Ideabook Work Product Tool

Law Speak: language access app for small claims

Osgoode Law School’s Justice Design program created a prototype for Law Speak, a tool for people going through the small claims process who are not fluent in the dominant language.

LawSpeak empowers those who may not speak English as a primary language to navigate the small claims court process. This app translates documents, keeps them in one place and provide additional features like a location services option that will help you find your way to the courthouse.

Current Projects Innovations Triage and Diagnosis Work Product Tool

Robot Lawyer expert chat bot

The Robot Lawyer is a chatbot made to let people get legal options and screening — and even fill in documents by chatting through a messenger interface on a website.

Please note, since first posting about this project, it has now become the DoNotPay tool. This post was about the original version of the tool.

In its original form, the Robot Lawyer covered topics like traffic tickets, refugee asylum applications, and homeless benefits.

Work Product Tool

DocuBot for filling in forms through SMS

DocuBot is a tool to fill in legal documents and other forms through an SMS or other chatbot-like experience. The bot asks questions to fill in the form.

Here is more information from its creator, 1Law.

1LAW is proud to announce the creation of Docubot™, a legal document generating artificial intelligence. In conjunction with some of the best lawyers in the United States, Docubot is drawing on form databases of 1000’s of legal documents. Docubot will assist individuals with legal queries as well as generate documents for them. To help serve Legal Aid, Docubot will allow users to interact via SMS text.

Tech specs:

Written in Go at the server
Powered by Watson – Watson rest API
Swift on the iOS side
Communication via Websocket protocol
Back and forth handled through Websocket

Output –Everything is encrypted

The document is generated using a headless webkit browser that takes an HTML document and outputs a .pdf which is stored in a private S3 bucket and then a short-lived url is generated and sent to a user and each time a user loads the thread they will be given a new url. Document is backed up on the S3 server.

Contact us at: for more information.

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Redesigning Summons Forms to be clearer and more supportive

What should a paper-based warning or order look like, to make it actionable and clear for people? Ideas42 worked with the New York City government to create new designs of the Summons document that people get for criminal court cases. Read more about it at Ideas42 page.

This change in the document accompanies more systemic changes.


Steps to ensure that people who receive a summons appear in court include:

  • A redesigned summons form that makes the date of appearance easier to understand. The City and courts worked with ideas42, a non-profit behavioral design lab, to redesign the summons form making information easier to understand in order to better prompt people to return to court. Additionally, the new form will collect individuals’ phone numbers and include a phone number and website where recipients can access their cases, view when their court appearance is scheduled, and determine whether they have outstanding warrants. The website will also have translated copies of the summons form. The new form will be operational this summer. A comparison of the old form and the new form, and additional information about the science driving these changes, is available above. This effort was funded by the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
  • A reminder system to ensure defendants appear in court. The courts will test a number of different reminders citywide during the fall of 2015, using both robocalls and text messages. The results of this pilot will be carefully examined and the most effective method will be scaled up citywide.
  • Flexible appearance date and night court. Sometimes people who want to make their court appearances and resolve their cases sometimes have work, family or other life conflicts with their court dates. Beginning with a pilot in Manhattan North, individuals who have received summonses will be permitted to appear any time a week in advance of their court appearance. The court will also be open until 8:00 p.m. on Tuesdays. If these pilots increase court appearances, the programs will be scaled up citywide.

Steps to enhance transparency and improve the quality of justice in summons court include:

  • Publicly available quarterly data. Four times a year, the City will post data showing summons activity broken down by charge and precinct, allowing access to enforcement trends on the neighborhood level. Going forward, the police department’s annual report will also include summons activity with details such as the location at which a summons is issued and the race of the recipient. Explore this data.
  • Real-time, electronic access to case files. Since April 2015, the Court has been providing defense attorneys with tablets that provide them with all of the factual allegations docketed for that day so they can better advise their clients and quicken the adjudication process.
  • Online payment of fines. Beginning this summer, the courts will implement a new process permitting people convicted of summons offenses to pay fines online.
  • Training on collateral consequences for court-appointed attorneys and Judicial Hearing Officers. Since late March 2015, court-appointed attorneys and Judicial Hearing Officers have been trained in how to better advise clients about the collateral consequences associated with summonses.

Source: Summons Reform


Ideas42, the Behavioral Design Lab, has more details about how they chose to redesign the form to better work with people’s behavior and biases.

One of the insights we discovered was related to New Yorkers’ mental models, or personal understandings and beliefs, based on impressions or anecdotal information, of what the court experience would be like and what it represented. In this case, attending court was strongly associated with lost work time and wages, unrealistically steep fines, and uncomfortable experiences. These perceptions were strong enough that some people who were fully aware of arrest warrants for FTA still chose to miss their court date. In doing so, they were avoiding a negative experience now while risking a far worse one—arrest— down the line. Furthermore, many people who received summonses for small offenses—like spitting or littering—felt that having to go to court was a penalty that far outweighed their mental model of the violation’s seriousness. In other words, the punishment didn’t fit the crime, so they chose not to appear.

Some of these negative perceptions were further compounded because many New Yorkers affected by summonses are lower-income and experiencing some form of time and/or resource scarcity, making juggling workday court appointments and far off dates even more difficult. For those experiencing scarcity, it can be challenging to change work schedules or make other necessary arrangements to appear in court. Many don’t have steady work shifts, making the 2-3 month delay between summons issue and court dates an additional hassle. During this lag time, some people we interviewed reported experiencing unpredictable changes in job or housing, making it even more difficult to plan ahead for a court date.

With these and other insights from behavioral science in mind, we redesigned the physical layout of the pink summons ticket. The new form prominently features the appearance date and court location at the top of the ticket, where people are more likely to see it (the old version had this information at the very bottom where it was easily overlooked). The new form also clearly states in bold typeface that missing the assigned court date will lead to a warrant (important information that was completely absent from the previous form). Behavioral science tells us that simple tweaks like these can have an outsized impact on how people act.

Source, Ideas42 blog here

Ideabook Work Product Tool

Legal Document Responder App

Could we build an application that would let a person, who receives a legal document or government document in the mail to:

  1. Scan it in, either through a mobile-photo-scanner, or a QR code on the document that makes it easy to capture into the app
  2. Figure out what the document says, in jargon-free language. It also would help you understand if it is valid, if it is really from the court or government. It could also tell you what consequences and process it refers to.
  3. There could be other services attached — like translating its content into another language, showing you online paths to respond to it, or letting you know what advocate could help you respond.
Ideabook Work Product Tool

Better Cover Sheets on Forms

We identified that Form Packets are a central ‘thing’ in the Court System. People come to court for help, and the Clerks and Self Help Centers deliver them help through a large selection of paperwork. These papers, most especially forms, are the key commodity in which their help is communicated — and what they can walk away with.

With that in mind, we propose a new Cover Page for a form packet.

It should be human-centered, with icons, pictograms, or other visuals of people.

It should be conversational, almost as if a helpful advocate is talking to the person through the sheet.

It should prep the person for what the packet contains, and what to do with it.

It should flag common problems, and key things to remember.

Current Projects Work Product Tool

Tenants in Action: app to report housing violations

Tenants in Action is an app for tenants in LA to document and report issues they have with housing problems. They can use the app to note what problems they’re experiencing, match that to codes in the government-speak, and then register a complaint — all through the app.


Current Projects Work Product Tool

JustFix app for tenants to gather evidence, protect their rights

JustFix is an app that is built for NYC tenants to understand their housing rights, gather documentation that could be used to support their legal claims, and to share their case file with advocates. adds another tactic to the fight for housing justice by partnering with grassroots organizations to create better support systems for New York City’s excluded communities.

The tool is built primarily for tenants to collect evidence, take action, and share their information with their advocate. It lets them collaborate more easily with lawyers.

It also allows for Community Organizers to gather patterns and data, to do their job more effectively.

Current Projects Work Product Tool

Document assembly tools to automatically create forms

There are many HotDocs and A2J document assembly projects that have been funded by TIG that have replication potential. Listed below is a brief synopsis of a couple of those projects.

From South Central Michigan: automated forms completion.

Legal Services of South Central Michigan developed information and resources for self-represented litigants throughout the state. The project team developed interactive document assembly interviews using technology platforms and applications developed through the TIG program — specifically LawHelp Interactive and A2J Author — and generous software donations from the HotDocs Corporation.

These interactive interviews guide users through otherwise complex legal documents. In total, seven automated interviews were created that help users complete 17 different forms or documents in the areas of housing law, public benefits law,family law, and consumer law. As of June 2014, website users accessed these interviews to compile 2700 sets of organized legal documents that clearly presented their legal arguments and enhanced their likelihood of meeting their legal need.

Here’s the LSC-TIG final report TIG 11017: Michigan Automated Forms

Automated forms from Legal Aid of Nebraska:

Legal Aid of Nebraska partnered with the Nebraska Supreme Court Pro Se Implementation Committee to increase access to justice through the creation of innovative, effective and efficient automated legal pleadings.

The primary goal of this project was to create guided interviews and court form templates to improve low income Nebraskans’ access to the court system. To accomplish this goal, the objective was to take existing “court-authorized” form pleadings and automate them using the HotDocs software.

Then, the project team would apply the Access to Justice Author (A2J Author) interface and guided interviews to ensure that the forms completion process was interactive and easy for the user. Finally, the forms would be stored on the Law Help Interactive (LHI) server and links to the forms would appear on the Virtual Self Help Center section of the Nebraska statewide website.

Leveraging a modest TIG investment ($29,100), the project team produced a very impressive list of forms for low-income Nebraskans.

See the LSC-TIG final report here, TIG 10047: Nebraska Automated Forms

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In Louisville, Kentucky: a way to populate forms for people filing for divorce themselves.

Legal Aid Society Inc. (Louisville, KY) partnered with Jefferson County Family Court to develop a pro se divorce packet for Divorce With Children and for Divorce Without Children and to promote the establishment of statewide uniform forms through the development of document assembly products.

LAS created the Kentucky Online Self‐Help Assistant (KOSHA) to provide low‐income Kentuckians the forms needed to easily, accurately, and effectively produce pro se pleadings and increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the courts. They also translated the Divorce Without Children module into Spanish and added forms for small claims and criminal record expungement.

They began this project in Jefferson County and worked to expand it to 10 additional jurisdictions, since each of Kentucky’s 57 judicial districts had adopted local rules on what needed to be filed to obtain court review. As the forms became accepted by more jurisdictions, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Kentucky made the Jefferson County divorce forms (With‐ and Without‐ Children) the statewide standardized form packet for self‐represented litigants in Kentucky.

See the report from LSC-TIG here: TIG 07357: Kentucky HotDocs

Current Projects Work Product Tool

I-CAN! Legal – Get help filling out court forms

I-CAN! Legal is a software tool to help laypeople prepare court forms through a more interactive and user-friendly online questionnaire.

I-CAN! Legal helps people prepare their court forms using an easy online questionnaire. I-CAN! provides step-by-step instructions for how to file the forms and proceed with the court case. In Orange County, California, I-CAN! also provides e-filing of certain forms. This low-cost and easy-to-use software includes online court form preparation in multiple areas of law in many states.

I-CAN!™ (Interactive Community Assistance Network) was created as a public service by the non-profit Legal Aid Society of Orange County in partnership with the Superior Court of California, County of Orange with funding from the federal Legal Services Corporation (LSC). Since its launch in 2001, I-CAN! has been achieving its goal of using technology to assist pro per litigants with certain legal pleadings. It utilizes the combination of 5th grade literacy content, interactive questions and answers and video guide that enable users to answer a multiple choice and fill-in-the-blanks interview. In this capacity, the user is guided through the process of completing court forms. I-CAN! services are available throughout California and selected counties in Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Virginia. Areas of assistance include Protection Orders, Divorce, Child Support and Custody, Small Claims and Eviction Defense. Additional support materials may include: Filing Instructions, Instructional Videos, Forms Packets, Blank Forms and Facts Sheets (information varies by state). Currently, approximately 4,000 pleadings a month are produced in seven (7) states.

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