Low-Income Litigants in the Sandbox: Court Record Data and the Legal Technology A2J Market
58 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2022 Last revised: 28 Apr 2023
Date Written: February 24, 2022
With the goal of spurring innovation and development of new legal technology in the direct-to-consumer legal services marketplace, states are considering regulatory changes to the practice of law within legal regulatory sandboxes. In these spaces, creative digital innovators are bringing to market new products to address the gap in legal services delivery that leaves more than 80 percent of low- and moderate-income litigants without legal representation, but there are risks to consumers in rapid adoption of new technology by state courts. In states without adequate access to court record data, sandbox exploration committees, legal technology developers, and researchers operate without a complete understanding of how low-income self-represented litigants fare in state court. This Article addresses the need for quantitative data on the experiences and outcomes of low-income litigants in state courts and calls for reform in access to court record data to ensure that the most vulnerable litigants are helped and not harmed by the adoption of new technology.
This Article presents the novel findings of an empirical study analyzing ten years of court record data for debt collection lawsuits in California and makes the normative recommendation that court record data is a critical starting point for the development of rigorous empirical metrics for evaluating legal technology innovation tools. Based on analysis of California debt collection state civil court record data, the findings in this Article form the basis of an argument for better access to state court record data nationwide and inform the model legislation attached hereto.
Keywords: access to justice, technology, regulatory, state courts, civil procedure, debt collection, poverty law, empirical, new legal realism, reform, big data, consumer, policy, legislation, data, privacy, equity, legal aid, practice of law, legal profession, legal tech
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