When I got the email, I was beyond excited. I felt like I just gotten the golden ticket because I was one of eight students who would represent OU Law at the 2019 American Bar Association Techshow in Chicago, Illinois with Professor Brice, Director of Innovation and Technology.
I work in the OU Legal Clinic, where a majority of our civil cases involve family law matters for low income clients. The work comes with the some of the best rewards. But it also comes with some daunting challenges—especially when funds are tight. With my passion for family law as a focal point, my mission at Techshow was to see how emerging technology can better assist and serve low income clients. To my surprise, I accomplished this mission with ease.
In divorce and custody cases, communication between the parties is often strained and disjointed, but it is one of the most important elements of being able to effectively co-parent and nurture the best interests of the children. While there are established platforms out there that provide a variety of ways to help facilitate communication between parents, the cost incurredin using these programs can prove problematic for parties who already cannot comfortably afford to pay for legal services. In the past, I have mentioned these services to my clients, and, while they seemed interested in the concept, they were more concerned about the expense and whether the other parent could afford it or would even be willing to use it.
As I walked through “Start Up Ally” at Techshow, I stumbled upon OurChildInfo.com (OCI). This private and secure website was created by Aaron Carine, a family law attorney from Illinois who was exasperated with the self-destructive behaviors of his clients when it came to communication. Carine’s website offers some of the same advantages of other communication-centered websites, but at a fraction of the price. With this website, there will be no more “lost phones” or “deleted messages”. No more constant struggle of getting clients to print out, line by line, their communications with the other party. Nothing can be deleted, and everything is timestamped with date and author. Clients can even post documents and photographs. Almost immediately after the demonstration, I fell in love. This website was a potential solution to a daily problem plaguing my clients going through divorce and custody battles! And it costs only $7.50 a month for the first parent who signs up, with the second parent getting free access.
Within two weeks of returning to Oklahoma after three enlightening days in Chicago, I was able to implement some of this fantastic legal technology that I had discovered. Soon after my return, I was counseling a client who is struggling to co-parent effectively due to toxic communication habits. After trying, admittedly in vain, to explain the various apps that allow users to screenshot texts and give some instructions on how to work a printer, I told her about OCI. Once she understood, she was so excited to finally block her ex and refer him to this affordable new communication tool. Seeing how this client responded to the program makes me even more excited to spread that excitement and peace-of-mind to my other clients.
It was an honor to attend the 2019 ABA Techshow. The experience has reinforced my belief that all law schools and firms should be open to new and emerging technology, andembrace the ways that these programs help make the practice of law more efficient and cost effective. But, more importantly, the legal community should adopt these programs for their ability to help us serve the clients who need us most.
Tommy Pfeil, 2L