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Something’s Fishy . . .

Pregnant women want to make sure they are taking every possible prenatal precaution to ensure their children’s healthy development. Although “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” has both helped–and daunted–soon-to-be mothers over the years, doctors still advise them using evidence-based practices derived from rigorous medical testing and a culture of experimentation. The intended result is less adherence to urban legends and more confidence about prenatal health choices.

draftfishoil2Well, sort of. For years, obstetricians told women to take fish oil during their pregnancies. A key ingredient in fish oil is docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, which is considered integral to cognitive development. The logic was simple: mother takes fish oil, baby receives more DHA, and baby’s IQ rises! The plan sounded remarkably easy, and several observational studies touted its benefits. After all, who wouldn’t want to ensure their child’s acceptance to an elite university just by taking a pill?

You’ve Been Served

Who doesn’t love a great flowchart?! We at the A2J Lab certainly do. A few weeks ago, I posted about service of process in guardianship cases, illustrating via a (frankly overwhelming) diagram just how complicated the process is in the Boston area. Properly serving potentially interested parties is an important step in the petition process that is often glossed over. In fact, many petitioners often assume that filing the petition is all they have to do before showing up to court. But this disregards the essential notice that needs to be communicated in the meantime. When a legal issue is both overlooked and complex, we consider it ripe for innovation and evaluation in the name of access to justice.

Student Series: Active vs. Passive Intake

Students may be on spring break right now, but our Student Series is still here! There are over forty students working with the Lab on several projects, and so far the Student Series have brought you posts by students on different teams within the Financial Distress Research Project (FDRP). This week we hear from 2L Joe Breen, who has been constructing initial mailings to send to small claims court debt collection defendants to persuade them to answer their lawsuits and inquire about the FDRP study. The outreach directs people to legal help that’s available in the courthouse, offered by legal services providers. Joe discusses below an essential component of legal services organizations; intake and outreach. Not only have we written about these issues and how they relate to triage in our own blog posts, but our Faculty Director wrote an article on the specific issue Joe brings up below; the difference between active and passive structures of intake.

The A2J Lab Hits the Conference Circuit

A dispatch from Sophie, Chris & Erika

Over the last month, the A2J Lab decamped from snowy Boston to the rainy climes of Portland, OR for the National Association for Court Management (NACM) Midyear Meeting and blustery San Francisco for the first stand-alone Self-Represented Litigation Network (SRLN) conference. The former gathered court administrators from around the country to improve the public’s trust and confidence in the judiciary–a goal near and dear to the Lab. The latter opened with a keynote from Judge Lisa Foster, former Director of the DOJ Office for Access to Justice. She encouraged attendees to “create, innovate, [and] demonstrate” over two full days of discussions, research panels, and workshops regarding critical SRL issues. 

Student Series: Deciphering Credit Reports

Students have been hard at work this semester to continue to develop, test, and improve self-help materials that are part of the Lab’s Financial Distress Research Project (FDRP). There are over 4o students working with the Lab on projects, and within FDRP several student teams are tackling specific tasks such as bankruptcy form instructions, debt management, and applying for fee waivers. We have students figuring out the legal details of these forms as well as constructing the best designs to translate complicated information to a self-represented litigant. If you’ve been following our blog you’ve read about some of the challenges that arise along the way as students try to make legal information and forms comprehensible.

This week, we hear from Alina Wattenberg, a 3L working on credit card debt self-help packets.

The A2J Lab’s First Hackathon

Jack Frost’s Boston relative might have covered the city in snow and forced several flight cancellations, but the A2J Lab pushed through with its first “hackathon” on Monday, February 13! Thanks to videoconferencing and collaborative technology–not to mention the dedication of expert colleagues–we assembled an energizing mix of Lab staff, designers, UX experts, behavioralists, lawyers, and, most importantly, a former guardianship client. Their charge was simple: brainstorm designs for self-help materials applicable to service of process in Massachusetts guardianship matters.

The A2J Lab’s YouTube Debut

The A2J Lab is committed to producing rigorous empirical evidence to support effective innovation in legal services. We also are part of a movement to transform the legal profession into one that values–and embraces–evidence-based approaches to narrowing the justice gap. In addition to our field operations, national presentations, and published papers, the A2J Lab recently hosted its first hackathon. On the snowy morning of February 13, we brought together a fantastic mix of expert, creative minds to develop self-help materials for our guardianship service of process study. 

directorscutIn another first, we are pleased to introduce our YouTube channel!

Guardianship, Service of Process, and A2J

guardinashipdraftBLOGFrom filing a petition to showing up for your first hearing, here is how you get a Minor Guardianship case started in Massachusetts.

That’s right, this diagram is just about service of process, or the steps necessary to just get the case, which can last several months, started. This diagram isn’t necessarily 100% correct either. Depending on the jurisdiction or the judge, certain types of service may be accepted with less paperwork or proof than others. Sometimes if litigants file a regular petition for guardianship after filing for temporary or emergency guardianship they must go through the service of process steps a second time. 

Student Series: Taking on Hospital Debt

As the week gets started, here’s another taste of what students working on one of the A2J Lab’s signature study, the Financial Distress Research Project, are doing. The students who have been blogging thus far have talked about their experiences in Small Claims Court as well as tackling self-help materials for complicated bankruptcy forms. And those aren’t the only two focus areas of the project; students are also entering more uncharted territory, trying their hand at creating self-help materials for hospital debt.

Today, we’ll hear from 2L Rachel Finkel, who works on the Hospital Debt team of the Financial Distress Research Project.

Student Series: Show Me Your Proof

If you’ve been following our student series, you’ve learned a bit about the math involved in filling out bankruptcy forms, the complicated world of wildcard exemptions, and the reality of Small Claims Court for many defendants. Students are tackling all of these issues as part of student teams working on the Lab’s Financial Distress Research Project, creating self-help materials and legal briefs for small claims cases and bankruptcy filings.

This week, Lauren Mercer brings us back to Small Claims Court to talk about how defendants should ask for, and then evaluate, plaintiffs’ evidence.