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College of Law students to the legal profession: There's an app for that

August 23, 2013

Law students at Loyola University New Orleans are working on technology projects—like iPhone apps—to help represent clients in court and improve the practice of law. Through the College of Law’s Litigation and Technology Clinic, one of the few of its kind in the country, Loyola law students have so far developed four apps and a search engine for Louisiana laws.

The clinic, which is part of the Stuart H. Smith Law Clinic and Center for Social Justice, is led by College of Law assistant clinical professor Judson Mitchell, J.D., with assistance from local lawyer and web developer Ben Veradi. Each fall, students represent clients in real cases and use those experiences as inspiration for tech-law projects to develop in the spring.

College of Law alumnus John Love Norris IV, J.D. ’13, knows firsthand the value of meshing law and technology. As part of last year’s inaugural group of students in the Litigation and Technology Clinic, he was tasked with making technology work in favor of participants in the often confusing and overwhelming U.S. court system.

“Working on the projects was very insightful,” Norris said. “Basically, the class was designed to take a bunch of law students and teach a crash course in computer science, coupled with the fact that professor Mitchell taught us how to survive in Orleans Criminal Court.”

So far, Loyola law students have developed LaCrimBook, an app aimed at replacing the big and expensive handbook of Louisiana criminal laws with a free, digital alternative; Multiple Bill Calculator, an app which calculates minimum and maximum sentences under Louisiana's Habitual Offender statute; DocketMinder, an app which monitors the Orleans Criminal Court Docket Master and notifies users of real-time entry changes; and Huey, a search engine and interface for Louisiana statutory law, which aims to make Louisiana law readily available to software developers. All apps are free for practitioners and the public. The software code is also open source and available for others to study and use on Github.

Projects for the coming year include working with the Juvenile Public Defender to use clinic technology to track recidivism among juvenile offenders and creating a Web application to research potential jurors using social media and other publicly available sources.

The clinic is another step in, as part of Loyola’s mission statement indicates, working for a more just world. “One of the primary missions of the Loyola Law Clinic is to promote equal access to justice for all. Making legal information and services readily available on the Web is one of the best ways to do that,” Mitchell said.

Loyola’s Litigation and Technology Clinic not only serves to help the public navigate the court system, but gives students like Norris exposure to the latest technology with the power to revolutionize the practice of law. That experience helped prepare him for his family law job after graduation.

“Basically, I was able to step in my profession, working for the law firm of Sarver and Guard and know how to appear in front of a judge, while helping to construct our family law blog.”

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