Sometimes, all it takes to increase access to justice is moving software to the cloud. Consider what it takes to handle a bankruptcy petition pro bono using bankruptcy software.
If you are already a bankruptcy lawyer, it’s no big deal. You just use the software you already own. But there are more consumers who need help than bankruptcy lawyers with time to help them. So there is a need for non-bankruptcy lawyers to help.
But if you are not a bankruptcy lawyer, you will need to figure out how to get bankruptcy software and use it for free.
If you volunteer through an organization, the organization might have bankruptcy software you can use on its computers. That probably isn’t very convenient, and it might not even be an option.
So you’ll have to find bankruptcy software on your own, set it up, and hopefully convince the software vendor to let you use its software for free for this client.
With non-cloud software, that means you have to be using Windows. Most lawyers do, but a decent chunk of solos are Mac users. And you have to install the software, which is not something everyone is willing and able to do. For many lawyers it means persuading an IT admin to help. Then you have to convince the software vendor to let you use the software for free for this client.
It’s not impossible; it’s just really clunky, but slightly less clunky than preparing the petition by hand.
Years ago, I jumped through all those hoops to help two pro bono clients file bankruptcy. I contacted BankruptcyPRO, which was generous enough to let me use its software for free. It all worked out (with the help of an experienced bankruptcy lawyer, who held my hand throughout the process).
Compare that to using NextChapter, the first cloud-based bankruptcy to hit the market. You don’t have to install anything. It doesn’t matter what kind of computer you use. All you need to do is take a few seconds to sign up for an account, then request a pro bono filing waiver. And while I haven’t used it yet, it sure looks great to use.
Fastcase also has TopForm Web, and I expect Fastcase is just as friendly to volunteer lawyers.
Quite apart from the advantages of cloud-based software in general, cloud-based bankruptcy software would have made it so much easier to get started on that first volunteer bankruptcy case. While volunteer lawyers won’t eliminate the access-to-justice gap on their own, the need is still great. Every barrier to lawyers volunteering that we can lower or remove can help get help to more consumers in need. Even something as simple as moving software to the cloud can help with that.