Designing Tech Solutions
The Self Represented Litigants Network teamed up with the Resolve Disputes Online team for a webinar outlining the functioning of the RDO software. The backlog faced by the justice system as well as the prohibitive costs of litigation have led barrister and mediator Joe Al-Khayat to begin using technology in order to increase Access to Justice. This project further highlights a very important trend of making the best possible use of cutting edge technology in order to design optimal solutions for people facing legal issues.
An estimated 3 out of 5 people in US civil cases go to court without a lawyer. The Self Represented Litigants Network (SRLN) connects lawyers, judges and allied professionals who are creating innovative and evidence-based solutions so that self-represented litigants have meaningful access to the courts and get the legal help they need.
RDO software works as a private platform to be accessed by the claimant, respondent and the mediator in divorce cases. Based on the traditional 11 step mediation process, the platform includes an integrated chat service, case file sharing and video conferencing.
There are numerous steps between clients and the Courts/ Tribunals/ Mediators/ Arbitrators but clients may only have a single interaction with the justice system throughout their entire lives. The combination of platforms used (in person, telephone, court filings, email) confuses clients who are already in a sensitive position and results in hugely negative experiences;
- It takes the European Court of Justice it takes 350 days, on average, to resolve a civil dispute.
- In Australia (and it is similar in the UK) it costs approximately $25,000 to take civil dispute to trial where:
- 44% of users experience a significant negative impact on mental health, job and relationships as a re-sult of their dispute, and
- There is a 36% average satisfaction rate of court process.
Who are we designing for?
RDO focused on the online mediation process in divorce cases and did research on the potential users in this scenario. RDO’s research resulted in the creating of Ann – the ‘Provisional Persona’:
How do we design a solution?
RDO started by bringing a group of potential stakeholders together in a room to try and build a consensus on design of a user journey. These were often supported by the use of very visual representations of possible journeys, rather than very complex flowcharts.
The outcome was a step by step method outlining the process and anticipating the potential issues arising including:
- A lack of understanding of what will be required from clients
- Difficulty finding and securing services
- Difficulty scheduling time to access services
- The mediation Session
- Parenting and financial orders
What can we learn?
This is a perfect example of how to use technology to meet an access to justice need; it’s a process solution rather than a technology one! The first step should always be to identify the problem and then explore ideas on how problems could potentially be addressed.
There can be a tendency, particularly in the access to justice sector where our focus is on helping people most in need, to rush the development of tech based tools. Having a design based approach allows us to:
- Ensure the proposed technology solution is focused on solving user problems,
- Agree priorities where there are many stakeholders and explore different views before significant investments are made,
- Remain focused on agreed priorities that have measurable outcomes, and
- Keep an open mind as to how to address problems i.e. being open to process change rather than implementing a new tech tool.