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Articling student launches legal tech collaboration site in the wake of COVID-19

Wednesday, April 01, 2020 @ 11:50 AM | By Amanda Jerome

The COVID-19 pandemic has inspired an articling student in Toronto to launch an initiative to bring lawyers and innovators together to collaborate on legal tech systems that can continue to function during a crisis.

As the pandemic increased in severity, Egi Troka, who graduated from Queen’s University in 2019, said she watched as “courts started to close down” and the legal system tried to “figure out a way for people to file claims online.”

She noted that some progress has been made by the courts during this time, but there are “still many other issues” and firms are struggling to manage a remote workforce while also making sure “clients rights aren’t at risk.”

Egi Troka, articling student

Troka launched Innovate Law, a dedicated online community for legal professionals and lawyers to discuss and collaborate on legal tech solutions, on March 30.

Troka was inspired by the legal community’s discussions online across North America, as well as Queen’s Conflict Analytics Lab and Cat Moon, the director of innovation design at Vanderbilt University Law School’s program on law and innovation in Nashville, Tenn.

She noticed that lawyers all over North America were voicing their concerns with the crisis and its impact on the justice system on Twitter and that Moon had created an online form for people interested in collaborating on a solution for specific areas of law.

“I thought, ‘hey, why don’t we have a Canadian version of that,’ ” Troka explained of the inspiration behind Innovate Law’s mission.

“I know in Canada there are a bunch of legal organizations, like the LSO [Law Society of Ontario] and The Advocates’ Society ... grouped together and are working with the courts to monitor these issues,” she said, noting that after reading about the different issues lawyers were facing online she broke down her initiative’s mission into three categories.

According to the website, the categories are: “the day-to-day practice of law as it impacts lawyers and law firms;” the “delivery of legal services to clients and third parties;” and “the legal system — courts, government systems and the public (i.e. access to justice).”

“The way I saw it, there was the ‘day-to-day practice of law,’ so how law firms are trying to facilitate the practice and what they have to do on their end in terms of bringing all the lawyers online and ensuring that everything is now digital,” Troka explained.

“The second category was the ‘delivery of legal services to clients and third parties,’ and that is maintaining that client contact. Before this happened we would use a lot of runners or third parties to file documents in the court, but of course now because of the crisis they’re not working, so we have to come up with other solutions, like e-mailing the other counsel the documents,” she said, “and finding more ways, using Zoom or other technologies, to communicate with each other.”

“The last area that I saw had issues was the legal system itself, so the courts and the government. They don’t really have a system, for let’s say two lawyers on opposing sides to submit their evidence into court and to really communicate with the judge as well. Right now they just have a simple e-mail that you send it to, and of course that’s fine now, but I see it as a Band-Aid solution and eventually the courts are going to get backlogged and they need a system that’s more robust,” she added.

Troka said her “solution was to create an online community of lawyers and other [innovators] to tackle these issues.”

“Right now my goal is to get as many interested people in the different areas as I can,” she said, noting that people can use the site to collaborate on legal tech solutions or address a “knowledge gap” on what tech already exists that can be harnessed at this time.

Troka’s two main goals with the site are “to have lawyers and other people become aware of the solutions that exist out there and potentially use them for themselves” and “to have people collaborate and create their own legal solutions that may help the practice as a whole.”

“It’s important for us to use this time wisely to come up with innovative solutions that will actually make a difference and not just really see this as a temporary period and then go back to our old ways. I think it’s important to use this time to push change forward rather than seeing it as a temporary solution,” she stressed.

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