As states launch regulatory sandboxes to spark innovations in the access to justice space, they should release parallel “Requests for Startups” to incentivize new Automated Advocate builders to enter the market.
Guidelines on How to Create Requests for Startups for Your State:
States seeking technological innovations to improve access to justice in civil courts should release an open solicitation for startups (nonprofit or for-profit) based on their most urgent legal challenges. Technology incubators and accelerators such as Y Combinator have successfully used Requests for Startups to inspire entrants to consider new markets. An optimal call for startups should be paired with an offering of resources for successful applicants, such as connections to potential end users, membership in a regulatory sandbox, collaboration opportunities with government digital service teams, financial backing, or access to free technology or mentorship.
Every state’s Requests for Startups will look a bit different. Here are steps to take to design a solicitation in your area:
- Collect categories of legal challenges in your state and then prioritize them by urgency. Consider:
- Which legal challenges are faced by the greatest number of people?
- Which legal challenges have a disproportionate impact on people’s overall outcomes?
- Which legal challenges offer a unified market (e.g., have similar laws across counties)?
- Which legal challenges have the highest percentage of pro se (self-represented) litigants?
- Which legal challenges are most unrecognized by people experiencing them?
- What parts of the civil legal field are facing rapid change?
- Where has COVID-19 created new opportunities or urgency?
- Collaborate with entities across the justice system, including nonprofits, universities, clinics, for-profit firms, and government agencies. Ask them to provide color and context to the priority areas. Additionally, ask them:
- What resources or access to insights might you offer to an applicant in this space?
- In what way could you support an applicant over time? Think outside the box. For example, could a government agency offer to make its forms more machine readable, or a law firm offer to make a consultation available pro bono? Could a university offer technology training to applicants who might know the law but need technical skills?
- Write up a teaser about each request, and build these into the Request for Startups. Share what the request is, why it matters, and where an interested potential builder could go to find out more information.
- Use partnerships and media announcements to share the Request for Startups broadly. This is a great moment to create excitement across industries.
Check out this sample of how a Requests for Startups might look for the State of California.