Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2019




For legal technologists, apps raise the prospect of putting the law in the hands of disadvantaged people who feel powerless to deal with their legal problems. These aspirations are heartening, but they rest on unrealistic assumptions about how people living in poverty deal with legal problems. People who are poor very rarely resort to the law to solve their problems. In the situations when they do seek solutions, they confront educational and material impediments to finding, understanding, and using online legal tools effectively. Literacy is a significant barrier. More than 15 percent of all adults living in the United States are functionally illiterate, meaning that, at best, they read at the fourth-grade level. Inadequate access to the Internet and limited research skills compound the challenges. To reach people from marginalized groups, access-to-justice technologies need to be integrated with human assistance.

Publication Citation

Daedalus, Vol. 148, Issue 1, Pp.93-97.