Startup Stories: Justice Technology Association
New associations launch to fill a void in their sector. Here, the Justice Technology Association shares what got them started, their current work, and what they plan to do next.
Starting point. The Justice Technology Association sees there’s a lot of injustice when it comes to the legal system. For example, those who can’t afford an attorney often suffer. “The fact is 80 percent of folks that need help can’t get money for a lawyer,” said Maya Markovich, executive director of JTA. “In 75 percent of matters, at least one party is self-represented. They are dealing life-altering civil matters like evictions, debt collection, domestic violence, immigration, employment, and there is no right to counsel, so they are trying to represent themselves.”
That’s where justice technology comes in. JTA defines justice tech as “innovative technology that is designed to improve or open access to the exercise of one’s legal rights or improve outcomes for those that are seeking legal help.”
The justice technology companies that have joined the organization help people with uncontested divorces, small claims proceedings, and expunging criminal records.
“All of these [technologies] are circumventing very expensive and often inaccessible legal support to help people who need to be able to do it on their own,” Markovich said.
Early work. Right now, the organization is trying to establish its membership and get a better understanding of the industry.
“We’re aiming to be a resource on the justice tech landscape, to help identify where problems are, and contribute significantly to raising awareness and supporting the companies in this space,” Markovich said. She noted that the organization is also reaching out to nonprofits to join, as many share the same values as JTA when it comes to helping people access justice in the legal system.
JTA’s early focus will be on best practices for the sector. “We are proposing a series of initiatives diving into the general lack of information and metrics about what works in the space,” Markovich said. “We’re exploring ways to tackle this issue with other organizations—mission-focused organizations. Also, we want to pull out best practices, trends, and the significance of those trends.”
Next steps. Although JTA is a national organization, most laws vary state by state, meaning justice tech companies must get approved and meet regulations in each state. In some states, Markovich notes, traditional legal groups oppose justice tech, and in the future, she would like JTA to offer advocacy support for members in those states. “[Some companies] are doing this state-by-state battle to ensure that they can legally operate and provide their services,” Markovich said. “So, we are also hoping to start supporting those [companies] on the advocacy side.”
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