Developing justice technology: Ongoing dialogue with the end user

Roger Smith published a new report in which he provides an initial review of the Rechtwijzer 2.0 application that we developed for the Dutch Legal Aid Board, and currently configuring for the Legal Services Society in British Columbia. It is encouraging to have such a distinguished access to justice researcher qualify it as “the cutting edge in delivery of legal services on the internet”.

He also raises some questions:

“Will people pay for it?” People have to pay a modest fee to get access to the problem-solving support, tools, dialogue-interface, model solutions and online delivery of professional neutral interventions. The fee is needed to ensure that the application can be constantly tested, updated and improved.

“How will the professionals in the supply chain respond to the repackaging and unbundling?” Innovation of dispute resolution services tends to trigger some resistance by some (and let us not forget that there is typically a substantial number of early adopters as well, also in the legal profession).

“How can courts and tribunals accommodate and connect to it?” An application like the Rechtwijzer 2.0 has the potential to create value throughout the supply chain.

I feel these questions are spot on. Experiences from users (professional and other) are crucial in answering them.

We need to find out in practice how we can optimise it, make it acceptable and how to make it work for others in the justice supply chain. It is only through the interaction with end users that innovations like the Rechtwijzer can accelerate.

That is why it is so important that we have started our dialogue with the users. Some weeks ago, the Dutch Legal Aid Board accepted the first cases to the Rechtwijzer 2.0 application for divorce and separation in The Netherlands. This allows us to learn from real experiences and user feedback. So we can learn how we can make the Rechtwijzer work in a way that answers the questions of Roger Smith positively. It speaks for itself that we carefully monitor and support these initial users.

From a justice technology architecture perspective, these experiences are also crucially important for testing the front-end and workflow innovations we designed at HiiL. For example:

  • Problem-solving intake that does not focus on right and positions but on interests and initial ideas
  • Dialogue interface that empowers users
  • Joint agreement drafter that facilitates real cooperation through a Google Docs’ type of feature
  • Model solutions as building block agreement text for people to start from, adapt and customise
  • Wide availability of added value services and self-help tools
  • Availability of repackaged, unbundled neutral dispute resolution services

Initial user feedback, research and our experience suggest that these types of justice technology innovations help the field of online dispute resolution move beyond fast, fair and efficient. Let us listen to our users to learn how to really make justice technology work for them.