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BYU Law Creates Software to Handle Debt Collection Lawsuits
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BYU LawX

Summary: BYU Law School created an online tool that will help people who cannot afford legal services to handle debt collection lawsuits.

Utah is suffering from a debt collection crisis, which Brigham Young University J. Reuben Clark Law School is trying to address. The law school developed a free online tool called SoloSuit to help those in the state that can’t afford legal services in order to respond to debt collection services. The online tool was developed by LawX, a legal design lab at BYU Law School that has a goal to tackle one legal challenge each semester.

  
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LawX cofounder and class instructor Kimball Dean Parker said, as reported by Cision by PR Newswire, “Early in the semester, we realized that debt collection was a legal crisis in Utah. In the last five years, debt collectors in Utah filed over 330,000 lawsuits; 98.5 percent of those sued do not hire an attorney. And in some years, over 80 percent of those sued did not respond, causing them to automatically lose their case. SoloSuit provides a simple platform for debtors to respond to a lawsuit in as little as 10 minutes.”

The LawX course, thought up by Parker and BYU Law Dean Gordon Smith, started last fall for second- and third-year BYU Law students. Parker teaches the LawX course in addition to being an attorney at Parsons Behle & Latimer. The course acts as a design-thinking process where students figure out the best solution to legal issues. This can be by changing a policy, product or process. The students must meet fast-paced deadlines and responsibilities, similar to working in a startup. The students are given a crash course from IBM designers in design thinking and support while collaborating with BYU students and professors in other departments. Alumni, local businesses, legal professionals, and organizations also work with the LawX law students.

Third-year BYU law student Cami Schiel said, “The law is often unfair to people who cannot afford a lawyer, and LawX is developing solutions that help level the playing field. It has been the experience of a lifetime to bring a solution from idea to market, and I am looking forward to seeing SoloSuit’s success.”

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The online tool asks a series of prompts that guide defendants to the end where they can download the results and print the document for the court. This online tool addresses some of the rules that LawX identified in Utah that make it hard for those who can’t afford an attorney to face their debt collection lawsuits. Parker explained, “One example is that Utah requires those who can’t afford an attorney to print their response and mail or hand deliver it to the court. Only lawyers can deliver those documents electronically. Most of the debtors we spoke with don’t own printers or use the mail regularly. We estimate this rule alone prevents 15 percent to 20 percent of people from responding. It needs to change.” LawX is currently trying to rectify these problems by working with the Utah court system.

Obviously, debt collection is not isolated to Utah, so LawX designed the tool so it can be adapted to the laws of other states as well as other areas of law. Second-year student Brock Foley said, “We think the software could help make the law accessible to millions of people across the nation. The Alaska court system will pilot the software for debt collection cases in their state later this year, and LawX is currently in discussions with Step Up to Justice, a non-profit organization in Arizona, to adopt the software to eviction cases in that state.”



Dean Smith added, “The work being done by LawX beautifully complement BYU Law School’s mission to make the world a better place for those who lack resources and strength. LawX is tackling some of the most challenging issues facing our legal system today with an emphasis on non-lawyers who need help navigating a system that is designed for legal professionals. It is refreshing to see the strides LawX has made in a single semester, and I look forward to seeing LawX’s positive impact in Utah and beyond for years to come.”

Do you think the software will really help the clients or do they just need a lawyer? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about other organizations that have created software to help with the legal process, read these articles:

LawX Photo: lelezard.com

BYU Photo: twitter.com



 

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