Consumer Action creates better access to justice for consumers with legal automation

“Before jumping into building tools, have a long hard think about all the repetitive tasks that lawyers need to do in a given day and build the simplest things first.”

Senior Lawyer, Lucas Rutten manages the advice line services for Consumer Action Law Centre – a campaign-focused consumer advocacy organisation.

His role is to assist the organisation in reaching more clients (and allowing those clients to initiate their legal complaints), in addition to spearheading the organisation’s utilisation of Josef’s no-code automation tools. Access to justice is the name of the game.

Lucas Rutten, Senior Lawyer, Consumer Action Law Centre

Lucas Rutten, Senior Lawyer, Consumer Action Law Centre

Given legal technology underpins what you do, I’m interested to discover your thoughts on the future of digital transformation within the legal industry.

Well, there’s a lot to be done.

Consumer Law Action Centre primarily gives legal advice over the phone but there is a limitation to how many people you can reach in this way. But if you can transmit advice without the need for a phone call, there’s greater potential for access to justice. Historically fact sheets were used – but these are obviously very one-dimensional compared with no-code tools that can be built on Josef, which are highly interactive and user-specific.

As to developments within the space – we all know the elephant in the room is generative AI. It will be transformational for better… or worse. There will certainly be hugely useful applications of the technology. For example, AI may be able to help someone draft a letter of demand or assist a self-represented litigant with a VCAT application.

Speaking of useful applications, how have you applied Josef’s no-code tools to problems within the Consumer Action Law Centre?

First, we started by building a complaint letter-generating tool specifically in relation to insurance “add-on insurance” or what we call “junk insurance”. These are generally added on at the point of sale when a consumer purchases a car. It was a highly problematic product because people often purchased it without knowing they had done so. These claims were high-volume and highly repetitive making it perfect for automation.

Back in 2016, we created a website called “Demand a Refund” that was very successful in generating letters to claim refunds for junk insurance, except, getting data from that website was extremely time-consuming and labour-intensive. That’s why we made the decision to port that website’s functionality over into Josef because data exporting is extremely easy.

We’re also in the process of creating several new letter-generating tools, including tools to assist people with their credit card debt, tools to assist people who have complaints about poor debt collection conduct, and tools to assist people to complain about a particular short-term loan company called Cigno.

“If you can transmit advice without the need for a phone call, there’s greater potential for access to justice.”
– Lucas Rutten, Senior Lawyer, Consumer Action Law Centre

So why do you think lawyers aren’t pursuing legal automation despite its many benefits?

Generally, when lawyers speak or give advice, they are very careful not to be too definite or too certain, because reality is rarely certain. However, building a digital legal tool requires an approach to language that is definite and certain. This just means you have to be mindful of the information you present and the choices you are asking of your users. It requires being careful and thinking deeply about all of the ways that your tools may be misinterpreted, which is hard!

But the challenge is worth it because you can reach a much larger number of people. And this can free up time for lawyers to start thinking about the harder, more complex problems.

Having already waded deep into the waters of automation – what advice can you give other lawyers looking to streamline efficiencies?

The best advice I can give is this: before jumping into building tools, have a long hard think about all the repetitive tasks that lawyers need to do in a given day and build the simplest things first.

A last fun question, so when you’re not being a lawyer, what are you doing in your spare time?

Recently, an old friend from university reached out to me and asked if I’d like to go bouldering (which I’ve never done before) and now, I’ve been regularly doing that for the last six months!

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