On this page, we present practical advice and resources about how to create, implement and scale access to justice innovations.
Our DESIGN RECOMMENDATIONS include checklists of design principles, description of best practices, mockups of good designs, templates & patterns for you to use, and possible new tools to learn.
Our PROCESS section profiles how we use a combination of user-centered design and agile technology development to generate new concepts, test them, research them, and get them live.
The section on TECH RESOURCES offers an open source tech inventory, of free tools you can use in your access to justice work.
Linked to that is our collection of OPEN SOURCE CODE TO BUILD FROM, so you can use work that already exists to get started building, or to improve your project.
Core Principles for Good Legal Design
User Behaviors, User Requirements, User Mental Models
- TL;DR: People do not want to read long pieces of text. Not lay people, not legal professionals. Solutions must break up text into usable and manageable sized chunks. And supplement text with visual media, interactive features, and other ways that adjust from the Big-Blocks-of-Text default style
- Give me stories, give me anecdotes. Even if I don’t trust Yahoo Answers, I want to read through it and see what real people have experienced in similar challenge areas as I am in.
- Boil down to a clear process-based version. Show me steps, show me beginnings & ends, show me the possible pathways between.
- We want transparency! Make it clear what steps will be happening, what I can do, what you will be doing
- I don’t want to talk to lawyers, I’d rather hack answers and strategies together myself rather than enter into an engagement with a lawyer. I don’t know how much it’s going to cost, I don’t know whether I can trust you versus everyone else, I don’t know how this is going to spin out in the future.
- I want to be normal, tell me what other people would do, this is what is average, this is what most people would choose
- People do not want to read
- People want visuals
- People do not want to talk to lawyers
- They want legal advice
- They do not want crowded lists of information, they want clean & limited options
- They want peer-to-peer sense, less hierarchical divide between lawyer and client
- They want some limited control over what is happening, but also hand-off points
- They want transparency about the process and the cost
Process to use
How to get to good access to justice innovation
Spread Innovative Practices & Culture: From for-profit law firms to non-profit courts and legal aid groups, our mission is to develop methods for user-centered innovation in the legal sector. This means bringing design & technology skills to these organizations, and creating new types of cultures and organizations that are more creative, experimental & user-centered.
Put the Lay Person First: Even if current legal systems were not designed with the lay person as the primary user, our work is. We want to put user-friendly interfaces on top of obscure & intimidating systems. And we want to change these systems at their core, to make them serve the lay person primarily. We want not only to demystify the legal world for the non-lawyer, but we want to fundamentally empower lay people to get in charge of their lives.
Open Learning: We want to build a publicly available knowledge base about how to bring about innovation in the legal sector. This means being open about process, success, and failure — sharing best practices — and creating products that are open-source and usable by others.
Agile, Intentional Prototyping: Our design work aims for implementation & real-world impact, but the best path to get there is through rough, early prototyping of ideas that can be tested, edited and scaled. Quick, short pilots testing out specific propositions will get better feedback, more learning, and a better ultimate outcome than long, cautious development cycles.
Resources to build good, accessible, affordable access
Open Source Tech Tools
Some tech tools that are being built out, that can be useful in legal work, that are either completely free or low-cost to use.
Intake Tools: gathering info from your clients
Get Feedback – an online tool to create image-rich, staged surveys
Typeform – a basic-version-free online tool to create well-designed, user-friendly questionnaires
QnA Markup – by David Collarusso, is a simple markup language for people with little or no programing experience. It transforms blocks of nested text into interactive Questions and Answers. These QnAs can be used as stand-alone expert systems or in the aid of rule-based document construction. With the code base here (https://github.com/colarusso/QnAMarkup)
Research tools: Know The Law
Free Law Project / Courtlistener – by Brian Carver & Mike Lissner, with free access to primary legal materials, & developing legal research tools and supporting academic research. With the Github codebase https://github.com/freelawproject
Office Management: get your work under control
KeePass – a free open source password manager, which helps you to manage your passwords in a secure way. You can put all your passwords in one database, which is locked with one master key or a key file.
Trello is a project management tool for to-do lists and team coordination, that lets you lay out and assign tasks in a very visual and clear way. It is free to use (at least in basic ways).
OpenOffice.org is a full-featured office productivity suite that provides a near drop-in replacement for Microsoft(R) Office. Users report that little or no training is required for people migrating from other office suites – everything works the way people expect. Licence: GPL/LGPL or Sun Industry Standards Source License
GnoTime is the GNOME Time Tracker, a program which allows you to track the time you spend on any number of tasks and projects. GnoTime also allows you to generate customised reports and annotated logs of these times. Licence: GPL
Case Reporter is a PHP-based information management system for law firms. The primary focus of this project is to provide a comprehensive yet functional information management information system with an emphasis on the client-case model. Licence: GPL
The legal case management system is aimed for use by not-for-profit legal advice centres in order to make better follow-ups of their cases, including client consultations and court events, reporting, etc. Licence: GPL
eLawOffice is a full crossplatform and language-extensible java suite, for workflow and data management of Law Firms (plus data sharing with customers). It works in a intranet/extranet environment, with a client-server and servlet+jsp application. Licence: GPL
VirtuaLaw is a flexible open-source legal case management system for KDE, currently under development. Licence: GPL
Etude exists to help lawyers (or other self employed persons) to manage their clients, timesheet, cash flow, etc. It provides a time-sheet system, and offers the ability to make facturation and register payments. The program is in French and uses PHP. Licence: GPL
SQL Ledger is a professional quality Web-based double-entry bookkeeping system. Features include automatic invoicing (including PDF format bills to send by email), and completely customisable templates and reports. Licence: GPL
JInterView is a client (swing) as well as a servlet (web based) application for document assembly. Licence: GPL
ConflictFinder is an open source tool, under development, for helping legal professionals to avoid conflicts of interest. Licence: Artistic
Chancery will become a software suite for tax counselors and attorneys. The software will be mainly adapted for European tax laws. Licence: GPL
Evolution is the integrated mail, calendar and address book distributed suite from Ximian, Inc. Licence: GPL
Enterprise Timesheet is a PHP-based timesheet recording system for small to medium size enterprises.
Mozart is a contact, calendar and case/project management system. Each user can have his/her own address book, calendar and any number of cases/projects. You can also track multiple cases/projects for each contact. Additionally, by viewing a case/project, you can see every contact associated with that case.
OpenEFM is an open source Filing Manager designed to process LegalXML filings.
Licence: MPL 1.1
Law Office is a “Concordance” killer. Concordance is client software designed for legal staff. With it, you can upload transcripts from court hearings and depositions, perform full-text searches, enter notes on transcripts for a certain line of text, etc. PHP-based.
DocSearcher is a search tool for indexing and searching files on a personal computer. It uses API’s to provide search functionality for common document formats (currently Word, Excel, PDF, Open / Star Office, rtf, text, and HTML).
DocManage is a unique CGI-based system which enables you to extract information from legal pleadings. You can present the pleadings and generate reports and searches from them in a myriad of useful ways.
Most federal and many state courts post their court opinions on their respective web sites. The purpose of this project is to build a system which will automatically download and catalog this information into one central system.
Cyberdiritto is the first Web Legal Portal based on the famous Open Source Php-Nuke web portal system. On Cyberdiritto we can find: articles, surveys, news on the legal world.
PostgreSQL is an object-relational database, which supports a large part of SQL-92. It is under continuous development and each release implements more of the SQL standard, to the extent that it is now probably more compliant than many commercial databases. It also supports some object-oriented features.
OpenEvidence produces technology for evidence creation and evidence validation in a context of electronic or dematerialised documents and activities, based on current and emerging technologies for digital signatures, key management, time stamping, archiving and notary systems and standardised document formats.
A 1997 list of free software tools for lawyers
From the journalist Robert Ambrogi
Column No. 33, November 1997
Finding Free Software On The Internet
By Robert J. Ambrogi
Need a new time-and-billing system or document-assembly program? Before heading to your local computer store, visit some of the legal-software vendors who have set up shop on the Internet.
You may be surprised to find just the software you need, available to be downloaded to your computer at no cost. At a minimum, you are likely to find a free trial version, allowing you to try before you buy.
legal.online went looking for free legal software on the Internet. We limited our search to programs specific to the legal market, skipping over the many general-interest programs that could be useful in a law office.
The freebies we found fell into four categories:
“Freeware,” software available without cost.
“Shareware,” fully functioning software you can download free, with the expectation that if you like it, you will pay for it.
“Trialware,” in which a program’s operation is limited unless it is purchased. Examples are programs that stop operating after 30 days or that print “Demo” on documents they create.
Demonstration software, offering only a slide show or other presentation of how the actual program would work.
AltaPoint, http://www.altapoint.com, law office management software for Windows 95, offers a trial version that is limited to 10 clients and 10 matters.
Amicus Attorney Pro, http://www.amicus.ca, includes a calendar, tickler, case manager, time entry, contact manager, telephone manager and more. Download a trial version for either Windows or Macintosh.
Appeals Unlimited Software, http://www.appealsunlimited.com/ausoft.htm, offers a trial version of “QuickBill,” a general purpose legal billing program.
CaseLode, http://www.basicsystems.com/legal, is law office management software that includes time and billing, accounting, and more. A DOS trial version is available.
ESI-Law, http://www.esilaw.com, is legal accounting and time management software. Download a demo for either Windows 95 or DOS.
Gryphon, http://www.poseidon.com, legal case and practice management software for Windows, provides a working trial version.
Integra, http://www.pris.bc.ca/pope/Intwel.htm, is law office management software for Windows 95 and Macintosh. Download a demonstration of the Macintosh version.
Integra Computing, http://members.aol.com/integracmp/index.htm, offers “shareware” trials of several Windows products: “Chronilist,” a scheduler; “Client Tracks,” a client management system; “Billpower,” a time and billing and bookkeeping system; “Integra Office,” an all-in-one scheduling, time keeping, billing, and bookkeeping program; and “Signout,” a network-based office sign-out board.
LawPartner Sr., http://www.microfirm.com, is case management, time and billing, and calendar software for Windows. Download a fully functioning, 30-day evaluation version.
Oneware Law Office, http://www.oneware.com, is software for time and billing and case management. Its Web site promises a trial download, but the link leads to an “under construction” notice.
ProLaw, http://www.prolaw.com, is case management, billing and accounting software. Download either a demonstration or a fully functioning evaluation copy, but to run the evaluation copy, you must first telephone a sales representative for a password.
Puritas Springs Software, http://www.puritas-springs.com, publishes various programs for law office management and bookkeeping, as well as several specific to Ohio. Trial versions of most are available.
Software Technology Inc., http://www.stilegal.com, is home of “Case Master III” case management software and “TABS III” time-and-billing software. Download trial versions of both, for either Windows or DOS.
Tek-Law, http://idt.net/~taltek19. Download an evaluation copy of this case management and time and billing program for Windows.
Time Matters for Windows, http://www.timematters.com, is an office calendar, tickler, and contact, case and document manager for PCs and networks. Download a demonstration program.
CaseMate, http://www.casemate.com, caseload management software, is available for downloading in a 30-day trial copy.
Law Manager 96, http://www.lmi.com, offers an evaluation copy of its case management system for Windows.
Personal Injury Case Assistant, http://www.lancesoftware.com, case-management software for personal-injury lawyers, provides a fully functional, 30-day evaluation version for Windows 3.1, Windows 95, or OS/2. Also available is the Windows 95 utility, Did You Find Me?, which promises to help reunite you with your laptop if it is lost or stolen by displaying your personal information whenever it is started.
Pins & Needles, http://www.needpins.com, is a 16-bit case management program that will run on either Windows 3.x or Windows 95. A trial version can be downloaded.
Trial De Novo, http://www.denovosys.com, is software for litigation case management. Demonstration versions can be downloaded for either Windows or Macintosh.
TrialMaker, http://www.tiac.net/users/trial, is trial preparation software. Evaluation versions can be downloaded for either Windows 95 or Macintosh.
TrialWorks, http://www.trialworks.com, is case management software. Download the trial version, which requires both Windows 95 and Microsoft Office.
Time and Billing
Bill Your Time Easily, http://www.silverstate.com, is time and billing software. Download a 30-day evaluation copy.
CompuTrac Dimension, http://www.ctinc.com/Dimension/index.html. Download a non-functioning, Lotus Screen-Cam demonstration of this time-keeping software for small to mid-sized firms.
RTG Bills, http://www.rtgsoftware.com, is a Windows-based time-and-billing software for solos and small firms. A demo version is available for download
TimeSlice, http://www.mauisoftware.com, is an inexpensive time tracker for Windows and Macintosh. Download a fully functioning test version, then pay for it if you like it. Cost ranges from $25 to $49 depending on the version.
Timeslips, http://www.timeslips.com, offers a trial version of Timeslips Deluxe version 8.0 and a working model of TimeSheet Professional version 5.0, as well as various upgrades and patches to other Timeslips products.
Exact Court Forms, http://www.legalsoftware.com, sells software that helps in preparing court forms for Cook County, Ill. Download either a demonstration program or a working, 30-day trial version.
FastDraft, http://www.fastdraft.com, is document assembly software. You cannot download it, but the Web site tells how to get a DOS demonstration version on disk.
HotDocs, http://www.capsoft.com, a popular document assembly program, offers a 30-day evaluation copy.
Nolo Press, http://www.nolo.com/downloads/downloads.html, sells self-help books and software, but even lawyers may be interested in trying out some of its programs for creating trusts, wills and patent applications. Download working versions of the software to try without obligation.
ProCura, http://www.gdatasys.com, document management software for lawyers, is offered in a fully functional, 30-day evaluation version for Windows.
ProText, http://www.protext.com, is transcript reduction and indexing software for Windows and DOS. Download a fully functioning trial version. If you like it, pay for it.
T/A-Law, http://www.talaw.com, transcript analysis and summary software for Windows, offers an evaluation version in which some features are disabled.
WinView, http://www.procat.com, is a “real-time transcription” browser, used to preview testimony as it is being given. Its developer, ProCAT, describes it as being useful for lawyers, paralegals, judges and “physically challenged” people. Download a 30-day evaluation version for Windows 3.1.
Easy Soft, http://www.easysoft-usa.com, offers trial versions of two Windows-based products, “Easy-HUD RESPA” and “Collection Manager.” The RESPA demo is fully functioning, but prints “Demo” on the HUD form.
Reesa, http://www.reesa.com, a real-estate closing system for Windows, is designed around an on-screen HUD-1 statement. Download a 30-day evaluation version which is fully functioning except that it prohibits you from creating more than two closing files at a time.
Revest Power Lease, http://www.revestusa.com, is software to assist in negotiating commercial real estate leases. Download a simulation that shows you how the program would work in a multi-million dollar lease negotiation.
Bankruptcy, Esq., http://www.mmacorp.com, a bankruptcy case manager and forms generator for Windows, offers a fully functioning trial copy.
Bankruptcy Plus, http://www.cornerstone-computer.com, for Windows 3.1 and 95, creates forms, petitions and other documents. According to the Web site, the trial copy is fully functioning; there is no indication whether it times out.
Best Case Bankruptcy, http://www.bestcase.com, has several products to help attorneys prepare forms for debtors’ filings under Chapters 7, 11, 12 and 13. Download evaluation versions for either Windows or DOS. The evaluation version places the words “Evaluation Version” over the forms you print.
Cowles Legal Systems, http://www.cowleslegal.com, offers trial versions of a variety of products related to trusts and estates.
Zane & Associates, http://www.zanenet.com, develops fiduciary accounting software for trusts and estates professionals. Demonstrations of various products are available.
ConflictSearch, http://www.tremco.com, is conflict-checking software for Windows. You can download a trial version, but to run it, you will need one of these database programs: Oracle Workgroup Server 7.x, Oracle Enterprise Server 7.x, Microsoft SQL Server 6.x, or Microsoft Access.
Corporate Focus, http://www.twostep.com, assists corporate lawyers by tracking corporate and stockholder information, automatically printing stock certificates, generating consents of stockholders and directors, and tracking filings in a tickler. Download a trial version for Windows 95.
Immigrant Pro, http://www.immigrantsoftware.com, is a case manager and forms generator for immigration lawyers. The Web site offers a trial version, but at press time, the download function was not working. Instead, it offered a demo disk by mail.
Legal bookmarks, http://www.abacuslaw.com/download. Abacus Law does not offer downloads of its legal calendaring and case-management software, but it does give away a bookmark file of legal sites on the Internet that you can add to Netscape Navigator.
Lexis-Nexis, http://www.lexis-nexis.com:80/lncc/custserv/software.html, makes current versions of its research software available from its Web site. You must be a current Lexis-Nexis subscriber to download software.
MeltingPoint, http://www.meltingpoint.com, is software designed to assist lawyers in using the Internet to conduct legal research. From the Web site, you can download a 60-day evaluation copy.
Rule Tools, http://users.aol.com/bigsoftwr/index.html, contains the full text of the federal rules of procedure and evidence, including appellate and Supreme Court rules. The Web site allows you to download a 45-day evaluation version.
WebSeeker Legal Research Edition, http://www.ffg.com/seeker/lre.htm, is software designed to facilitate the use of Internet search engines in legal research. The Web site does not indicate whether the download it offers is an evaluation or full-working copy.
Dataflight Software, http://www.dataflight.com, publishes the Concordance litigation management software. It offers free Windows wallpaper featuring the company’s “winged data” logo.
Jury Profiler Solution, http://www.hy-teksolutions.com/jps/jps_ds.htm, is software to assist lawyers in selecting the most favorable jury. The evaluation version is limited to eight juror profiles.
PGP encryption software is available free to members of Counsel Connect, http://www.counsel.com. Go to the “Member Help Desk” and follow the instructions for downloading the latest version for either Windows or Macintosh.
Code Bases to start your new project from
Open Source Code Bases
Use these projects, that are free to borrow and build from (as long as you follow the license specifications)
Expunge.io’s online web form screener, to see if you are eligible to clean your record.