IIT Chicago-Kent's Center for Access to Justice & Technology and the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction release A2J Author® 3.0

Free upgrade of award-winning legal software may be downloaded for noncommercial use at www.a2jauthor.org

Monday, January 25, 2010

New audio, video and graphic enhancements to A2J Author® software will make it easier for court personnel and legal aid lawyers to help the public gain access to the legal system. The Center for Access to Justice & Technology (CAJT) at Chicago-Kent College of Law, in partnership with the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), today has released Access to Justice AuthorTM 3.0, an upgrade of the popular legal software used by those who assist low-income individuals who are not represented by attorneys in certain legal matters. A2J Author® 3.0, which is available at no cost to anyone using it for noncommercial purposes, may be downloaded from the A2J Author® community Web site at www.a2jauthor.org.

A2J Author logoA2J Author® is a software tool that helps nontechnical users from the courts, clerk's offices and legal services programs develop low-cost, user-friendly instructions and forms for use on the Internet without requiring the services of a professional software developer. The A2J Guided Interviews® created with A2J Author® enable many self-represented litigants to easily complete court documents that are ready to be filed with the court.

Currently, A2J Author® is used in 36 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, England, Australia, Canada and Singapore. More than 1,200 A2J Guided Interviews® are posted on the national server, Law Help Interactive. A2J Guided Interviews® are increasingly popular as a means to conduct online Web intake for legal aid, and A2J Guided InterviewTM users are now able to designate a graphic more in tune with the purpose of their A2J Guided InterviewTM. Step-by-step instructions and graphics virtually lead users along the path to the correct legal aid office.

"A2J Author® 3.0 features several exciting enhancements, many of which were suggested by users of our earlier versions," said Chicago-Kent Professor Ronald W. Staudt, CAJT director and IIT associate vice president for law, business and technology. "The upgrades in 3.0 improve both the end-user experience and the A2J Guided Interviews® authoring process. The biggest enhancement is the ability for A2J Guided InterviewTM users to add video or graphics components to questions. This is an especially useful tool to further explain or model complex issues for A2J Author® users."

Enhancements to A2J Author® 3.0 offer users a variety of program possibilities, including:

  • the ability to add graphics and video components to guided interview questions with the option of creating full-screen visual display for viewer satisfaction and ease;
  • graphic and view options that allow users to give their clients visual explanations of the more complicated court forms, procedures, processes, etc.;
  • an exit feature which enables users to customize the interview exit process and instructions with the option of leaving guided interviews before they are completed and saving the answers on the national server;
  • the ability to create new interviews more efficiently by adapting previously designed questions or question sets and their underlying data components from existing A2J Guided Interviews®; and
  • visual consistency as users navigate between their site, A2J Guided Interviews® and the interview host site, with the capability to create and add a "branding logo" to the A2J Guided Interviews® interface.

The Center for Access to Justice & Technology at Chicago-Kent developed A2J Author® in 2005, in partnership with the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction, a nonprofit consortium of law schools whose mission includes promoting "access to justice through the use of computer technology."

Feature improvements for the A2J Author® 3.0 were made possible by the Legal Services Corporation's Technology Initiative Grants Program (TIG) funding through the Idaho Legal Aid Services organization. One of the biggest producers of A2J Guided Interviews® for certain landlord-tenant disputes, divorces and adult name changes, the Idaho group contracted with the CAJT to fund the A2J software improvements with their TIG award.

Chicago-Kent College of Law is the law school of Illinois Institute of Technology, a private, Ph.D.-granting institution with programs in engineering, psychology, architecture, business, design and law. The Center for Access to Justice & Technology was established at Chicago-Kent to make justice more accessible to the public by promoting the use of the Internet in the teaching, practice, and public access to the law. The Center conducts research, builds software tools, teaches classes and supports faculty, staff and student projects on access to justice and technology. In 2008, the CAJT received the Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access from the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services.

A2J Author® 3.0 is available at no charge for noncommercial purposes at www.a2jauthor.org. Those seeking to use A2J Author® for commercial purposes, such as court vendors who may wish to incorporate the software into proprietary e-filing or case management system offerings, may purchase a commercial license from CAJT and CALI. For information on acquiring a copy of the A2J Author® software or general information on the A2J Author® Program, please visit www.a2jauthor.org.