HotDocs, a Gartner best-of-breed vendor for document assembly in 2013 and a Cool Vendor for Content Management in 2014, is the platform on which LSC-funded entities automate the production of legal documents.
In a recent speech delivered at the White House, Glenn Rawdon, Technology Program Counsel at LSC, a government agency established to promote and fund access-to-justice for people who otherwise can’t afford it, talked about five key technology initiatives that are critical to LSC’s agenda. According to Glenn, these initiatives include the following:
- Creating automated forms and other documents to support self-help and limited scope legal representation, the forms being, as Glenn puts it, “the cornerstone” of LSC’s access-to-justice initiative.
- Taking advantage of mobile technologies to reach more persons more effectively, a critical step in exposing these technologies to pro se litigants, many of whom have access to the Internet only through a mobile device.
- Applying business process/analysis to all access-to-justice activities to make them as efficient as practicable.
- Developing “expert systems” to assist lawyers and other services providers of persons otherwise unable to afford an attorney for dealing with essential civil legal needs.
- Developing a state “triage” system for bringing all of these other initiatives together to make them accessible to the people who need them.
In essence, most of what Glenn is addressing can be rendered down to two activities: (1) developing software-based systems that will enable pro se litigants to effectively do some portion of their own legal work when and where they want and (2) developing technology systems that will enable lawyers to do pro bono work more efficiently, a necessary step for getting more practicing attorneys to commit to pro bono activities. As I listened to Glenn’s speech I couldn’t help but be impressed that much of what Glenn was addressing is (or could be) accomplished with HotDocs.
For the record, HotDocs has been a long-time contributor to LSC’s access-to-justice initiative, a relationship that began back when HotDocs was a LexisNexis property but which has continued till the present day. The automated forms Glenn is referring to are built on the HotDocs platform and many of the 525 technology grants that LSC has issued during the past fifteen years have been to legal aid organizations for the purpose of developing automated HotDocs forms. With the advent of HotDocs Cloud Services and other HotDocs cloud technologies, these automated forms are available on mobile devices, a critical part of LSC’s mission to deliver these technologies to pro se litigants who may only have access to them via handheld devices.
As for LSC’s goal of developing “expert systems,” it’s interesting to note that many consider HotDocs process apps, themselves, to be expert systems, an accurate assessment given that legal experts are able to capture their own expertise in a HotDocs interview that can guide non experts (in this case, Pro Se litigants) through the process of generating the same legal document that an expert would generate, given the specific set of circumstances in question.
It’s also interesting to note that HotDocs is already used by some sizeable organizations for what might be considered a more traditional expert system application—one designed to lead to an opinion, rather than to a transactional document. Thomson Reuters, for example, uses HotDocs in its Checkpoint product to enable tax professionals to arrive at situation specific opinions based on sophisticated HotDocs interviews. A checkpoint user just answers questions, and the HotDocs interview guides her through the complexities of tax and legal statutes to arrive at a legally valid opinion or recommendation.
HotDocs is proud of its relationship with LSC and with the broad pro-bono legal services effort in the United States and looks forward to working with LSC to accomplish its long-term goal to provide access to justice to any and all who need it.