NEWS

Using artificial intelligence to improve access to justice

Published on 30/11/2020

A new virtual legal assistant named ‘NALA’ is helping people with basic legal queries online. The artificially  intelligent ‘New Age Legal Assistant’ launches today at Marrickville Legal Centre’s virtual Annual General Meeting. 

Innovating access to justice 

The NSW government granted Marrickville Legal Centre $250,000 through the Access to Justice Innovation Fund in 2019 to develop the technology. The grant ensures community organisations have a long term technological strategy for the future. 

NSW Attorney-General Mr Mark Speakman celebrated the initiative in a media release today. 

As the impacts of coronavirus swept through the community, the team at Marrickville Legal Centre worked quickly  with tech partner Alpha Indigo to fast-track a “lite” version of NALA, which enabled people to get in contact with the  Centre when they were most in need and during its busiest period. 

Marrickville Legal Centre’s Managing Principal Solicitor Vasili Maroulis says NALA will continue to slash wait times  for hundreds of people each week in addition to face-to-face services. 

“NALA is not designed to replace face-to-face services, but to better triage so the most critical matters and most  vulnerable in our community are attended to first,” shares Mr Maroulis. 

“Just like first responders, frontline legal services must attend to enquiries urgently before legal issues compound  into crisis.” 

NALA identifies high-volume, low-complexity matters and automates an appropriate response, effectively allowing Marrickville Legal Centre to reallocate its finite resources to assist complex, high-need clients faster. 

How can NALA offer legal help? 

A key objective of the New Age Legal Assistant is to streamline first contact with clients at intake, gathering vital  information needed before consultation.  

NALA is programmed to interact with people seeking legal help for traffic fines, license suspensions and traffic related court attendance notices, and can assist with tenancy matters including repairs, bonds, landlord  access, terminations, and basic strata enquiries.  

The interactive chatbot has the capability to search law codes for specific traffic matters and connect clients to the  information they need in real time. 

Where required, NALA can search internal calendars for appointments for clients to choose from, generate basic  letters of adjournment, generate guides for specific practice areas; and assist with referrals for out-of-catchment  clients. 

MLC has also developed a scalable model of this technology, capable of broader use across the CLC sector.=

Over the past 18 months, Marrickville Legal Centre has focussed heavily on capacity building, better digital service  delivery, remote working capabilities and improving business strategies. 

NALA is part of Marrickville Legal Centre’s wider strategic priority to optimise digital efficiency so that resources  can be better channelled to service delivery, improving clients’ experience and outcomes. 

“The legal sector is changing and so too our community’s legal needs,” says Mr Maroulis. 

“Our response is ambitious, but we aim to make #JusticeForUsAll a reality by bringing our Centre and the  community legal sector into the 21st century. We plan to do this by developing innovative tech solutions to deliver  legal services more efficiently and, most importantly, in collaboration with government, corporate and community  partners.” 

Marrickville Legal Centre commends the NSW Government for investing in this initiative through the Access to  Justice Innovation Fund.  

The New Age Legal Assistant was developed in collaboration with many firms, organisations and individuals and  Marrickville Legal Centre would like to recognise and extend thanks to project consultant Robert Muir, to the teams  at Gilbert + Tobin, Johnson Winter & Slattery and Barhead for their guidance, and Milo&Co for NALA’s icon design. 

Visit www.mlc.org.au to talk to NALA today.