.e. self-help centers, court libraries, and court clerks) and the dependence on paper-based processes continue to exacerbate the lack of access to legal services for self-help litigants, especially low-income citizens and those with time-sensitive matters, such as emergency protection orders.

    The impact of the last several years offers opportunities. This report reviews the varied ways that state court systems have attempted to meet the needs of the public. Some can be leveraged as best practices, while others highlight barriers that pose risks to achieving the optimum outcome of greater access to justice.

    Finally, this report outlines the solutions that CiviLaw.Tech can offer court systems, with highlights of systems already being used in several courts throughout the country.