Felix Hall - Computer Science
Leidi Peng - Laws / Commerce (Finance)
Nelson Prichard - Politics, Philosophy and Economics
Grace Beattie - Laws / Science (Psychology)
The initial stage of problem research was reaching out to a variety of legal professionals (including an ex Family Court judge, current barristers and in house lawyers at large international companies). Interviews with each of these experts yielded interesting insights about various problems facing law. Many of them mentioned the stress and mental health issues resulting from the heavy workload, although some said that there was a lot being done to help them within this space.
Another common problem we heard was difficulties with self-represented litigants (SRLs). We heard that they struggle to prepare for court because they do not know where to find the right information, they do not understand court procedure and can be very emotional, at the expense of preparing a persuasive case. The consequences of this are neatly summarised by LawRight:
- Disadvantage to the self-represented litigant;
Dewar, J., Smith, B.W., Banks, C., (2000) Family Court of Australia, Litigants in Person in the Family Court of Australia, pg. 52 **
The lawyers we spoke to noted that SRLs make trials more drawn out and emotionally volatile, which means that the judge and opposing counsel have to support them through the trial process while trying to ensure a fair trial. The Queensland Law Society even published a memo called "Dealing with Self-represented Litigants," which outlines the difficulties of providing procedural guidance to the opposing party in a matter while avoiding a conflict with your own client's interests.
We identified three main issues with SRLs' engagement with the legal system: