Dallas Law Students Are Creating Legal Aid Apps
Law students in Dallas have created legal apps using artificial intelligence software to aid domestic violence victims, immigrants and pro se defendants in debt collection lawsuits.
The Texas Lawyer of Law.com reports that Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law students are developing the apps as part of a new course entitled “Technology, Innovation and Law: Designing Legal Apps.”
“There’s no other law schools in the state currently doing something like this,” W. Keith Robinson, a Southern Methodist law professor who helped develop the course, tells Law.com.
In the course, three teams of students work with various parent organizations to develop one app each. According to Law.com, students enrolled in the course don’t need to know how to code since the course utilizes Neota Logic – a software where users can a drag and drop interface to develop apps.
An App for Survivors of Gender-Based Crimes
The first team developed an app, titled “Texas Fresh Start Application,” to help women who are survivors of gender-based crimes.
“This goal is accomplished by providing a tool designed to simplify the process of determining whether Survivors are potentially eligible to receive an Expunction or Order of Nondisclosure (an “OND”) for previous convictions or incidents with the law,” the app description reads.
The app is aimed to help women survivors navigate legal issues and successfully integrate back into society.
An App for Consumer Debt
The second team created an app titled “Answer to a Petition for Consumer Debt Application.”
The app will help Texans who do not qualify for free legal services due income status.
“Because more and more Texans are trapped in this situation, many litigants are left arguing their cases on their own or “pro se,” without the help of a skilled advocate,” the description states. “Once the application process is completed, The Texas Appleseed app will generate an Answer to file with the court.”
An App for Immigrants to Know Their Rights
The third team’s app is titled the “Texas Know Your Rights F.I.R.E. App.”
According to the description, the app is to help immigrants targeted by law enforcement.
“This app provides relevant information about the Texas Failure to Identify statute, incorporates English and Spanish options for the user, and provides details on the user’s rights during law enforcement encounters in varying contexts,” the description reads.
Mary Sommers, a third-year law student at Southern Methodist, spoke to Law.com about her experience in the course. Sommers tells Law.com that she learned important legal automation tools and how to solve a problem from a user’s perspective.
“I think all those skills—learning to be flexible and shed your skin and get in the perspective of someone else—all those have super straight applications to what we will encounter in our first year of practice,” Sommers tells Law.com.” I also think the technology will have application. I see it as something that we will encounter. I’m glad I encountered it in this safe environment where I could play around.”
Jennifer Collins, dean of SMU’s Dedman School of Law, says in a statement that the course is beneficial to everyone involved.
“Students learn how to use technology in innovative ways to solve complex legal problems, legal aid groups can reduce cost and improve outcomes, and the law school can help underserved communities access the legal assistance they so desperately need,” Collins says.
Sources: Law.com, SMU Dedman School of Law, SMU Dedman School of Law