Legaler Aid: when social justice meets technology

Today we interview Mr. Simon J. Boehme, tech entrepreneur and mediator and President of Legaler Aid, who shares with us his vision on legaltech solutions to enhance social justice and interesting insights on Legaler Aid project.

Before discussing with Simon what the Legaler Aid project is and what it is about, let’s get to know him a little better.

Hi Simon, can you tell us a bit more about yourself?

I work at the intersection of dispute resolution and legal innovation. As a tech entrepreneur and mediator, I have founded and advised multiple legal tech companies, along with writing and teaching online dispute resolution for the past 10 years.

I am currently Vice President of Partnerships for Legaler and President of Legaler Aid. I have also recently served on the State Bar of California’s Access Through Innovation of Legal Services (ATILS) Task Force.

How and why did you first approach the field of Legaltech? 

I have been interested in online dispute resolution and legal tech for the past ten years. Starting in high school first discovering the intersection of conflict and technology, it eventually involved into my research and building companies solving common problems in the space. It’s an honour to continue this working on Legaler Aid with a dedicated team. 

As President of Legaler Aid what are the main tasks and responsibilities that you have?

 We are spending the majority of our time listening and engaging to stakeholders. This includes activists, legal aid lawyers, technologists, and non-profit leaders. We’re looking to build tech tools that add value . A lot of my time is figuring out what’s needed and how we can solve for that. I’m fortunate to work alongside an incredible team looking to navigate a landscape in deep need of tools that support consumers. 

In your personal opinion, what are the limits of legaltech solutions to date? In other words, what can be done through a Legaltech solution and what not? 

Technology cannot fix every problem. For example, being kind to people can solve immeasurable problems. Yet, legal tech can solve a fair amount of issues given the structural barriers setup to prevent users from accessing justice. A platform that meets people where they are at, not where the court is at, is one of the most important steps. 

Now that you have told a little bit about yourself tell us about Legaler Aid.

Legaler Aid is using technology to empower people everywhere to fund the legal cases that matter to them and make sure they get to court, at a time in which political, social and economic tension has reached a fever pitch.

How does it work? 

The legal crowdfunding platform enables litigants in social justice cases to submit their campaign for submission, enabling them to raise the funds needed to navigate the overpriced judicial system. Meanwhile, passionate donors are empowered to give directly to the cases they want to fund, creating concrete social change where it counts – in the courts. While the case is ongoing, donors get the transparent and granular case updates that they want and deserve from non-profits in 2020.

Why now? 

Close to five billion people around the world live outside of access to justice. Even in developed countries like the United States and United Kingdom, 80 percent of people are unable to get legal help. This justice gap is growing wider, not more narrow, as a result of ever-growing income equality, racial tension and political anxiety. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic poses the greatest threat yet, with the incoming termination of millions of jobs, abandonment of leases and bankruptcy of small and medium enterprises. We are heading into the greatest justice crisis of our times. This crisis will inevitably push the most important legal cases, run by society’s most vulnerable, out of the queue.

Why crowdfunding? 

A system-level problem needs a system-level solution. While legal aid is a powerful tool for ensuring everyone gets their day in court, funding provided is often too little, the scope of litigants too narrow, and the legal advice offered inadequate to make social change. What’s more, donors have no visibility on the cases they funded. Legaler Aid gives the most important cases a platform to raise funds from a public that is ready and willing to give directly to the cases they care about. Legaler Aid is a public benevolent charity in Australia and the United States, so all donations are tax-deductible.

Lastly, do you have any ideas you would like to share with us about Legaltech?

Legal tech has to focus on the user. Building a process replicating an outdated, old model of justice won’t work. We need to leverage the efficiencies and power of technology to work for the people. 

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