July 8, 2015
MAITLAND, Fla. —A new statewide nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to justice through the innovative use of technology has been launched with $725,000 in funding from The Florida Bar Foundation.
The Florida Justice Technology Center is made possible through the start-up funding, which was included as part of a bridge loan made to the Foundation by The Florida Bar last year. It is modeled on the only other statewide nonprofit access to justice technology entity in the country, the nationally-acclaimed Illinois Legal Aid Online.
Greg Coleman, immediate past president of The Florida Bar and a member of the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice, will serve on an initial five-member board for the center, a governing body that will be charged during the organization’s first two years with establishing bylaws and strategic priorities and identifying and recruiting members of the permanent board.
“The Florida Bar’s leadership has clearly recognized the urgent need for technological innovation in the legal industry,” Coleman said. “We have to keep pace with the rapid advancements in the way the world communicates and does business in order to best serve our customers, and this center will play a key role in that effort.”
The Florida Justice Technology Center will work not only with legal aid and pro bono programs but also with the judiciary and the court system, clerks of court, lawyers, law schools, corporations, community partners, and others to develop technology products and services that will expand access to justice for those confronting civil legal issues such as divorce, child custody, foreclosure, landlord-tenant disputes, home ownership, veterans benefits and elder affairs.
The center will work to collaborate and coordinate with legal technology efforts going on throughout the state, such as online systems for creating and assembling court forms and legal documents, as well online client intake.
The Florida Justice Technology Center will be led initially by Joyce Raby, former legal aid technology coordinator for the Washington State Bar Association and co-founder of the national Legal Services Corporation Technology Innovations Grant Program.
“My hope and expectation is that Florida will soon be on the leading edge of legal technology,” Raby said. “The time is right, and it is the good fortune of the people of Florida that The Florida Bar and The Florida Bar Foundation have made that goal a major priority. The benefits will extend not only to low-income Floridians, but to all of those who need access to legal help and to the courts.”
The center will work as a leader and partner. As a leader, it will coordinate and promote the use of technology by identifying efforts from around the state and around the country that could be implemented on a statewide basis in Florida. As a partner, the center will offer technology products and services to help advance existing and wholly new endeavors.
The center, which will have one other employee, will not have a physical office but rather will operate as a virtual office so as to eliminate the need for rent, furniture and other costs. Besides Coleman, the initial board members are: Kathy McLeroy, a member of the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice, co-chair of The Florida Bar’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono, and an attorney with Carlton Fields Jorden Burt; Tom Oldt, a Florida Bar Foundation board member and founder of Thomas R. Oldt Investment Services LLC; Adriana Linares, founder of LawTech Partners, a board member of the American Bar Association Law Practice Division Legal Technology Resource Center, and vice chair of the ELawyering Task Force; and James Haggard, staff attorney at Brevard County Legal Aid, an ad hoc member of the technology subcommittee of the Florida Commission on Access to Civil Justice, and founder of Wiedza Creations LLC, a legal tech start up.