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Legal Tech: Innovation and Access to a Digital Justice System

Written by ABC Legal Services

In response to the world-wide pandemic that is COVID-19, courts around the world have had to adapt to the challenges presented by this unprecedented situation. While a critical transition from traditional court proceedings to an online mode has allowed justice to continue in many jurisdictions, courts and legal professionals are now tasked with the added responsibility of adopting newer technologies in the face of an ever-changing COVID-19 legal landscape.

Legal professionals now find themselves in a position to embrace newer, perhaps unfamiliar technologies to support a growing number of online court services. However challenging these changes may seem, they also present an opportunity to improve upon resources and quality of service offered to clients.

Change can be hard. The justice system and its  pre-pandemic resistance to technology are no exception. Let’s explore how COVID-19 has changed the courts perception and use of technology, while bringing with it a compelling silver-lining.

How Is Technology Impacting The Courts ? 

Leveraging technology is simply easier for some courts than others. While a range of courts look to the newest technologies to operate, others continue to rely on antiquated approaches that have been around for decades due to budgeting constraints and opinions, as well as lack of experience and trust around technology.

On August 30, 2020 the NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) released the findings from a study titled, “Court innovations and access to justice in times of crisis” which examined the courts response to the pandemic on a global scale. The study looked at how this shift was made through the use of technology while maintaining equal and fair access to the courts. The responses were notably varied. Some parts of the U.S. justice system waxed while others waned.

Justice Is Becoming Increasingly Digitized

The 2020 NCBI study continues to express how courts are struggling with the shift to remote styles of working. This shift to digitizing the justice system came fast, and some had to scramble simply to make e-filing (not even a new technology) arrangements. Another aspect is video conferencing applications such as Microsoft Teams, Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts and WebEx. In the more immediate responses to COVID-19 many judicial systems quickly developed video conferencing facilities as a way of dealing with the hearing process. In reality, some courts have struggled with video conferencing while others have navigated the process with less complications. Issues of data privacy and security have been prevalent as well as issues regarding jury trials. As increasing delays become a growing concern for many courts, (ODR) online dispute resolution has become inevitably popular. ODR makes for a logical alternative during this time, as its use of technology and dispute resolution methods outside of the traditional courtroom provides alternative access to the justice system through widely-accepted methods.

This study makes a very significant and impactful point: ‘Access to justice’ implies a notion that there is universal access to the judicial system without unreasonable delay. There is growing concern among legal experts that a possible ‘case boom’ caused by the pandemic is on the horizon and therefore, courts around the world will need to adapt to the use of technology with speed and effectiveness as well as increase efforts to develop  strategies surrounding access.

Aside from a growing need for the integration of widespread technology use in court services, jurisdictions can reduce unreasonable delays by encouraging the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as well as ODR in lieu of pursuing traditional methods through the courts.

Perhaps there is a silver lining to all of this; legal tech has seen a transformational shift with the introduction of machine learning, automation, AI and blockchain advancements. This shift provides additional opportunities for legal professionals, law firms and legal departments to implement substantial improvements in regards to efficiency, productivity, security and marketability.

As technology is constantly evolving and the options can seem overwhelming, ABC Legal Services will be holding a free webinar Wednesday, October 28, 2020 at 11:30 a.m. PDT | 2:30 p.m. EDT called, ” A New Day in Court: Technology and the Legal System.” Those interested can register for the free webinar here: https://bit.ly/3iVVlvF

Join ABC Legal Services for an in-depth look at how technology can help legal professionals improve access to the judicial system, as well as increase efficiency and effectiveness of day-to-day operations.

As repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to unfold in the justice system, the expansion of technology into the legal industry is allowing courts to become an accessible service, rather than simply a place. This webinar will equip legal professionals with insight/best practices to better manage this inevitable shift, while also meeting the growing demands of your clients.

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