A recap: Develop a hackathon problem for the first A2J Hackathon.
There are a number of perennial challenges in seeking legal professional help for the general public. We invite you to consider step-by-step the multidimensional challenges from both perspectives of the “user” (client) and the “service provider” (lawyer), among other stakeholders. The progress in developing the legal consultation model since systems of laws have formalised worldwide centuries ago has been glacial. However, the advent of technologies enabling digital automation, including natural language processing and textual analytics and mining, promises revolutionary changes for the consultation model. You might consider focusing on one or more practice areas, or one or more legal processes (perhaps common to multiple practice areas).
Like other professions, the law has deep traditions and its own culture and language. Lawyers have to study and train in the law for many years, and obtain professional and specialist qualifications. Each area of law and practice is built around vast pools of knowledge, which could vary greatly between different jurisdictions. Most people are untrained in the law. People cannot seek professional help where they do not even realize there is a legal issue. Even if an individual realizes that there is a legal issue, he or she might not realize how serious the legal issue is and that it could be too complex for self-help remedies. Most people would in their lifetime seldom seek legal services –even basic ones– especially when compared with common medical services. It’s hard for people to improve over time in seeking legal help.
The law seems impenetrable to lay people. Lacking expert knowledge and without proper and timely referrals, people might not be able to find appropriate specialist help. Where cases are mishandled, legal rights and protections might be forfeited without any further recourse. Even where the right lawyer is found, significant time and costs could be wasted where individuals seeking consultation fail to disclose information relevant to the legal case. Alternatively, the individuals might have disclosed a lot of information irrelevant to the case, and the lawyer is left to sort this out.
The legal consultation model relies, at least partly, on the client to “input” by asking questions and disclosing information. In some legal scenarios, this could be very difficult. By analogy, there is no clearly discernible but ailing body part to point to for the practitioner to diagnose and treat. If the “input” conditions are sufficient, the properly trained and skilled consultant should “output” with responsive advice, clarifying questions (if needed), and/or relevant legal documentation.
From the “service provider” perspective, legal professionals, in the public, private, and non-profit sectors, are facing Big Data challenges like many members of other professions and industries. Case by case, the professionals are required to review and handle increasingly more complex information within tight timeframes. The demands for high quality, responsive, and cost-effective legal service are also growing. The laws and regulations in many areas of life are also getting more complex in our sophisticated society.
In many scenarios involving the provision of legal services, there should be ways to make more efficient the sharing of information between the lawyer and the client. Currently, professionals could spend hours taking instructions from each client, even though the key types of information required are essentially the same. Time could be wasted because the presentation of relevant information by the clients seem incoherent or insufficient. Improving the legal consultation model could lead to a win-win scenario for lawyers and clients.
Further Readings and Resources
The Legal Aid Department provides funding for legal representation to eligible applicants so that their rights for taking or defending a legal action is not deprived due to lack of means: http://www.lad.gov.hk/eng/las/overview.html
The Duty Lawyer Service in Hong Kong provides useful legal information and advice to general public including, Tel-Law Scheme for recorded legal information on various topics over the phone, Duty Lawyer Scheme for legal representation in criminal matters, Free-Legal Advice Scheme for general public to obtain legal advice: http://www.dutylawyer.org.hk/index.asp
Please see the top 10 enquiries which the government usually receive: http://www.1823.gov.hk/eng/faq/index.htm
As an illustration of the details to be taken by lawyers in their first consultation session with clients in a divorce case, please see the link: https://www.bankrifkinlaw.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/divorce-attorney-initial-consultation-what-to-expect.pdf (note: there may be overseas legal references that might be inapplicable)
As an illustration of the topics of discussion in the first consultation session of a personal injuries case, please see the link: https://pricebenowitz.com/dc-injury/initial-consultation (note: there may be overseas legal references that might be inapplicable)
Law Society of Hong Kong Free Legal Helpline and Free Legal Consultation Scheme: http://www.hklawsoc.org.hk/pub_e/popup/20130515/20150602.pdf; http://www.choosehklawyer.org/en/search_fl_practice_areas.asp
Law Society of Hong Kong Mediation Services: http://www.hklawsoc.org.hk/pub_e/mas/faq.asp
Other free legal assistance schemes: http://www.lasc.hk/eng/links/advice.html