Is there a 'right' technology for LawCentres?
At Hayachi Services we firmly believe that Enterprise Open Source benefits our customers, in fact it does – it provides more relevant and cost-effective technology for many of our legal clients.
There isn’t necessarily a ‘right’ technology for LawCentres but we would lean on recommending proven technologies.
Designing accessible systems is a must for LawCentres because many of your service-users will naturally be susceptible to external stressors and will also often use a variety of older technologies, in our experience.
We have found that pro-bono solicitors are often denied facilitation by their IT Departments even at top-10 firms, so preparation is key for you to provide legal services to those most in need that are technology-enabled.
What is currently used by the profession
At the moment the profession primarily uses Windows and Apple devices, emails are broadly hosted by Microsoft and storage is through a Document Management System with a variety of vendors.
Service-users will often only have their phone or a very old device to transfer files or communicate, if that, and will depend on the LawCentre to a high degree in order facilitate technology.
How do LawCentres square this technological divide?
Poorly, in most cases. It is unfortunate but as charities LawCentres often lack funding to invest in enterprise-grade systems which improve accessibility, and likewise lack support by the profession more broadly – or rather the technical experts who serve it.
It is nonetheless the case that many good-natured lawyers have designed systems for lawyers which are open and accessible, such as DocAssemble which is already used by a vast array of UK Courts. This is a feature-rich toolbox that we heartily recommend.
Other projects such as NosLegal are actively working to streamline legal taxonomies across the the world, and especially in the UK, to improve collaboration between solicitors and others in the profession. The project is growing so watch this space and get involved to help shape it.
LawCentres shouldn’t be afraid of building accessible systems using alternative forms of technology, for example setting up Terminal Servers using Linux (we are fond of LinuxMint) and using tablets to enable service-users to access your systems. This is an excellent way to ensure that your service-users can use secure systems which are highly-available and enable you to do legal work better.
If you wanted to build more automated document systems you would be delighted to read that the Linux Foundation has partnered with the Accord Project on this. It’s accessible to setup and in use by many Legal500 firms.
All of the above technologies have active communities and so if you as a LawCentre need a function which isn’t available – ask, and perhaps you shall receive (in time). If you are likewise flummoxed on how to set it up – ask.
Building a community around your technology
Much of the world’s technological capabilities are community-driven projects, centred on delivering for human needs – such as legal services.
For example, if your LawCentre wanted to streamline cash donations why not use BOPP, which uses Open Banking to enable you to manage payments how you want to. This service in particular we highly recommend for fundraising.
You may note that the above technologies are all based on Open Source technologies and have a strong social-mission in order to deliver for their service-users. This also means they are free at the point of use, providing there is expertise to implement these solutions.
For your LawCentre building a community which champions these technologies allows you to create a positive feedback loop of continuous improvement of service delivery.
Community is powerful and LawCentres are keenly aware of this, there are many organisations such as Hayachi Services, TechForGood and even Google that are actively working to improve upon legal software design and delivery.
As a Clio partner we are also keen to demonstrate how lawtech improves your service to users while also saving money from operational efficiencies. We have our favourites, and they are all open for you to play with and implement should you wish to.
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