DescriptionThe cost of legal services makes it difficult for many Australians and citizens of other countries to access affordable legal information and advice. Eligibility criteria for government and other benefits are often very complex. Applicants are usually required to prove eligibility or go without benefits they would otherwise be entitled to. While some assistance to applicants may be available via not-for-profit agencies, those agencies invariably have limited resources and lack sufficient staff with adequate training in navigating complex legislative or regulatory frameworks – so many people who need assistance cannot access it.
During the pandemic this situation was compounded further by lockdowns and remote working. This made it even harder for potential applicants to be alerted to benefits they could access or to apply for appropriately. As communities and economies now recover from impacts of the pandemic, funding to government and not-for-profit agencies continues to be very tight, and in some cases has reduced further. At the same time, the need for legal information and advice has grown significantly – as the effects of workforce restructures, cost of living increases and financial and legal challenges continue to bite.
Early access to accurate understandable legal information can be very effective in preventing legal problems from emerging initially, or from becoming increasingly complex. Affordable, scalable and transferrable solutions are needed to provide information that can be appropriately tailored to those who need it.
Simple legal software applications can increase access to justice by supporting staff who do not have formal legal training to provide more accurate personalised information to applicants and clients. Applications that can be accessed via mobile devices and designed for users without legal knowledge or training in mind can go a long way in enabling members of the public across the community to understand and exercise their legal and human rights.
This presentation will share how law students at Flinders University in South Australia are working to on clinical legal education projects that respond to this need. Since 2020, the undergraduate law degree at Flinders University has included a core compulsory clinical legal education topic ‘Law in a Digital Age’. Students in their second or later year work in groups with not-for-profit clients to build simple legal applications on the open-source free software platform Docassemble. Since 2020, students have created almost 60 working applications for nearly 40 not-for-profit clients. In one semester, students, who start with no coding knowledge, develop sufficient skills to design and deliver a working application – increasing the capacity of their not-for-profit clients to provide greater access to justice in the community.
|Period||14 May 2023|
|Event title||2nd Virtual International Conference on Clinical Legal Education, Legal Aid and Human Rights 2023|
|Degree of Recognition||International|