Legal Innovators: A2J Tech

Mauricio Duarte of A2J Tech

“The World Justice Project estimated that 5 billion people have unmet justice needs globally, including people who cannot obtain justice for everyday problems. In the case of the U.S., it has been reported that 92 % of civil legal issues reported by low-income Americans have received inadequate or no legal help,” reads the home page of A2J Tech.

The company describes itself as a social enterprise that builds technology to improve access to justice. For instance, in September 2020, the company created a free platform to prepare Covid-19 eviction prevention letters and forms using CDC guidelines for tenants to send to landlords.

Affordable Legal Services

“We work with legal aid organizations and nonprofits with a lot of technology projects and technology grants,” said Mauricio Duarte, who serves as a justice entrepreneur with A2J Tech. “We also work with law firms to innovate and create affordable services at a lower rate than their usual rates. These can be projects such as online documents and online forms. We also assist legal technology companies that don’t have a development team or a lot of experience.”

Duarte has an extensive background in startups, venture capital, international arbitration, and alternate dispute mechanisms. Before joining A2J Tech he focused primarily on using technology to solve disputes.

“In the legal space, there is not a lot of education about how to use technology,” said Duarte. “Sometimes technology is seen as the enemy of attorneys, using a false premise that it is leaving attorneys out of work. That comes from a perspective of not understanding technology. It’s really a tool to drive efficiencies in the legal industry.”

He said A2J hopes to help fill the void in content and education on legal technology, how it works and how it can be used, which they have done by creating online courses on legal technology.

‘Mission’ Not Profitability

“We focus on our mission and not ‘profitability,’” said Duarte. “In other words, we provide services at an affordable cost to offer innovative solutions to legal aid organizations, law firms, legal tech companies, and users of the legal system. Legal aid organizations and nonprofits get funded to improve their technology needs, and with those resources, we usually work with them.

“We provide the technology to improve access to justice,” he added. Their services range from website development, graphic design, project management, to more elaborate services like document automation and custom software development.

When A2J is contacted by a potential client, Duarte explained, “First, we would make an assessment of a client’s budget and technical requirements. Based on that decision, we would either develop a custom solution or build a minimum viable product with pre-existing no-code technologies. For instance, the attorney would not need to be an expert to make changes, edit the text, or add some customizations to his solution. Then we would automate the forms to deliver a single platform that provides the intended experience. Finally, depending on the need, we would help with digital marketing for that project.”

One of A2J Tech’s clients is the 2018 Duke Law Tech Lab Grand Prize Winner Hello Divorce, a tech-enabled divorce process that uses a combination of software and expert help to reduce divorce costs significantly.

A Fairer Legal System

“Legal services organizations and pro bono groups are doing unbelievable work, but they are overwhelmed and under-resourced, which leaves a large, underserved population in our communities unable to access their rights,” said Maya Markovich, executive director of trade group, Justice Technology Association.

She applauded the work being done by A2J Tech. “We need different models, and technology can and should be part of the solution. Justice technology companies creating solutions to help people navigate legal matters are fostering hope, independence, and self-empowerment to contribute to a fairer legal system.”

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