A Georgetown 3L, Anna Stone, was honored last night as one of three winners of LSAC’s inaugural Justice Innovation Challenge.
The Challenge invited law students from across the country to propose innovative, technology-based solutions in collaboration with a nonprofit legal services organization to address the lack of universal access to justice in the United States. Stone was one of 3 winners selected from over 50 individual submissions and more than a dozen team submissions.
Stone first developed her app during Professor Tanina Rostain’s practicum Civic Tech: Digital Tools and Access to Justice, which culminates in Georgetown’s annual Iron Tech Lawyer competition. Together with her classmates, Stone developed an app to help transgender or gender expansive people in Washington D.C. more easily navigate the legal process to change their names. The app, which won the 2019 Iron Tech Lawyer competition, was developed for Whitman Walker Health Clinic, a community-based nonprofit in Washington D.C. that provides health and wellness services with a special expertise in LGBTQ+ and HIV care.
Responding to the Justice Innovation Challenge, Stone continued her partnership with Whitman Walker to develop a new tool that helps LGBTQ+ clients identify and understand how to address their legal and medical needs. In Stone’s words, the app is designed “to address three access to justice challenges”.
“First, members of the LGBT and non-binary community have unique medical-legal needs that often differ from those of the general population. These needs can include paying for 30 prescription medications related to an HIV diagnosis and changing one's name and gender marker on identity documents.
“Second, because the medical-legal needs of members of the LGBT and non-binary community are unique and complex, addressing them is a highly individualized endeavor that typically requires the assistance of an attorney. . . As a result, these needs are not well-suited to an application format that aims to eliminate the need for an attorney altogether.
“Third, the capacity of LGBT medical and legal service providers to meet all of the community’s needs is limited, particularly by constraints on time and money.”
The app guides users through questions designed to spot medical-legal issues, provides information to teach users about those issues, and invites users to connect with a local legal services organization that can support them. Whitman Walker intends to deploy it this month, including by using the tool in its annual outreach to over 1,200 community members during the enrollment period for Medicare Part D.
Stone developed the app over the summer, user testing with clients while preparing the app for the Challenge rounds. Of more than 60 submissions, 7 semifinalists advanced to a “Shark Tank”-style pitch event in August before a panel of judges that included Kellye Testy, president and CEO of LSAC; Judy Perry Martinez, president of the American Bar Association; James Sandman, president of the Legal Services Corporation; Kristen Sonday, co-founder and COO of Paladin, and Elizabeth Grossman, director of national partnerships and programs for Microsoft Cities Team – Civic Engagement. Three winners were selected. Stone was awarded second place, receiving a prize of $10,000.
The winners were celebrated at an event last night held at the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center in Washington, D.C. The event included remarks from the Justice Innovation Challenge’s founder, Miguel Willis, and David Sterne, President of the legal nonprofit Equal Justice Works. Present at the event were Georgetown Professor Tanina Rostain and the Tech Institute’s Executive Director, Alexandra Givens.
Georgetown will be celebrating more of these projects when it hosts its inaugural Iron Tech Lawyer Invitational on April 17, 2020. More than 20 schools from across the U.S. and internationally are sending student teams to present technology tools and data science solutions they have developed to address civil legal needs. You can read more about the Invitational and Georgetown’s work in this space at irontechlawyer.com.