CLEO receives research grants for technology and access to justice

Three grants will fund research into measuring outcomes of interactive tools, as well as other technological tools individuals use in accessing the court system

CLEO receives research grants for technology and access to justice
Julie Mathews is executive director of Community Legal Education Ontario

Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO) has received research grants from the Law Foundation of Ontario for three partnership-based research projects.

The grants, which total around $129,000, come from the LFO’s strategic granting program. They support efforts to develop online interactive tools that people with legal problems can use to take steps in the legal process, such as completing forms.

In a statement, CLEO said that the research will advance its work, as well as that of its partners and others who look at technology as a tool to advance access to justice.

“Technology is too often developed in a ‘lab’ that fails to take into account people’s needs and capabilities, leaving behind those who are most in need of effective support,” said Julie Mathews, executive director of  CLEO. “These research projects allow us to assess, learn, and improve; to use technology to expand meaningful access to justice rather than reinforce barriers.”

The three projects that have received grants are:

  • Measuring outcomes and impact of interactive tools: This project seeks to develop an evaluation framework for interactive tools that support people who are going online to complete court forms and other law-related forms. CLEO will work closely with the Cyberjustice Laboratory, a joint initiative of Université de Montréal and McGill University, to develop the framework, which will include an assessment of the relative effectiveness of interactive tools against other types of resources. The project team includes Julie Mathews, Erik Bornmann and Elizabeth Robinson from CLEO, and Professor Fabien Gélinas and PhD student Alexandra Pasca from the McGill University Faculty of Law.
  • Regulating technologies to advance access to justice: This explores the regulation of smart legal forms designed for public use. In cooperation with staff and students at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, CLEO will look at what can be learned from the literature and experience in other jurisdictions regarding the regulatory treatment that would best advance access to justice? The project team includes Julie Mathews and Erik Bornmann from CLEO, and Professors David Wiseman, Amy Salyzyn and Marina Pavlovic from the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law.
  • Making ‘smart’ forms work for people: CLEO is working with professors at two Ontario universities to investigate whether people in Ontario who are accessing ‘smart’ legal forms – for example, to apply for a no-fault divorce — can not only read the words but understand what they need to do in response. The research uses a functional literacy, user-based approach to assess how CLEO’s recently-produced smart forms are used and completed, and identifies obstacles users face when using the forms with a view towards continual improvement. Team members include Professor Amy Salyzyn from the University of Ottawa, Professor Jacquelyn Burkell from Western University and Julie Mathews and Erik Bornmann from CLEO. 

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