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BYU Law and University of Arizona Law Join Forces to Tackle Eviction

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BYU Law and University of Arizona Law Join Forces to Tackle Eviction

A new collaboration between LawX and Innovation for Justice will address legal service gaps in Utah, Arizona and beyond

PR Newswire

PROVO, Utah and TUCSON, Arizona, Aug. 14, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- BYU Law today announced its LawX Legal Design Lab students will join forces with the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law's new Innovation for Justice program to explore solutions to reduce evictions in Utah, Arizona and beyond.

This new project will build upon the initial success of BYU's LawX, which launched in the fall of 2017, and kick-start Innovation for Justice (I4J) at the UA. Both programs exemplify the schools' shared commitment to addressing pressing legal service issues with innovative products and solutions.

Kimball D. Parker, LawX director and president of Parsons Behle Lab, will lead the LawX initiative. The corresponding class at the UA will be led by Stacy Butler, director of the UA's Innovation for Justice program. Both classes focus on improving access to justice with the use of design thinking, systems thinking, technology and interdisciplinary collaboration.

In 2016, Utah averaged 7.61 evictions per day and Pima County, Arizona, where the UA is located, averaged 22.01 evictions per day, according to Eviction Lab. Less than 20 percent of tenants served with an eviction notice come to court, and so viable legal defenses often go unheard.

"Given the sheer volume of evictions in America, we believe this is the right issue for LawX to tackle in its second year, and we welcome collaboration with the University of Arizona Law School," said Gordon Smith, Dean of BYU Law School. "This past year, our LawX students uncovered some sobering statistics on hurdles in the legal system that make it extremely difficult for a non-lawyer to respond to lawsuits, particularly in the areas of debt collection, evictions and divorce. With this legal design lab in a classroom, we are committed to identifying the best possible solutions to help close the gap for people who feel overwhelmed by the legal system. We embrace collaboration with law schools, legal professionals, court officials and service providers to help close the legal services gap one project at a time."

To tackle the overwhelming eviction problem, six LawX students and 12 Innovation for Justice students will utilize a design thinking approach throughout the fall 2018 semester to understand why tenants disengage with the civil legal system, identify innovative approaches to educating and engaging tenants, and develop strategies for delivering possible solutions into the hands of those who need help most.

"Programs like Innovation for Justice and LawX offer important learning experiences for our undergraduate and graduate students. They represent a movement in legal education to adapt and to be more interdisciplinary in how we approach the world," said UA Law Dean Marc Miller. "Students get to take a deep dive into a specific project to produce a community deliverable. They engage with the community and in doing so, begin to understand how their learning can be applied outside of the classroom."

The classes will check in with fellow law students via video conference and will utilize collaboration tools such as Google Docs and Slack to share research insights between classrooms. Depending on findings between both campuses, the collaboration could result in a combined project that can be applied beyond Utah and Arizona borders, or it could result in separate projects that address regional barriers to eviction reduction.

"An eviction can be life-changing to an individual or family, and it can result in homelessness; our research determined that evictions have one of the highest rates of default among those who can't afford an attorney," said Parker. "I am excited to work with Stacy on this project and believe her extensive experience with expanding the reach of civil legal services to those in need will be incredibly valuable."

This collaboration follows last year's inaugural LawX program, which resulted in the creation of SoloSuit, an award-winning software program that helps debtors who cannot afford a lawyer respond to debt collection lawsuits.

"The goals of the Innovation for Justice program are to expose students to the fact that not everyone is able to use the civil legal system as it's designed, and to empower students to close that gap," Butler said. "LawX's focus on reaching people who are not engaging with the civil legal system is critical to making the system work the way it should. I am excited to collaborate with BYU Law and to look across jurisdictions at the problem of eviction and where there's potential for meaningful change. Kimball's experience as a lawyer and legal tech entrepreneur makes him a terrific asset to this collaboration, and having a diverse set of students working together is ideal for teaching legal innovation."

Butler has two decades of experience in community advocacy and expanding the reach of civil legal services for underserved populations. In 2017, she launched Step Up to Justice, a pro bono civil legal center that delivers free legal services to low-income families in Pima County. Parker is a lawyer at Parsons Behle and Latimer and the president of Parsons Behle Lab, the law firm's innovation subsidiary.

For more information about LawX, follow @LawXLab on Twitter or the LawX blog at https://lawxblog.wordpress.com/. For more information on BYU Law, visit http://www.law.byu.edu/.

For more information about University of Arizona Law, visit https://law.arizona.edu/ and follow @uarizonalaw on Twitter and Facebook.

About BYU Law School
Founded in 1971, the J. Reuben Clark Law School (BYU Law) has grown into one of the nation's leading law schools – recognized for innovative research and teaching in social change, transactional design, entrepreneurship, corpus linguistics, criminal justice and religious freedom. The law school has more than 6,000 alumni serving in communities around the world. In its most recent rankings, SoFi ranked BYU Law as the #1 best-value U.S. law school in their 2017 Return on Education Law School Ranking. For more information, visit http://www.law.byu.edu/.

About University of Arizona Law
With a 100-year history of graduating successful lawyers and leaders, the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law is a top-tier law school known for rigorous, individualized teaching, small class sizes, and a close-knit community of about 450 students, all within at a large, top-tier research university. Recent rankings include #6 in Practical Training by National Jurist magazine and #7 Best Law Schools for Avoiding Debt by USA Today College. UA is the first to offer a BA in Law. For more information, visit https://law.arizona.edu/.

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SOURCE BYU Law; University of Arizona Law

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