Rechtwijzer 2.0 ( Rechtwijzer meaning ‘conflict resolution guide’ or ‘signpost to justice’) was launched by the Hague Institute for Innovation of Law (HiiL ‘user friendly justice’) with the support of the Dutch Legal Aid Board and Mondria in October 2014 as an online dispute resolution platform [Barlow and Ewing, 2018 p.181; OECD, 2020 p46; Stanford Legal Design Lab]. The tool was for couples who were divorcing and involved in separation proceedings and translated as ‘roadmap to justice’ [Capturing Technological Innovation in Legal Services, 2017. p63]. It was originally rolled in two versions, the first gave users tailored advice and referrals and the second provided online dispute resolution [OECD, 2020 p46]. The platform encouraged ‘self-help, early intervention and mediated settlement in preference to recourse to lawyers and the courts’ and handled around 700 divorces yearly. [Smith and Paterson, 2014. p62; Matlack, 2016]
Rechtwijzer 2.0 operated using algorithms to find points of agreement between couples who had been asked questions, proposing solutions in an attempt to facilitate amicable resolution [The Law Society of England and Wales, 2017. p63]. The tool allowed users to manage the divorce from their own home, with their own words, at their own pace [The Law Society of England and Wales, 2017. p63]. Crucially, it was designed to increase the number of settlements which could be presented to the courts for approval. [Smith, 2019. p22]
The aim of the project was to generate revenue through user payments from private litigators and contributions for legally aided parties [Smith, 2019. p22]. However, it ultimately became financially unsustainable for the private sector and was brought to an end in July 2017 [OECD, 2020 p46]. Even at its inception Rechtwijzer required significant investment, costing €2.3 million alone at start up [Smith and Paterson, 2014. p59]. The platform did not reach as many users as hoped, handling just 1% of all divorces in the Netherlands [OECD, 2020. p46]. A previous worker at HiiL, Cory Van Zeeland, believed that the platform was hindered by poor marketing as well as the underestimation that advice is needed at both an early stage and throughout the process [Hynes, 2017. p7]. Another issue appears to have been that users did not want to fund any solutions provided for in the platform themselves [OECD, 2020. p46]. The failings of Rechwijzer 2.0 were largely commercial in nature and derived from the need to produce revenue. The basic premise of the product worked well it just needed much more investment and time to market the product. If a government is totally committed and willing to fund a tool such as this, then it can provide great benefit to couples seeking divorce and support the family courts to deal with such cases more quickly and efficiently.
With the previous failings in mind, Justice42 replaced Rechtwijzer in September 2017 and similarly uses problem diagnosis through question and answers, problem solving, assisted negotiation and online alternative dispute resolution if necessary. [Anderson, 2019. p133]. This allows the whole divorce to be arranged online and at a set price [OECD Publishing, 2020 p46]. The key change is that it is much more of a hybrid system, with a group of case managers who offer ‘assistance, comfort and support when needed’ [SI2 Fund]. The failings of Rechwitjzer 2.0 indicate that technology is not the ‘silver bullet’ in addressing access to justice issues. Instead, at least for now human interaction is necessary where legal issues involve difficult and emotional issues that require a great deal of support.
This new platform is still supported by the Dutch Legal Aid Board but is now funded by social impact investors [Barlow and Ewing, 2018. p181]. It is different to a traditional legal service, instead of lawyers fighting for their clients, ‘the couples themselves are guided through mediation that aims to provide the best solution for the couple and their children. This is a change in dispute resolution which addresses important societal problems and lowers costs’ [SI2 Fund]. For those eligible for legal aid the cost of the platform is just 36 euros, for the full un-subsidised price it costs 450 euros [Smith, 2020]. With the average divorce in the Netherlands costing between 3-4000 euros, this offers a significant cost saving for users [Smith, 2020].
- Anderson, Dorcas Quek, ‘The convergence of ADR and ODR within the courts: the impact on access to justice’ Civil Justice Quarterly (2019) 38(1)
- Barlow Anne, and Ewing, Jane, ‘Creating paths to family justice: online dispute resolution processes and the access to justice gap’ (2018) Fam Law 181
- Hynes, Steve, ‘Digital Law Crashes out.. for now’ (2017) The New Law Journal 167
- Matlack, Carol (2016) ‘Robots Are Taking Divorce Lawyers’ Jobs, Too’.Bloomberg Businessweek, July 1, 2016. https://bol.bna.com/robots-are-taking-divorce-lawyers-jobs-too/ (Date Accessed: 10/05/2020)
- OECD, Justice Transformation in Portugal: Building on Successes and Challenges (OECD Publishing, 2020)
- SI2 Fund, ‘Justice42’ http://www.si2fund.com/portfolio/justice42/ (Date Accessed: 10/05/2020)
- Smith, R and Paterson, A, ‘Face to Face Legal Services and their Alternatives: Global Lessons from the Digital Revolution’ (2014) White Report
- Smith, Roger, ‘The Digital Delivery of Legal Services to people on low incomes’ (2019) Annual Report Summer 2019
- Smith, Roger, ‘The Rechtwijzer rises from the ashes: an interview with Laura Kistemaker of Justice42’ February 2020 https://law-tech-a2j.org/odr/the-rechtwijzer-rises-from-the-ashes-an-interview-with-laura-kistemaker-of-justice42/ (Date Accessed: 10/05/2020)
- Stanford Legal Design Lab, ‘The Rechtwijzer Justice Platform’ https://justiceinnovation.law.stanford.edu/rechtwijzer-justice-platform/#:~:text=The%20Dutch%20Legal%20Aid%20Board%20has%20one%20of%20the%20most,or%20’signpost%20to%20justice’. (Date accessed: 02/07/2020)
- The Law Society of England and Wales, Capturing Technological Innovation in Legal Services (2017)
- The technology of access to justice: Rechtwijzer 2.0 https://www.hiil.org/news/the-technology-of-access-to-justice-rechtwijzer-2-0/