MLS students improve access to justice through digital innovation

A website created by a team of MLS students that helps Victorians navigate the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) appeals process was named the winner of the Law Apps Bake Off at Melbourne Law School on Monday night.

Bake Off Winners L-R: Kenji Yamada, Karina Bradley, Sophia Georgeff, Blake Connell.

The website is tailored for the not-for-profit public interest legal practice Environmental Justice Australia. It is designed to simplify the VCAT appeals process and make it easier for everyday Australians who wish to protect and preserve the environment to actively engage in the legal system.

It consists of a VCAT Appeals Guide, Statement of Grounds Assistant and a VCAT Fee Helper. The team behind website, MLS JD students Blake Connell, Sophia Georgeff, Kenji Yamada and Karina Bradley, said the website is designed to make complicated VCAT procedures easier to understand, to promote equitable access to justice.

The website was developed as part of the MLS subject Law Apps, which is headed by Mr Gary Cazalet. In the subject, students design, build and release live legal expert websites that provide legal information to non-lawyers and the not-for-profit sector.

Dean of Melbourne Law School, Professor Carolyn Evans, said when it comes to technology in legal education, MLS is leading the way, and is the only university offering practical work in technology and the law.

“MLS is producing law graduates of the future. The legal landscape is changing with much of it moving to digital and online. Law graduates with these technology skills are more employable and more in a position to help clients,” Professor Evans said.

Slater and Gordon Victorian General Manager of Personal Injury Dina Tutungi, who was one of the competition judges, said the winning team impressed through their ability to deliver a complete end-to-end solution for their clients.

“I think the website is a really useful do-it-yourself product that will be of benefit to thousands of Victorians,” she said.

The other teams that competed in the “Bake Off” created web apps tailored for YouthLaw, the Young Workers Centre and Not-for-profit Law. The apps provide information about common legal problems, ranging from employment rights for retail industry workers to tax concessions for not-for-profit organisations.

Ms Tutungi praised all the teams for their outstanding achievements.

“Each of the teams served a very important purpose of making complex legal information digestible and accessible,” she said.

Ms Tutungi said it was important to encourage and support the next generation of lawyers to become innovators.

“Slater and Gordon is proud to be involved in an event that allows us to help future lawyers develop new and better ways to improve access to legal information, services and justice.”

The Law Apps subject received support from Slater and Gordon, Georgetown University and Neota Logic – a technology platform providing non-programmers with the tools to efficiently build, test, maintain and deploy expert applications.

Watch the video of the 2016 Law Apps "Bake Off" here

By Roselina Press