Code For America Summit: legal design & civic tech

Last week a team of us from the Legal Design Lab went to the wonderful Code for America Summit in Oakland, California. We were there to explore the links between legal design & civic tech and improved government services. It was wonderful to meet so many creative & policy-oriented people who are taking active, agile approaches to making government data and services more accessible.

Margaret gave a talk on connecting legal services & helping people with legal problems, with the the broader mission of making the government more accessible.

Here are some big takeaways:

  1. Legal services aren’t currently well-represented in the otherwise very active world of civic technology, design & development. We from law need to be integrating ourselves into this world of young, interested, idealistic makers — and get more momentum around new solutions for courts and legal aid groups.
  2. There is growing interest in using these techniques for improved criminal justice experiences. Can we collect and use data better around arrests, convictions, plea agreements, imprisonment, and re-entry? This is on the agenda in a big way. I’d like to see this data interest brought over to new service designs as well.
  3. One idea that was floated was making more pop-up criminal courts or expungement/warrant-issues kiosks. Could we make an easy, one-stop, non-court/non-police station location that would let a person get through some basic tasks like (a) seeing if they have outstanding warrants out against them, (b) paying off traffic tickets, or (c) getting their records expunged?
  4. Another cross-over is around Disclosure Design. There was a strong contingent from the design-dev team at the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. They are thinking and working on building more legible financial disclosures. This crosses over into how we present complex legal contracts and notices. Lots to be shared with these designers working on good disclosure design!

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