This week‘s Legal Innovator: Matthew Stubenberg
This week, we’re happy to spotlight the work of Maryland lawyer Matthew Stubenberg, to bridge technology development with access to justice. Matthew graduated from Maryland Law School in 2013 and quickly moved into developing legal technology alongside his public service.
He’s currently the IT Director at the Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service. His current focus is on building web scrapers and developing algorithms to help identify legal issues among people.
How did you get interested in ‘doing law differently’?
In law school I was part of the criminal record expungement clinic. I found it rewarding but the process took a long time. We were basically just copying information from the Court's website to a form.
I realized this process could be entirely automated and created www.MDExpungement.com. While building it, I discovered we could go even further and make determinations as to whether a case was eligible for expungement. Ever since then I have been trying to streamline and automate as many legal tasks as possible.
If we gave you $5 million to help your work, what would you do with it?
I would create an independent team of legal tech programmers who's mission would be to automate and streamline as many legal processes as possible.
There is a lot of low hanging fruit in the legal tech sector.
However, there is no quick and easy way to create these programs and keep them maintained. A well funded independent group of legal tech programmers would be the best way to develop innovative software quickly and efficiently.
What projects are you working on now?
Right now I'm working on the Client Legal Utility Engine (CLUE) which has two main features. It scrapes case data out of our State's Judiciary website and puts it in a database that can be easily accessed. This has allowed for unprecedented analytics.
The other main feature of CLUE is the ability for it to automatically search different public facing websites for additional legal issues a client may have. For instance if a client applies for our services, we check to see if they have any unpaid property tax, any expunge-able cases, and if they are eligible for certain tax credits. This allows us to give holistic representation.
If you could get trained in some other skillsets, which would you pick?
Most of my programming ability is in mobile app and web development. If I could add a skill I think it would be 3D game development. There are a lot of emerging possibilities with virtual and augmented reality that could apply to legal services.
What should aspiring ‘legal innovators’ be reading?
First, I would recommend everyone keep reading this wonderful publication.
If I had to pick something else, I would say I make an effort to read articles that are purely about technology and not connected to the law. If you're a lawyer, it is very easy to find yourself living in a legal bubble, where everything you read is about the law.
But that isn't how legal tech innovation happens. You have to read about new technology that no one has yet linked to the law.
Lastly, I recommend everyone picks up and reads at least one introduction to programming book. You can try to avoid it for as long as possible but it is a skill that is only going to become more and more relevant. Even if you finish and decide programming is not for you, it is valuable to be able to understand conceptually what software can and can't do.