The ABA Journal hosted Hackcess to Justice in Boston, MA on Thursday and Friday, a hackathon to encourage the legal and tech communities to develop innovative tools to help break down barriers for low income individuals in need of access to lawyers and legal services for civil legal issues.

According to the official mission statement for the event, participants in the hackathon should refer to one of the five points raised in the Legal Services Corporation of America’s 2013 report on the use of technology to expand access to justice. Submissions had to be in the form of a technology-enabled solution that addresses one of the points in the LSC report, while keeping in mind the more general goal of ensuring broader access to justice.

After two full days of work time, presentations were made on Friday night, followed by judging. There were six teams, five of which were eligible for the three prizes (one team was not eligible because they began coding on their project several months ago). The presentations were as follows:

1) “Disastr” submission. This team created a disaster app that helps with disaster planning and disaster recovery. The app includes sections for the legal needs that emerge post-disaster, such as unemployment, food stamps, and housing. They also wanted a multi-media component to the app, so they looked to FEMA to get social media feeds. Finally, they included a form to request legal services and a “finding legal help” feature, which is a Google map with pins in respective areas. An interesting question came up around connectivity during disasters, and the creators answered by explaining most people would use the app either before a disaster for planning, or a short time after a disaster and often times, people might not even be in the disaster area if they are using the app.

2) “Due Processor” submission. When you go through the civil or criminal justice system, there are often times when you are faced with a task that could be done through a machine, and this solution would be one of them. The program tells if the party is indigent and able to contribute or not, simply by entering salary information and other supplemental information. It basically does the math for you and offers a suggestion on whether or not someone is indigent. The program also includes a sentencing calculator. Enter jail credits, prior crimes, criminal history, and current charge(s) and it will tell you suggested sentencing guidelines and minimum state prison term (for Massachusetts).

3) The self-help tool. This app helps with self assessment in terms of whether or not a person can help his or herself if they have a legal problem or if they would do better with an attorney. The team built a game with several scenarios that basically assess whether someone is self-reliant or not.

4) “Divorce Made Simple.” This website serves as a guide to Massachusetts divorce and provides all the forms that would need to be filled out in the case of a divorce. It aims to provide a good starting point and helps guide someone through the divorce process. The site also contains a timeline of services and other resources across the state. The current URL (temporary for purposes of the hackathon) even contains a clever title: Divorce Decoded.

5) “PaperHealth.” This is an app that runs natively on IOS and lets you create a health care proxy and even allows for witnesses to sign. You can save it, print it or email it, all from your phone. In addition, you can create a non-legal binding living will. The app includes FAQs for those who may not understand the need for a health care proxy or living will.

6) “Re-Entry.” This is the project that was not eligible for the prizes. The team created an app that addresses recidivism attributes. It would allow the user to find a job after incarceration, keep track of their schedule with various meetings and appointments, find resources and more. They call them “sidekick” tools to reduce recidivism.

Prizes were awarded to the top three submissions based on execution, innovation, impact, and overall creativity and general appeal.

And the winners were…

Third prize ($500): Due Processor

Second prize: ($1,000): Disastr

First prize: ($1,500): PaperHealth

Congratulations to all the winners!

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