Big data, technology and unprecedented connectivity are providing the legal profession with new avenues for the delivery of services. While many assume these tools are making justice more accessible, it hasn’t played out that way, April Faith-Slaker explained.
Each year, tens of millions of legal problems arise in low- and moderate-income households. Yet most of these problems don’t make it to a lawyer or court. What role might empirical research play in identifying routes to transformative change around a shared agenda for inclusion, justice and a healthy legal profession?
Faith-Slaker urged improved collaboration between legal researchers and the profession. New technology alone will not address access to justice inequities, she said. To enact systemic change, the legal profession must acknowledge that academic legal research and lawyering should work together. Only then can important research findings be quickly translated into meaningful changes in the practice of law.
April Faith-Slaker is the associate director of research innovations at Harvard Law School’s Access to Justice Lab. In this role, she conducts rigorous empirical research on access to justice issues in the criminal and civil arenas.
Prior to the Lab, April served as the director of the Resource Center for Access to Justice Initiatives at the American Bar Association. At the ABA, she supported the creation and expansion of state access to justice commissions and conducted research on pro bono legal services. Earlier in her career, she served as a program evaluator at Legal Aid of Nebraska, conducted research under a court improvement project at the University of Nebraska’s Center on Children, Families and the Law, and researched the use of the social sciences in the juvenile justice system at Northwestern University. April served as managing editor for the Political and Legal Anthropology Review from 2007-2016.