Legal Justice Hackathon Problem Set

Christy Leos edited this page Dec 15, 2016 · 1 revision


A New Mexico Legal Aid Initiative with support of Legal Services Corporation Technology Innovation Grant

THE GOAL OF THIS DOCUMENT: Collaboration for use as a foundation for event design, participation, and expert recruitment.

If you would like to contribute or track progress in real time, please make a pull request.

TECH FOR JUSTICE VIRTUAL EVENT GOAL: Develop community models and technology tools to improve access to justice for those in vulnerable situations and those who aim to support them.

WHAT ARE PROBLEM SETS? Problem sets identify and explain specific issues that participants will seek to solve. Problem sets are important because they help attendees from multiple sectors focus on one issue and better understand one another.

Problem sets can include the following information:

  • What is the issue that needs to be addressed?
  • What specific problems occur within this issue?
  • What has created this problem?
  • What is the current solution?
  • What is working about this solution and what is not?


  • Community Members: Low-income individuals who need legal support and other resource help for problems such as domestic violence, consumer debt, evictions, foreclosures and access to government benefits.
  • Legal Aid offices that aim to provide free legal help, but are overburdened by expensive and time consuming grant reporting processes.
  • Legal Advocates who aim to find new ways to support these communities.

CREATING A DESIGN FOR COMMUNITY COLLABORATION: A hackathon isn’t just about technology, but ultimately hacking the system. In order to create holistic support systems and lasting solutions, entire communities surrounding these problems must be identified and mobilize.

HOW WILL COMMUNITY COLLABORATION WORK? Community collaboration is essential, not only before and during the hackathon, but is most critical after solutions have been identified and developed. Real world application and experience using the solutions developed is critical to learning how to improve and modify these solutions to result in an even larger value. To enable continued participation Tech For Justice and NMLA are currently developing a collaborative working environment at



1. Grant Reporting

Problem: In the United States, resources for free civil legal aid are scarce. The government is required to provide a free criminal defense attorney for those who cannot afford one, but there is no requirement that the government provide free attorneys for civil law problems such as divorces, child custody orders, or protection orders for domestic violence victims. Funding available from non-government sources such as private foundations rarely fills the gap, and often carries costly and time consuming reporting requirements.

Requirements for administering and reporting on multiple grant sources often means scarce resources are diverted from client representation to administrative overhead.

There is a marked lack of standardization between various legal aid funding sources. Even though the individual data fields and basic facts required for funder reports often overlap, the requirements and timelines for how often and in what formats the reports must be submitted often varies widely.

Current solution: Use costly administrative staff time to customize reporting queries and templates. This solution provides accurate results, but requires too high a percentage of available resources to be spent on grant administration. This further limits the availability of direct client services.

Need: Legal Aid programs need effective technology systems to respond to multivariable grant administration and data reporting requirements without the cost, time and specialized expertise necessary to manually customize multi-funder grant reports.

If unnecessary amounts of scarce funding remains diverted to grant administration rather than to hiring attorneys who can assist clients, problems occur in the areas of:

2. Consumer debt Without enough attorneys to go around, low-income consumers are often harassed by unethical debt collectors and ambushed with illegal garnishments of paychecks and bank accounts, leading to evictions, car repossessions and other economic calamities.

3. Domestic violence

When money is diverted to grant administration instead of hiring legal aid attorneys, domestic violence victim often end up with unresolved disputes over child custody and child support, and inadequate division of marital property. This often leaves a DV victim in dire economic situations that pressure them to return to their abusive partner.

4. Housing

Without adequate legal help, low-income families are often evicted on short notice, forcing children to change schools and often leading to overcrowded and unsafe multi-family sharing of unsafe housing.

5. Government benefits

Many low-income people are illegally denied government assistance for disability benefits, food stamps, health care and other assistance. Without legal help to prove they are eligible for these benefits, low-income people often remain in poverty years longer than necessary.


  • Individuals touched by lack of access to justice
  • Nonprofits and social services agencies
  • Domestic Violence Shelters & advocates
  • Homeless advocacy agencies
  • Health care providers
  • Legal Aid
  • Private Attorneys and Law Firms
  • Businesses
  • Government
  • Courts
  • Others

We would like collaborators to help us gather research in areas that pertain to their personal work, to contribute their ideas for solutions, to contribute information about the issues they experience (both verified data and first-hand accounts), and to contribute technology ideas.

Examples of data include gender, race, age demographics, geographic data, court case data, economic impact data, case outcomes data and more. If collaborators could either input data or let us and other collaborators know where to source that data, it would be helpful.

Identification of BENEFITS to communities who participate in solutions:

Individuals touched by lack of access to justice:

  • Physical safety
  • Food and other basic necessities
  • Housing
  • Childcare
  • Employment and education opportunities
  • Financial security
  • Better preparation for court proceedings and improved connection to legal help
  • Opportunity to help others avoid abusive cycles


  • Opportunity to create and access solutions that will help their community
  • Easier grant reporting processes

Debt Collection Agencies

  • Improved practices

Domestic Violence Shelters and Advocates

  • Increased financial support from new parties
  • Increased food and necessities
  • Increased childcare staffing opportunities
  • Assistance with grant reporting
  • Increased square-footage and bedding resources
  • Assistance in funding outreach
  • New advocacy tools

Legal Aid

  • New legal tools
  • Decrease case overload in the long term
  • Process cases faster

Private Attorneys and Law Firms

  • User-friendly resources for fulfilling Pro Bono duty
  • Connections to new client bases
  • Direct work to improve the court system


  • Sponsorship opportunities and visibility
  • Use of set-aside donation funds to a measurable and valuable projects
  • Direct connection to community collaborators
  • Improved financially stability in marketplace (provide statistics about ramifications of dv on business, like the amount of time lost by employees etc - there are stats)


  • Cost savings as legal justice issues decrease or are solved by non-traditional means
  • Improved economic stability locally and nationally
  • New government assistance tools


  • Preventative tools that can be utilized to reduce the the docket load for judges and prosecutors

Healthcare Providers

  • Self-help resources that can be provided to client/patients when patients are hesitant to report domestic violence
  • HIPAA compliant anonymous data reporting for aggregation purposes only


Technologists - Developers - Designers - Existing Legal Technology - Private Practitioners - Legal Aid - Online Legal Providers - Online Dispute Resolution - Mediation - Domestic Violence - Legal Aid - Domestic Violence Shelters - Domestic Violence Advocates & Survivors - Community Activists - Academics - Internet Providers - Telecommunications - Internet Foundational Structures - Courts - City Government - Women’s Justice - LGBTQ Justice - Racial Minority Justice - Funding - Project Management - Incubators - Businesses - Business Strategy- Sustainable Accounting - Healthcare Providers - Homeless Shelters - Nonprofits - Others

You can’t perform that action at this time.
You signed in with another tab or window. Reload to refresh your session. You signed out in another tab or window. Reload to refresh your session.
Press h to open a hovercard with more details.