Melbourne, October 4: As more Australians find themselves unable to access the legal help they need, Justice Connect with the help of the Google Impact Challenge, is developing a ground-breaking new solution to connect tens of thousands of Australians with thousands of lawyers, helping to close the ‘justice gap’.
Justice Connect has been selected as one of 10 finalists in the Google Impact Challenge, for its proposal to create an online Legal Help Gateway.
The service will draw on the web-based matching models pioneered by dating and real estate services like eHarmony, RSVP and realestate.com.au to match people and community groups with leading lawyers who want to help for free.
“Legal problems are life problems. When people miss out on legal help, we know that a cascade of problems often follow – financial, health, housing. These problems are not only terrible for the people who experience them, they also cost the Australian economy significantly,” said Fiona McLeay, CEO of Justice Connect.
“The justice gap is the number of people who need legal assistance but can’t access it. And the gap is growing. Funding for community legal centres and Legal Aid is being reduced as need grows, and many people who aren’t eligible for Legal Aid still can’t afford a lawyer”.
The ‘justice gap’ is not only about individuals.
Many of Australia’s 600,000 charities and not-for-profits also struggle to afford the legal help they need, spending scarce funds on legal fees, rather than providing critical services to the community.
Justice Connect carefully matches these people and community organisations with help from its network – mass of pro bono lawyers thus allowing free representation for justice.
But this matching takes time – and pro bono lawyers are ready to do more.
“This new Gateway can break down the financial and time barriers that stand between people and the pro bono lawyers in Justice Connect’s network.
This project will allow us to match more people with more pro bono lawyers more quickly than ever before,” said Ms McLeay.
“We know good ideas combined with technology can help to solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.
“Ten Australian not-for-profits have been selected as finalists in the latest round of the Google Impact Challenge for their outstanding ideas to use technology to make an impact on important causes.” Alan Noble, Director of Engineering, Google Australia
Justice Connect has over 20 years’ experience linking people with pro bono lawyers and “understands the complexities and capacity of pro bono in Australia better than anyone else, and we are uniquely placed to build this tool.
“Universal access to justice is a fundamental right, just like universal health care.
“By collaborating with people and groups from Legal Aid and Community Legal Centres to law firms and even companies who are already making matches online, this Gateway has the potential to become the tool in the effort to make justice accessible for all,” Ms McLeay said.