Sample Requests for Startups for the State of California

The California State Bar recently agreed to create a working group to consider a future regulatory sandbox and explore innovative ways to increase access to justice in the state. In preparation for a potential future sandbox, the State Bar of California could use this draft template to issue an access-to-justice-themed open call to technology innovators from around the world.

Sample Instructions to Applicants:

The California justice gap is urgent and affects millions. In a representative survey of Californians as part of a 2019 California Justice Gap Study, more than 55 percent indicated that they had at least one civil legal problem in their household each year, including such issues as access to housing, benefits, custody, and divorce. This finding held true across income levels. The study found that Californians received no or inadequate legal help for 85 percent of their civil legal problems.

The State Bar is open to all potential Automated Advocate solutions. An Automated Advocate is a technology tool that both works on behalf of someone to help them achieve their goal more quickly, affordably, or easily than they otherwise would have by reducing their administrative burden through the use of automation; and uses insights from users’ aggregate experience to advocate for improved functioning of the overall system for everyone.

 The State Bar is especially interested in Automated Advocate tools in the following areas:

  • Access to civil justice during COVID-19: COVID-19 has dramatically changed people’s ability to access safe and in-person court services during the pandemic. Simultaneously, more people than ever are encountering problems that qualify for civil legal help. 
  • Health: More people in California qualify for healthcare coverage and health services than currently access them. This is true across state, federal, and privately-managed medical plans. We need tools to help people understand their civil legal options and advocate for their benefit access.
  • Employment: Individuals across the state need support to know their workplace rights, push back against wage theft and discrimination, and access to unemployment benefits. As unemployment rates hit an all-time high, increasing numbers of people will need assistance navigating their legal options.

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Initial applications should contain a short description of the Automated Advocate tool, its goals, the requested regulatory exceptions, and a completed Automated Advocates Design Principles Rubric. Evaluators will reach out for an in-depth interview with finalists. Evaluators will consider applicants’ adherence to Design Principles for Automated Advocates as well as their potential to increase access to justice in priority areas. Any approved applications will receive immediate support from at least one university legal clinic, access to free or subsidized technology tools, a consultation with the Digital Services Team at the Judicial Council of California, an invitation to a workshop with the working group shaping the potential regulatory sandbox, and a reference letter for potential funders.

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