Another Meeting with Probono.net

by Anil Makhijani on May 15, 2008

I have a second meeting with Probono.net in a few days so I have been furiously working to get an online demo and presentation together. After a lot of thought, I have decided to use Google App Engine to host the project. (I will discuss the reason for this decision, and possible implications in later posts). When finished, the demo will be available at http://survv.appspot.org.

Categories: survv.org

Grassroots Web 2.0 Meetup

by Anil Makhijani on May 3, 2008

I went to a Grassroots Web 2.0 meeting at the New York Civil Liberties Union a few days ago.  At the meeting I met a law professor from Brooklyn Law School.  After the meeting I intercepted him at the door and pitched my idea to him.  He promised to talk to some of the legal clinics at Brooklyn Law School about my idea.

After some back and forth between the professor and the Director of Clinical Education at Brooklyn Law School, the professor came back to me and asked:

I am trying to figure out what we might be able to do to advance your efforts.  I can’t figure out the hook yet.

I had to think about this for a second.  What did I want from Brooklyn Law School?  This is how I responded to the email:

Eventually I want to make a website where all Lawyers and all underprivileged clients in the country can meet and help each other.  However, I think that the first step is to make a website that is useful for a small clinic.  Ideally the website will act as database where the clinic can store and search for information about their clients and lawyers.  Once we load this information into the database, we can implement a scheduling system to help the clinic more efficiently allocate its resources.  I think if we can do this successfully, we can generalize the website to serve the broader community.

So what would I want from Brooklyn Law?  I would like a chance to checkout what technology solution they are currently using to manage their lawyer (students and professionals) and client databases.  Hopefully, after analyzing the current solution, I will be able to create a web-based solution that can better serve this purpose.  Eventually, I hope to make this solution general enough so that the website can serve a more general audience.

I strongly believe that this is the best way to make software.  Find a small client who is in the industry, make a product that works for them, and then try to generalize the product so it can benefit a wider audience.

So what is Survv?

by Anil Makhijani on April 21, 2008

So what’s the idea?  This is my elevator pitch:

Survv is a web application that allows underprivileged clients request help for legal issues.  It also allows lawyers to log on and search though these requests and find cases that interest them.  Once a lawyer finds a case, Survv tries to coordinate a meeting between these two parties.

My goal is to make an application that is EXTREMELY simple to use for both lawyers and clients.  I feel that if the application is too complex, I’ll scare off people from using it regularly.  Furthermore, the simpler it is, the more easily I will be able to adapt the application to the needs of individual organizations.

Categories: survv.org

How it all Started

by Anil Makhijani on April 15, 2008

Almost a year and a half ago a few friends and I were chatting over dinner.  One of the dinner guests was a 1L at Harvard Law School, another was studying for his LSAT exam (he is currently at Harvard Law himself), and the last was a technology consultant at Accenture. I was doing research at MIT at the time.  Given the make up of the guests, our conversation naturally progressed to technology within the legal field.  We chatted about everything from legal research to Internet privacy to video conferencing within a courtroom.

Of all of these topics the one that gained the most traction was one about the process in which an underprivileged client goes through to get pro bono legal help.  The process seemed pretty arcane.  Apparently most people find pro bono legal help through community and religious institutions.  Furthermore, it seemed that if a lawyer wanted to find a pro bono case to work on, it would be difficult to find one. Additionally, there is no incentive structure for young lawyers to get involved with pro bono work.  The time pressures of a first year corporate job are tough enough without worrying about filling the ABA’s recommendation for 50 hours of pro bono service a year.

This is when Survv was born.  The dinner party pledged to do something about this problem of matching lawyers with underprivileged clients.  We said we would research the problem and meet again in a few weeks to discuss what we found.

To a cut a long story short, in the last year and a half we have been working hard on solving this problem of matching lawyers with underprivileged clients.  In that time we have worked on a web application called Survv, presented the idea to a number of people, and received some great feedback.  The most valuable conversation we have had was with the great folks at Probono.net.  This organization is a BEAST in this arena.  They have created a number invaluable websites and have helped a large number of underprivileged clients get legal council.  In addition to giving us advice, they also have promised to introduce us to various people in this industry who might be able to help us implement our ideas.

I decided to start this blog for two reasons.  First, I want to discuss the development of the web application that we are developing.  Second, I wanted a place to talk about what legal software is out there on the web, and what this software is doing to help proliferate legal knowledge on the internet.

Categories: Ideas,survv.org
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