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.