In Utah, as in much of the country, going to court without a lawyer has become the norm for many litigants. In debt-collection cases, for example, only 1 percent of defendants are represented by lawyers. In eviction cases, just 2 percent of tenants have lawyers.
This fall, a half-dozen or so second- and third-year students at BYU Law School in Provo will step into the role of entrepreneur to design a way to help Utah’s self-represented litigants respond when they are served with a lawsuit. The students will be participants in the inaugural class of LawX, a legal design lab the law school is launching to create products and other solutions to address Utah’s critical gap in access to legal services.
Each semester, the LawX class will take on the goal of solving one legal challenge relating to access to justice. The course will be structured as a design-thinking process, in which students will have fast-paced deadlines and responsibilities similar to those they’d have working in a startup. For the students, the course will be an immersive, hands-on experience that will involve collaboration with students and professors in other departments at BYU.
“We already had a clinic for students to represent entrepreneurs, but what excites me about this is that they’ll be in the shoes of the entrepreneur,” said Kimball D. Parker, the lawyer and entrepreneur who will direct the lab and teach the corresponding course.
LawX is the brainchild of Parker and D. Gordon Smith, dean of BYU Law School. Smith, in his roles both as dean and as a member of the Utah State Bar Commission, had been considering how the law school could help address the state’s A2J problem. One day last year, he sat in on a talk by Margaret Hagan about the Legal Design Lab she runs as an interdisciplinary program of Stanford Law School and the Stanford Institute of Design.
“That resonated with me,” Smith told me during a recent…