Innovation for Justice (i4J), a social justice-focused legal innovation lab launched at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law in 2018, is expanding its operations to the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business in Fall 2021. The collaboration positions i4J as the first cross-discipline, cross-institution, cross-jurisdiction legal innovation lab in the United States.
This expansion has been made possible through a generous contribution from Michael and Burgundy Caldwell-Waller. Both alumni of the University of Utah, Michael and Burgundy bring their own unique knowledge of entrepreneurship, technology and law to this partnership. Their gift will fund the program for a three-year pilot with the intent of launching innovative advancements in the field of legal technologies and delivery, as well as improvements in equitable access and delivery of legal services.
The partnership between the James E. Rogers College of Law and David Eccles School of Business harnesses the schools’ long-standing commitment to innovation in education. “The David Eccles School of Business is excited to partner with the James E. Rogers College of Law to create a unique learning opportunity for our Eccles School students and to find systemic ways to address the justice gap in our nation,” said Taylor Randall, dean of the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah.
“I enthusiastically support this collaboration between the James E. Rogers College of Law and the David Eccles School of Business to advance legal innovation across educational institutions and jurisdictions,” said Marc Miller, Dean of the James E. Rogers College of Law. “1 in 3 households will face a civil legal issue this year, and existing legal services cannot meet the need. The justice gap that exists in this country requires creative, interdisciplinary and disruptive problem-solving. Through this partnership we are rising to the challenge for education to do more in engaging with social justice issues in our community and training the next generation of thinkers, doers, and leaders. The partnership is particularly exciting as both Arizona and Utah are engaged in regulatory reform of the legal profession.”
Beginning this month, graduate students from University of Utah and University of Arizona will be able to enroll in community-engaged, project-based i4J courses, which will be conducted virtually. Students from any graduate discipline at either university can enroll, and i4J expects to house students studying law, business, legal studies, public health and design this fall. This year, the lab is initiating three new projects:
Designing new initiatives at the intersection of regulatory reform and housing instability
Creating a Medical Debt Policy Scorecard that inventories the medical debt policies in all 50 states and ranks states based on existing consumer protections
Evaluating and redesigning the user experience (UX) of the Utah State Courts’ online self-help materials for defendants in debt collection
i4J’s mission is to reach across silos to advance access to justice. The interdisciplinary community of i4J students, faculty, partners, and collaborators apply design- and systems-thinking methodologies to expose inequalities in the justice system and create new, replicable, and scalable strategies for legal empowerment. i4J’s action-based research engages lived-experience experts and diverse stakeholders in the nonprofit, government, and private sectors to advance fair and equitable dispute resolution through systems-level change at both service and policy levels.
“Expanding to include the business school at University of Utah is an incredible opportunity to amplify our work designing, building, and testing disruptive solutions to the justice gap,” says i4J Director Stacy Butler. “Much of our work centers on leveraging potential changes in unauthorized practice of law to permit new types of legal services designed to meet the needs of those who cannot afford legal help under traditional models. Partnering with University of Utah to become a cross-disciplinary lab with access to business school knowledge and resources will advance and elevate that work.”
i4J supports stakeholders ready to think beyond traditional frameworks in reimagining how innovation and technology can deliver a human-centered, simplified justice system. Current lab projects include the first pilot in the U.S. to train and license non-lawyers to provide limited-scope legal advice in the non-profit setting (advising domestic violence survivors in family law cases) and the first usability evaluation of online dispute resolution platform in the U.S. i4J is also home to the Cost of Eviction Calculator, a free, online tool designed to help users estimate the community cost of some of the major downstream effects of eviction-related homelessness and promote systemic shifts toward eviction prevention.
i4J’s educational mission is to develop changemakers. Graduates are prepared to lead with empathy, check their assumptions, creatively problem-solve, test new ideas, embrace and learn from failure, iterate and co-create solutions, and engage in data-driven decision-making. “Innovation for Justice reminded me of why I came to law school: everyone shares the same passion for change, excitement for innovation, and relentless pursuit to do better for the people who have needs that are largely unrepresented in the current legal system. I have been so inspired everyday by my instructors, teammates, and getting to work with members of the community who are dedicated to new and creative solutions. The design- and system-thinking framework that i4J utilizes is a method I will carry with me through practice because I’ve witnessed the progress that is possible through a thorough evaluation and understanding of a problem.” Jacqueline Marzocca, University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law JD ‘21.
For more information, https://www.innovation4justice.org/