On Oct. 7, a team of legal tech and innovation students from Georgia State University College of Law became semi-finalists in the National Legal Innovations Tournament hosted by Hofstra University’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law.
The tournament fostered collaboration between law, computer science, and business students by offering them a unique challenge. They were asked to develop an app that would increase access to alternative dispute resolution processes, like contacting a neutral – someone outside of the situation to aid in resolving the controversy between parties. The app needed to make operations more efficient and effective.
The team worked alongside a practicing attorney and spent more than six hours to develop a pitch for an app capable of solving these issues.
Patrick Parsons, associate director for Legal Technology & Innovation, and executive director for the Legal Analytics & Innovation Initiative (LAII), encouraged his students to take part in the tournament. Parsons “really wanted them to learn that there’s [an] opportunity for students and lawyers like them – people who can think about a problem and come up with a creative solution.”
Having seen first-hand that “there are a lot of problems to be solved,” Chantal Wynter-Jackson (J.D ’25), was further motivated to participate by the “need [for] students asking questions and thinking outside the box.”
After discovering each classmate’s interests, Keimani Harvey (J.D. ’24), Wynter-Jackson, and Thomas Gerard (J.D. ’24), decided to connect. Harvey soon realized the team had the opportunity and ability to “do something special.”
Up for the challenge, Wynter-Jackson, Harvey, and Gerard, officially registered for the competition.
“All three of these students have such a wealth of life and professional experience that problem solving, and real-world application comes naturally to them,” said Parsons, excited by their decision to participate.
On the day of the National Legal Innovations Tournament, the College of Law’s team decided to make the focus of their app bridging the gap between mediators and clients.
“Our overall inspiration was educating low-income individuals about mediation and creating a way for them to access diverse neutrals. This inspiration led us to identify two key parts in our app development: (1) knowledge and (2) access to justice. For the knowledge component, we recognized that there is a general lack of understanding surrounding mediation. The access to justice component, however, was threefold,” said Harvey.
Furthering access to justice would involve incorporating features in the app to increase opportunities for diverse neutrals, improve access to mediators for underserved populations, and provide a mechanism that would allow low-income populations to connect with affordable mediators.
“We wanted to create an app that connected individuals with mediators using the same type of filters [utilized by Airbnb],” said Gerard.
With this model in mind, the team decided their app would use artificial intelligence (AI) driven questionnaires for both mediators and clients, hoping to pair neutrals with the appropriate parties.
The idea of the app also takes into consideration the financial concerns of clients. The team’s app would eliminate any mediator whose fees exceeded $200 per/hour. Users would even be able to filter the results of their recommended mediators by adjusting categories such as price, language, diversity, rating, and years of experience.
Taking into consideration shared language, cultural background, and/or financial reassurances, Wynter-Jackson, Harvey, and Gerard, developed their app to encourage transparency between potential clients and mediators. Transparency that could give lower-income and underrepresented individuals access to alternative dispute resolution.
“This competition allowed me to merge my interest in law and my love for technology to identify a problem and dream of a possible solution,” said Wynter-Jackson, reflecting on the experience. She believes “innovation starts with a dream.”
Of the same mind, teammate Gerard feels that “When lawyers and computer scientists come together to create a solution with the desire to drive change in a positive way [..] exciting possibilities arise,” and “programs like the one we have at the College of Law is an amazing way to make attorneys aware of technology’s advances in the law.”
As stated by the title of their finalist presentation, this team sought, and continues to seek, “Mediation and Justice for All.”
For others interested in becoming involved in legal innovations tournaments, Parsons encourages Georgia State University College of Law students to sign-up for the Legal Analytics and Innovation Certificate and take the introductory course called, Introduction to Legal Technology & Innovation in the fall of 2023.
-Alaina Vacante (J.D. ’24)