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Boost for New Zealand’s online legal information: Collaborative project receives grant from the New Zealand Law Foundation and Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation

Wednesday 29 January 2020 9:11am

The University of Otago Legal Issues Centre (UOLIC) is establishing an online hub to support the development of online legal information (OLI) in New Zealand. The project has received a boost in the form of an up to $54,000 grant awarded jointly by the New Zealand Law Foundation and the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation.

Ensuring access to high quality OLI is a nationally important endeavour because it is becoming harder for everyday people to afford legal help, and expectations on people to ‘self-help’ their way through disputes are rising. Overseas and local experience suggests that national coordination can help overcome the limited capacity and resources of OLI providers to realize new opportunities.

Opportunities to improve are increasing thanks to more accessible technology and the emergence of new fields such as legal design, which can help New Zealand organizations build on the good existing base of free OLI provided by the community and the public sector.

The project will research international developments and provide common resources that New Zealand OLI providers can draw on when they assess, choose and develop new OLI initiatives. This will help ensure that new OLI developments are based on good evidence and best practice. The OLI Hub will include:

  • information about user-need and solutions developed elsewhere and criteria by which these might be assessed for adoption in New Zealand,
  • potential goals for New Zealand OLI, and measures to assess progress towards these goals, including a common basis for sharing data to understand user needs and behaviours,
  • information about standards and policy considerations such as privacy.

The project forms one of a number of research-based initiatives that the UOLIC is undertaking to address trends concerning the future of access to justice in New Zealand. These trends include the potential introduction of online courts, the need for a more responsive legal services market, and the need to inculcate a concern for access to justice among law students.

“We want to support New Zealand’s resource-starved community legal sector and facilitate collaboration, so we can take advantage of new innovations from fields such as legal design, which try to focus legal systems on the needs of everyday citizens rather than lawyers and other experts. We are grateful that the New Zealand Law Foundation and Borrin Foundation are supporting this project, and look forward to collaborating with others in the OLI sector,” said Dr Bridgette Toy-Cronin, Director of the Legal Issues Centre.

The grant will also help the UOLIC run a New Zealand OLI Forum in mid-2020, after having run the inaugural OLI Forum in July 2019, attended by organisations from the community and public sectors.

For more information about the project, contact:

David Turner
University of Otago Legal Issues Centre

About the University of Otago Legal Issues Centre

The Legal Issues Centre is an interdisciplinary research centre based at the University of Otago’s Faculty of Law. It conducts independent, world-leading research on New Zealand’s civil justice system to enhance access to justice. Its current projects focus on understanding barriers to legal services, and how litigation and the courts might evolve to ensure access to justice in Aotearoa.

About the New Zealand Law Foundation and the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation

The New Zealand Law Foundation (NZLF) – Te Manatū a Ture o Aotearoa – provides grants for legal research, public education on legal matters and legal training. It supports research in the law and develops legal expertise on major and emerging public policy issues through its legal research grants programme, and a variety of Law Scholarships.

The Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation supports legal research, education and scholarship that contributes to its vision of an Aotearoa New Zealand where everyone understands the role and value of the law, and everyone enjoys the protection and opportunity that it provides.

The NZLF and the Borrin Foundation have established a collaborative relationship to fund legal research in New Zealand.