How can Artificial Intelligence be used to improve access to justice? Marrickville Legal Centre is leading the charge on this technology to build a chatbot that will transform service delivery for community legal centres, thanks to a $250,000 investment from the NSW Government’s new Access to Justice Innovation Fund.
At last census in 2017, community legal centres had to turn away 112,735 people a year in Australia. According to the National Association of Community Legal Centres, this group represents “any person [a] community legal centre had to send away because [they] were unable to assist them within the needed timeframe or because of a lack of resources, lack of centre expertise, conflict of interest or [the] centre’s eligibility policy”.
NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman with Vasili Maroulis (Principal Solicitor, Marrickville Legal Centre), Maeve Redmond (Fundraising & Communications Officer, Marrickville Legal Centre), and Codie Croasdale (Paralegal, Marrickville Legal Centre).
Every day, Marrickville Legal Centre receives hundreds of calls from people who are in need of legal help. Despite the best efforts of staff and volunteers, excess demand creates a bottleneck for the volunteer intake officers answering calls. This age-old issue calls for innovative solutions.
The virtual assistant, or “LegalBot”, will mimic human interaction, providing an interface between the client and Marrickville Legal Centre. LegalBot will help clients determine eligibility for services and arrange private consultation with a solicitor. The service will also provide basic legal information on traffic matters – a high volume, low complexity issue that makes up a large number of the centre's initial enquiries.
This innovative approach will support and complement MLC’s client intake officers by relieving telephone contact, allowing more time to be allocated to assisting high-need clients. The AI technology will serve to eliminate doubling up in client intake and contact, an issue which plagues the time and resources of many client-facing community service providers.
For Marrickville Legal Centre’s vulnerable clients, LegalBot also presents an opportunity to seek advice in real time without the compounded stress of being put on hold or having to repeat their matter to different members of staff.
A subsequent, scalable framework will offer other community legal centres access to this technology and the opportunity innovate their triage to better manage limited resources.