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Innovation can improve access to justice

Post-pandemic, there is now a “social and economic imperative” to leverage new technologies to drive better outcomes for those in need, this pair insisted.

user iconLauren Croft 16 March 2023 Big Law
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Liz Chase is a mentor and lawyer at Leo Cussen Centre for Law, and Noel Lim is the chief executive officer of Anika Legal.

Speaking on The Lawyers Weekly Show, produced in partnership with Leo Cussen Centre for Law, the pair discussed the importance of innovation within the profession — and revealed how it could solve numerous problems.

In terms of the current uptake of innovative practices within the profession, Ms Chase said it was a “very exciting time to be a young lawyer”.


“Global consultancy McKinsey recently did a study, and they predicted that over the next 10 years, we’re going to see more technological advancement than we have in the previous hundred. So, if you put that into context, it’s going to be a very dynamic, rapidly changing time,” she said.

“And the future has the potential, depending on your approach, to either be dystopian or utopian, and we would prepare our graduates to be fully adaptable. And the legal profession in general, actually. So, not just our grads, but we’d like to prepare the profession to be adaptive and have the methods and mindsets in order to be able to embrace change and reap the benefits available to us through innovative thinking and technology.”

In terms of the advancement of innovation in the legal profession in recent years, Ms Chase outlined that there is now a “social and economic imperative” to leverage innovation and technology towards better consumer outcomes, especially in relation to access to justice.

“We’ve got a situation in Australia where 80 per cent of the public can’t actually afford effective legal representation. They don’t meet the criteria for legal aid, and they really can’t afford a private lawyer. So, there’s 10 per cent on the bottom that meet the criteria for legal aid, and then the top that can really afford a private lawyer. And actually, many lawyers themselves couldn’t really afford to take a matter to trial if they had to,” she explained. 

“Which is quite interesting. And so, I think that that’s a huge market opportunity as much as it is a social imperative. We’ve got 80 per cent of the market [that] is not being served. And so, businesses and lawyers that are clever and embrace innovative ways of doing business, there’s a lot of different approaches, they actually have an opportunity to create a very successful business.”

Access to justice, Mr Lim agreed, is “critically important” in this day and age.

“The system is not working for everyone. It’s actually not working for a whole lot of people. And there are many people who are locked out of the justice system. And so, without the free legal support that they need, that they would otherwise not be able to get, they will be vulnerable to many injustices. And so, legal innovation is going to play a huge role in this because of the scale of the problem,” he emphasised.  

“There are millions of Australians who are struggling and wouldn’t be able to afford a private lawyer. Something needs to change, so that these people can get the support they need to maintain safe housing or any of the other things, the rights that we are supposed to be afforded under the justice system.”

This is something Anika Legal focuses on wholeheartedly, being a not-for-profit and community legal service.

“We provide free legal assistance to vulnerable Australians who would otherwise not be able to get it and are locked out of the justice system. And we do that a little bit differently. We provide these free legal services through student programs. So, in these programs, students are assisting our lawyers to provide these services, and helping them to service even more clients than they otherwise would be able to,” Mr Lim added.

“It also means that these programs are funded by the university or the practical training provider. And so, that means that because we are providing practical training to the next generation of lawyers, it means that universities or practical training providers are indirectly funding access to justice, the people who would otherwise be locked out of the justice system.”

This mentality of “how can we make things better” — both in terms of access to justice and implementing innovation — is something Mr Lim fosters in his firm — and is particularly important for law students and young lawyers to be thinking about.

“Especially for people who are student age, it’s about immersing yourself in an environment which really lives and breathes that mentality. And so, I think Anika is an example of an organisation [that] does things very differently,” he noted.  

“So, as an example, we were setting up as a virtual legal service before the pandemic. And so, when it came along, we were really well placed to assist a lot of people, and everyone, those not set up for that, had to say, ‘All right, we’ve got this service. We need to make it digital,’ rather than making it fit for purpose in the first place.”

And for those who are looking to be more innovative in their own practice, Ms Chase recommended being curious, being widely read and “interested beyond the world of law, and thinking by analogy”.

“We’re taught to apply cases by analogy and apply them to facts, but I also think that innovation is really often a case of analogy as well,” she said.  

“So, if you’ve had a great consumer experience, if there’s a particular way that you like to engage, to receive a service or a product, think about that, and think about how you might like to apply those principles to the way you deliver legal services.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Liz Chase and Noel Lim, click below: