Suffolk Legal Innovation and Technology Lab Named Finalist for World Justice Challenge

Innovative access to justice mobile game to be showcased at The Hague.

Suffolk Legal Innovation and Technology Lab Named Finalist for World Justice Challenge

Billions of people do not have the benefit of legal assistance in matters that can wreak havoc on their lives. Good ideas to solve that problem are hard to come by. That’s one of the reasons the World Justice Project (WJP), a non-profit founded by William H. Neukom (Microsoft’s lead legal counsel for 25 years), is showcasing innovations that can improve access to justice.

On April 29, at The Hague, the WJP Forum will feature Suffolk Law’s Legal Innovation & Technology (LIT) Lab’s project, an online, mobile crowdsourcing game called Learned Hands. The LIT Lab, directed by David Colarusso, has partnered with Stanford’s Legal Design Lab to create the Learned Hands game, and the Pew Charitable Trusts is funding the effort.

The Learned Hands game is one of only 30 projects from around the world that will be showcased at the event.

How can a game help access to justice?

The game asks people to label thousands of legal questions posed by the public. An example: “I got kicked out of my apartment because of my dog. What can I do?” A human would understand the meaning of “kicked out,” says Colarusso, but machines generally need to be trained to understand that the person actually was seeking information about eviction law. Players label the questions, assigning them to specific areas of the law, from housing to family law to bankruptcy.

People seeking online information for real legal challenges generally end up with search results that are irrelevant and unhelpful, says Colarusso. And many people don’t realize that the questions they have are actually legal matters. Internet searches generally don’t help because machines struggle to understand the context of human speech. Learned Hands helps address that problem.

Through Learned Hands, crowdsourced labels provided by the game’s players will teach an artificial intelligence (AI) tool to spot fact patterns. Lots of correct labels will improve the results of online searches—and thus the legal advice that’s available to everyone on the web.

The game’s name plays off the oft-quoted legal scholar Learned Hand, who served on the United States Court of Appeals in the mid-20th century and the fact that many hands make light work.

Once AI tools are developed that better understand humans’ legal questions, the long-term goal is to connect low- and moderate-income people with the legal services they need, be it an attorney in the right practice area or relevant resources on a court’s website, says Colarusso. The tool is laying the foundation for a world where people can find resources that are appropriate to their jurisdiction, issue-specific, and immediately helpful, he adds.

When building these tools, it’s important to ask if they’re an improvement over the existing solution, Colarusso says, adding that for too many seeking legal advice, the existing solution is no help at all. “Our goal is not to build a robot lawyer, but to develop tools that can help the public better navigate their legal issues.”


Michael Fisch
Office of Public Affairs

Greg Gatlin
Office of Public Affairs