an intro to Document Assembly Online

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Most lawyers (including myself) basically view computers and internet-based interaction as forms of digital magic.  Last week, Kate Bladow of Montana Legal Services referred me to an article that can help demystify one very important element in the self-help law movement and the campaign to increase the access to justice — the creation of documents online.  The article, “Doing Documents Online,” (eJustice, Dec. 8, 2005), is written by Marc Lauritsen, founder and president of Capstone Practice Systems, who has worked in legal technology since 1984, and served as director of clinical programs at Harvard Law School.
  

The article begins: ” Automated document preparation has long held great promise for expanding access to justice. We now have good reasons to expect the promise to be redeemed.”  Marc goes on to provide a brief  background and history of automated document assembly; explain the different kinds of document systems (e.g., information gathering vs. document generation; products for self-helpers vs. advocate vs. developers); tell how “The World Wide Web opens up new opportunities for organizing and delivering document assembly applications”; and describe the (amazing) National Public ADO (Automated Documents Online, or NPADO), “a proven facility for delivering interactive interviews and document generation to self-represented individuals and advocates alike, from a web-connected browser, anywhere and anytime, using industry-standard software” — for free!
  

Marc ends the piece with a call to action, and with an image of the future:
“Surely many legal problems call for the dedicated attention of an experienced advocate. Surely many people are not willing or able to solve their own legal needs through a computer. But many problems can be addressed and many people can be served that way. Let us save our scarce human advocates for those who cannot help themselves otherwise. And let us equip our advocates with the tools to be as effective as possible.   

“Imagine a world in which all the legal forms and associated know-how that anyone cares to computerize and give away can be consolidated and delivered to low-income people for free. Imagine tens of thousands of intelligent legal forms being accessed by millions of such people and their advocates on a regular basis. That world is within reach.”

If you’re a non-techie interested in access to justice issues, I hope you’ll read the entire article.  Soon, shlep plans to have contributors who will regularly report on and explain developments and issues on the “techie” side of self-help.

 

 

1 Comment

  1. shlep: the Self-Help Law ExPress » Blog Archive » resources at Illinois Legal Aid Online

    January 24, 2007 @ 12:18 pm

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    […] The development of Automated Forms Online for Legal Aid and Pro Bono Attorneys is also discussed in the eNewsletter, with links to the materials.  The forms, pleadings and documents can be found on www.IllinoisLegalAdvocate.org and http://www.IllinoisProBono.org. “Automated forms make it easier and faster to draft documents because the user is presented with only a series of questions to answer using a computer. When all of the questions are answered the user clicks a button, and the completed forms appear on the computer screen and can be saved or printed.” The first forms for attorney users are now live on the websites:  Power of Attorney for Health Care; Power of Attorney for Property; Resignation of Agent for Power of Attorney; and Notice of Revocation of Agent for Power of Attorney. Divorce pleadings, adoptions forms, and eviction defense forms are expected to be online soon. Note: We discussed document assembly online in a posting last October, where we described the National Public ADO (Automated Documents Online, or NPADO), which can be used by individual consumers or their advocates, and is ”a proven facility for delivering interactive interviews and document generation to self-represented individuals and advocates alike, from a web-connected browser, anywhere and anytime, using industry-standard software” — for free!  For more on automated document services, see yesterday’s posting about LegalZoom. […]

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