Thursday, March 14, 2019
Digital Pro Bono: Leveraging Technology to Provide Access to Justice by Kathleen Elliott Vinson & Samantha A. Moppett
Digital Pro Bono: Leveraging Technology to Provide Access to Justice by Kathleen Elliott Vinson & Samantha A. Moppett.
"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Sound familiar? Although we pledge this when we stand in front of the American flag, hands over our hearts, all people do not have access to justice in the United States. While individuals have the constitutional right to legal assistance in criminal cases, the same does not hold true for civil matters. Low-income Americans are unable to gain access to meaningful help for basic legal needs. Although legal aid organizations exist to help low-income Americans who cannot afford legal representation, the resources available are insufficient to meet current civil legal needs. Studies show more than 80 percent of the legal needs of low-income Americans go unaddressed every year.
This article examines how law students, law schools, the legal profession, legal services' agencies, and low-income individuals who need assistance, all have a shared interest—access to justice—and can work together to reach the elusive goal in the Pledge of Allegiance of "justice for all." It illustrates how their collaborative leveraging of technology in innovative ways like digital pro bono services, is one way to provide access to justice. It discusses ABA Free Legal Answers Online, the program that the ABA pioneered to help confront the justice gap in the United States. The program provides a "virtual legal advice clinic" where attorneys answer civil legal questions that low-income residents post on free, secure, and confidential state-specific websites. The article provides a helpful resource of how law schools can leverage this technology to increase access to justice for low-income communities while providing pro bono opportunities for attorneys and students in their state.