Learn how a group from the University of York created a digital tool that helps more people access employment law advice.
This year’s Access to Justice course at the University of York focused on employment law. Among the students who took the course, Lewis Njie sought to identify a high-impact area within employment law for his final project paper. He and his collaborators decided to focus on the topic of pre-legal aid.
We spoke with Lewis about the need for better access to legal advice in employment law, and his group’s tech-enabled approach to closing the access to justice gap.
The challenge: Accessible employment law advice
Lewis and his group recognized a pressing issue: workers in the UK lacked the necessary resources to get much-needed employment law advice. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act of 2012 (LASPO) had resulted in a 27% decrease in government spending on legal aid, leaving 296 local authority areas in the UK without a local law center. Since 2012, eligibility for civil legal aid cases has plummeted by 82% in the UK.
While England does have online or telephone legal advice services such as Acas or CIPD, some of which are free, Lewis found that those seeking advice are inundated with excessive information, rather than receiving tailored advice focused on their specific problems.
They’d just throw all the resources relating to employment law at you. That can be very overwhelming for someone who needs advice.
Another problem is that these services are often limited to regular working hours, typically from 9 am to 5 pm, which can make it difficult for those who cannot take time away from work, or work shifts. “37% of the UK’s population live in a legal aid desert whereby there is no access to free or affordable legal help!”
The BRYTER Academy event: Innovating to provide employment law justice with technology
During a BRYTER Academy event held at the University, Lewis and his team members were introduced to the powerful capabilities of BRYTER’s legal automation platform, which allows subject matter experts to quickly build web-based applications without any need for code. After an hour of guidance from a BRYTER team member, the students were able to map employment law advice into decision trees. The platform then turned these decision trees into interactive apps that delivered personalized employment law advice on-demand and at scale.
In contrast to the limited availability of legal advice services, a digital legal application operates 24/7 and, once developed, can be utilized without significant operating costs.
“We wanted to build something with BRYTER that makes pre-trial help in employment law more accessible. Since over 60% of workers in the UK are unaware of their basic legal rights, we wanted to build something that works as an intermediary before professional legal advice to improve access to justice in employment law in a simple, individualized, and specific way – and for free,” Lewis told us.
“It wasn’t a requirement of the course to build a prototype that works. We were the only group that did that. But instead of just showing what the program could do, we decided to actually build something. And that’s only possible because BRYTER is really easy to understand.”
The solution: a technology-enabled employment law application
Lewis and his team found that most publicly available information around employment law, while it exists, can be hard to digest.
Lewis’s group had a vision for a better, faster, more personalized experience.
To streamline and automate pre-legal aid service, the group utilized BRYTER to transform terms into simple questions, creating a decision tree. Depending on the user’s responses, the system directed them along different paths on the process map. This approach allowed for the filtration of relevant information, resulting in the generation of personalized, user-friendly documents that explained the legal situation clearly. Furthermore, the solution included the creation of an adjustments letter, enabling users to communicate their problem and the corresponding legal situation directly to their employer.
“We created an option where you can put your circumstances in and what you would like to request will generate the formalities in the letter automatically for you,” Lewis shared. “You can download it when you click it, and the letter is done. You don’t need any templates to look at, it’s seamless and understandable, much easier, and more effective.”
Ultimately, the group successfully built a fully functional legal tech solution that empowers individuals to access employment law with speed, personalization, and accessibility, all at no cost to the person seeking advice.
“It worked great! We used it for our final presentation in that law school course. And although BRYTER is simple to use, it does not sacrifice the detail.”