Innovation Lab at Legal Aid of North Carolina Aims to Revolutionize Access to Justice

Access to justice is a fundamental right, yet for many low-income families, this right remains elusive due to financial constraints and limited resources. Legal Aid of North Carolina (LANC) recognizes the pressing need to address this issue and has taken a groundbreaking step by establishing the Innovation Lab to pioneer transformative solutions.

The Need for Innovation:

Civil legal needs often go unmet, as there is no constitutional right to an attorney for such matters. According to a recent study, 92% of the civil legal problems reported by low-income Americans in a year received inadequate or no legal help. In North Carolina alone, 18% of the population, approximately 2 million people, are eligible for LANC services. Despite the high demand, the current ratio stands at one LANC attorney for every 8000 eligible individuals.

The challenges faced by low-income families are exacerbated by the lack of resources in legal aid programs, hindering their ability to meet the soaring demand for services. Identifying and securing resources to address this need, finding cost-efficient ways to deliver effective legal help, and recognizing the untapped opportunities to advance access to justice have become imperative.

The Vision: Legal Aid of North Carolina Innovation Lab

In response to these challenges, LANC has launched the Innovation Lab. The Lab envisions a human-centered, collaborative, and transformative service delivery model that aims to turn ideas into creative, inclusive solutions. The focus extends beyond technological advancements to a comprehensive consideration of the social and ethical implications of technology in the legal field.

Projects in the Works:

  1. Modernizing Intake:
    • Creating a smart, scalable client intake process.
    • Creating a client centered process, responsive to the needs of diverse client communities.
    • Integrating technology and data driven solutions to create a more convenient, accessible, and equitable process.
  2. Rural Access to Justice:
    • Launching a Mobile Legal Services Unit (LANCMobile), taking services to underserved rural areas.
    • Establishing rural community hubs to serve as centralized resource centers.
  3. Projects to Improve Client Services:
    • Introducing Law Droid, a chat bot tool to streamline legal processes.
    • Improving an Expunction Petition Generator for expediting the expungement process.
    • Implementing integrated advocacy solutions to provide holistic support.
  4. Improvements to Internal Operations:
    • Implementation of innovative solutions that improve internal processes and enhance client access to justice.
    • Conduct regular reviews to identify areas for improvement in its own staff and internal processes.

By fostering inclusive innovation and adopting a holistic approach, LANC’s Innovation Lab aspires to revolutionize legal service delivery. The goal is not only to bridge the gap in access to justice but also to set a precedent for a more equitable and efficient legal system that caters to the diverse needs of the community. As the projects unfold, the Innovation Lab stands to assist those who have long struggled to navigate the complexities of the legal system.