Courses on Justice Innovation

In Autumn-Winter quarters 2023-24, the Legal Design Lab team will offer the policy lab class “AI for Legal Help”.

It is a 3-credit course, with course code LAW 809E.

We will be working with community groups & justice institutions to interview members of the public about if & how they would use AI platforms (like ChatGPT) to deal with legal problems like evictions, debt collection, or domestic violence.

The goal of the class is to develop a community-centered agenda about how to make these AI platforms more effective at helping people with these problems, while also identifying the key risks they pose to people & technical/policy strategies to mitigate these risks.

The class will be taught with user interviews, testing sessions, and multi-stakeholder workshops at the core – to have students synthesize diverse points of view into an agenda that can make AI tools more equitable, accessible and responsible in the legal domain.

See more at the class webpage.

Justice By Design: Outreach, Spring 2023

In Spring Quarter 2023, the Legal Design Lab team offered an updated version of Justice By Design, focused on improving outreach and uptake of online legal help.

It is a 3-credit course, with course code LAW 806Y. In the class, students worked with the American Bar Association Free Legal Answers team, and the Virginia Poverty Law Center’s Eviction Legal Helpline.

Legal aid groups, government agencies, and state courts offer free help to people experiencing housing, debt, family, and other major life problems. This policy lab examined how to make this legal help more accessible, trusted, and impactful. How can more people be aware and empowered to use legal help, especially in a more equitable way?

Students in this policy lab researched and designed national strategies for making legal help and government services more discoverable, user-friendly, and trustworthy. Students conducted user research, technology experiments, and legal research to identify what specific initiatives might make legal help more engaging and impactful.

The students explored a range of new kinds of innovations from technology, to community partnerships, to service design–and helped justice organizations make a coherent strategy for increasing uptake and engagement with their public services.

See their strategy proposals for Virginia’s Eviction Legal Helpline here.

Justice By Design: Eviction, 2019-2022 series

In a series of policy labs over 2019-2022, the Legal Design Lab team led student teams through design research, pilot development, deployment, testing, and scaling of new solutions to address the eviction crisis in the US.

Clients of the policy labs included the California Courts, the Arizona Bar Foundation and courts, the San Francisco Mayor’s office, the NAACP, and the National League of Cities.

See the students’ work product at the class page here.

Find an index of pilots, ideas, and networks of people working on eviction solutions at our Lab page on Eviciton Innovations.

Justice and Poverty Innovation: Winter-Spring 2019

How can emerging technologies and human-centered design be used to help people going through problems with housing, medical care, and debt? In this class, we worked with local partners to develop new tech and design prototypes to address poverty-related problems. We explored new digital solutions, as well as how to use emerging technologies like AI and blockchain. At the same time, we explored policy and legal reforms that could address the root causes of the problems.

Students worked in small, interdisciplinary teams with partner organizations in law, medicine, and policy. They ran design research in the field, proposed new solutions and tested them, and developed new initiatives for piloted. The goal was to incubate promising, feasible public interest technology and design projects.

The class ran in parallel to similar classes in Mexico, Guatemala, and Colombia. Students had the chance to learn about similar innovation efforts in other countries, and were challenged to think about how their own projects could be replicated and scaled.

See more about the class here.

Design for Justice: Language Access, 2019

When a person must go to court to deal with a divorce, eviction, or credit card debt, or myriad other actions, the justice system can be difficult to navigate without professional help. It’s even more challenging for those who are not proficient in English. In recognition of California’s linguistic diversity — with over 200 languages spoken — the courts have made ‘language access’ a priority for innovation.

This policy practicum worked closely with California state courts to research, design, and test new strategies for making courts accessible to all people, regardless of language or cultural background. The student teams worked directly with court staff, users, and other stakeholders to create new tech-based and human-centered services that can reduce barriers to the justice system. They did fieldwork in local court self-help centers to test out various applications, technology tools, and paper guides to see what kinds of tools could best support people with various language backgrounds and capabilities when they sought legal help.

Students gained experience in design research, prototyping new technologies on-site at court, and building strategies for innovation in the government. As courts decide which technologies and programs best support access, this design research project served as a lab to test, refine, and advise the California Judicial Council on effective means to improve access to the courts for diverse linguistic populations.

See more about the Design for Justice: Language Access class at the webpage here, including a final report.

Design for Justice: Traffic Tickets, Fines, and Fees, 2017

In Spring 2017, the Legal Design Lab ran a class at Stanford School to create new pilot projects that will make the legal system more empowering, fair, and accessible. Then over the course of Summer and Autumn 2017, the Lab worked on bringing the prototypes to higher resolution and running community testing of them.

Class partners included the National Legal Aid and Defenders Association and the East Bay Community Law Center.

Court fines and fees can have devastating effects on people — with small infractions or obligations spiraling into escalating debt, imprisonment, lost jobs, lost housing, and cycles of poverty.

Especially after the Department of Justice’s report on the local court’s practices in Ferguson, Missouri, which exposed their use of fines and fees to raise revenue at the expense of poor, minority community members, there has been growing pressure to change the system.

Students worked on 3 specific challenges, to create new prototypes to be piloted:

Empowering Individuals: How can we help defendants who don’t have a lawyer better know and use their rights?

Improving the Fairness of Courts: What kind of tool can we build for courts so they can more accurately, fairly determine if (and how much) people can pay when it comes to traffic fines?

Building a Holistic Service Network: How can we connect civil legal aid groups with criminal justice groups (and more) to create a network of support for individuals who are facing problems in multiple systems at the same time?

Read more about the course at its page here.

Prototyping Access to Justice: 2016-2017

In the 2016-17 school year, our Legal Design Lab team taught versions of the class Prototyping Access to Justice, where our partners were teams at local California courts and the Judicial Council of California.

Student teams in the courses investigated what the experiences of courts are for people without lawyers. The classes are cross-listed in the Law School and the

Teams proposed new concepts that could make the courts — and especially their Self Help Centers — more usable, user-friendly, and empowering.

You can see work product from the classes at this course webpage.