A2J Author® is an expert system and user interface co-developed by Chicago-Kent and the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), for helping self-represented litigants complete court forms or navigate a legal process. Students, lawyers, and technologists can create A2J Guided Interviews® that ask step-by-step questions written in plain language that help self-represented litigants enter information needed on the form. Those answers can then be assembled into a completed document that the user can print and file with the court.
The Access to Justice: Meeting the Needs of Self-Represented Litigants: A Consumer Based Approach project (Meeting the Needs Project) successfully identified the major barriers to access to justice for self-represented litigants, including barriers to web-based document preparation. A key insight was that users need to be guided through processes that are unfamiliar to them. The simple act of filling out forms poses unique challenges that the many self-represented litigants have trouble overcoming. Without a very simple front end, a user unfamiliar with web conventions would be unable to use online form systems. To be effective, guided interviews for self-represented litigants needed to be very simple.
A2J Author® moved the prototypes and discoveries of the Meeting the Needs Project into production. The Meeting the Needs Project translated several of the conceptual models for a redesigned court system into a web-based interface that leads users through a guided interview for determining eligibility and collects all the information needed to prepare the required court forms. Elegant, simple and powerfully effective, the A2J Author web-based interface is the front end needed to make court document assembly more widely accessible to self-represented litigants.
A2J Author is available for free to interested courts, law schools, and legal service organizations.
More detailed information is available at www.a2jauthor.org.