In the fall of 2015, at the urging of Justice Nathan Hecht, the Supreme Court of Texas assembled a 19-member Commission to Expand Civil Legal Services to the public. Earlier this month, the Commission released its report and recommended eight initiatives for opening access to the justice system for low- and middle-income Texans.
Increased funding for public law libraries and amendments to ethics rules that would allow lawyers more freedom in providing additional services via limited scope representation are just two of the initiatives recommended by the Commission. Promoting technologies that facilitate access to affordable legal counsel is another. Legal tech solutions have proven to be an effective remedy to the shortage of affordable legal representation. Supporting and endorsing legal tech startups, particularly those that address niche concerns for self-represented litigants, is an excellent way to help "modest means" individuals participate in the legal process.
Legal technology entrepreneurs have been pioneers in developing apps and other do-it-yourself tools to help close the justice gap. One such tool is Upsolve, a software program developed by a small group of legal tech pioneers to improve consumer access to Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. It is just one example of the many new legal tech startups that assist consumers with legal problems. This and other programs like it are increasingly becoming an effective option for bridging the justice gap and providing better access to the legal system. As more tech savvy individuals move into the legal arena, and as more lawyers learn how to code, the development of additional apps and other self-help legal tools will undoubtedly expand options for those who would otherwise not have access to the justice system.