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#makelawbetter: honoring those making a difference in #legaltech

This is a guest post by Tom Martin (@lawdroid) of Law Droid.

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“How are you contributing to the war effort?” Professor Richard Susskind, like a war-time Uncle Sam, asked recently of fellow legal technologists during this time of crisis with COVID-19.

This is my contribution.

The War Effort

It all started when Gabe Teninbaum (@GTeninbaum) reached out on Twitter about help with chatbots back on March 22, 2020.

Gabe defined the challenge like this: "This is a pro bono thing for Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. I'm friendly with a judge there who oversees re-entry and probation. They have roughly 400 high risk folks on probation who can't easily be seen by probation officers [due to COVID-19]. They want to be able to check in on them - see if they're doing ok, see if they need services, etc."

Gabe introduced me to Judge Scott Schlegel (@Judgeschlegel), Melissa Carter and his team on an introductory Zoom call the next day and we were off to the races.

Rather than use a web-based chatbot, the proof of concept reflected automation that was solely sms / text-based to ensure universal coverage, accessibility and hopefully, compliance.

In collaboration with Judge Schlegel and his team, we defined the scope of the project:

  • a weekly check;
  • a list of 580 probationers and their phone numbers, broken into five groups, reflecting the five specialty treatment courts to which they were assigned;
  • scripts for the inquiry question and different responses that varied by group;
  • notifications to probation officers; and
  • a way to track all the activity in one place so we could see the results of the campaigns.

By April 13th, the campaign launched and went out to all 580 probationers without a hitch. The spreadsheet updated accurately. 'OK' and 'Not OK' responses got routed correctly. Feedback from the court was good and that the office was able to follow up with probationers who reported that they were not okay. Mission Accomplished.

So a total of:

1 tweet

5 Zoom meetings

100+ emails

3 weeks

...led to rapid innovation, resulting in a new, digital way for probation officers to check in with their probationers and make sure they're doing okay.

Honoring Those Making a Difference

This is not just my story . . .   

Innovators across the country and the world have made their contributions and still are doing so.

To recognize their contributions, I, along with Patrick Palace (@PalaceLaw) and Cat Moon (@inspiredcat) founded the American Legal Technology Awards.

Judges who have agreed to participate include: Carolyn Elefant, Kevin O'Keefe, Shannon Salter, Dennis Kennedy, Miguel Willis, Jean Clauson, Lori Gonzalez, Phil Brown, Gabriela Cubiero and Nick Rishwain. All are exceptional leaders in the legal industry and we are proud to have them on board.

Honors will be awarded in several categories:

  • Access to Justice
  • Startup 
  • Enterprise 
  • Technology 
  • Law Firm 
  • Individual 
  • Court 
  • Law Department.

This inaugural American Legal Technology Awards will be an online event to take place in August 2020.

Tell your story! To submit a nomination, visit the American Legal Technology Awards website and fill out the nomination form. Self-nominations are welcome. Nominations close on June 30, 2020.