How a Law Student Used #LegalTech to Make the "Insanely Confusing Path to Legal Immigration" Insanely Four Hours

Posted over 5 years ago

How a Law Student Used #LegalTech to Make the "Insanely Confusing Path to Legal Immigration" Insanely Four Hours

Two years ago, the Washington Post published a flowchart that showed the "insanely confusing path to legal immigration."  The chart (or, more accurately, the law underlying the chart) is a mess.  It's a maze of curving and nesting lines and bubbles that is nearly impossible to follow. Looking at it, one would have to wonder how anyone - let alone an unrepresented person - could realistically hope to comply.


Fast forward two years and enter Maddy McCormick, a rising 2L at Suffolk Law School. With no background in computer science and just a few hours of time to work on it wedged between her summer judicial internship, law review write-on competition, and home life, Maddy solved the problem. She used free expert system software, called QnAMarkup (created as an open source project by a remarkable Massachusetts public defender, David Colarusso) and reduced that bear-of-a-flowchart to a string of easy-to-answer questions.  Anyone can follow it, now. 


Click here to see Maddy's project simplifying the "insanity."


When you see how simply Maddy re-defined the formerly complex flowchart, you might ask: how long did all of this take her?  The answer: four hours. And that's not just coding time, that's the total for her to teach herself to use QnAMarkup, build the system, then debug it.  


The end result: the same problem the Washington Post labeled as intractable a few hundred days ago was solved in a few hours of spare time by an enterprising law student.


Maddy, of course, is only part of this story. The availability of easy-to-use, tech-driven, smart tools is taking off. What Maddy did, others could do as well for issues that arise in their corners of law practice or legal education. The ability to make difficult problems simple grows greater every day. Maddy's work, built on David's platform, should serve as inspiration for all of us to look for ways to harness technology to do far more, in far less time and, ultimately, achieve far better results.



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