The Drake Equation for Access to Justice

How can technology and data-driven initiatives best integrate with the local and statewide justice systems in Florida? How do we know that the resources we create are providing the assistance they’re designed to deliver? Those questions are at the heart of everything we do, so we’ve developed a framework to measure and quantify the “success” of online access to justice projects.

To do that, FJTC partnered with organizations nationwide to create a tailored version of The Drake Equation, a scientific formula designed to calculate the number of intelligent civilizations living within the Milky Way Galaxy.

First proposed by radio astronomer Frank Drake in 1961, the equation multiplies seven variables to calculate the probable number of intelligent civilizations in the universe. Although many of these variables (for instance, fi ,The fraction of life-bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges) cannot be estimated with any degree of accuracy right now, the equation has served as a focus point for research and conversations for more than 50 years.

Through the work of a national steering committee, we’ve created a set of five variables that we believe can serve a similar purpose to measure and benchmark online A2J projects. This Drake Equation for A2J is specifically designed to measure projects that are difficult to quantify.

By building on this common framework, we can improve our ability to estimate the impact our projects have on access to justice.

Resources for Practitioners

LSNTAP Webinar (02/19) Video Replay Coming Soon!
An Easy(ish) Measurement Framework: The Drake Equation for Online A2J Resources
What does measuring the effectiveness of A2J technology have to do with the search for extraterrestrial civilizations? They’re both topics that are difficult to quantify but benefit from a framework that a whole community can use to inform research and make educated guesses. In this session, we’ll look at the recent work to apply the Drake Equation (originally created by Frank Drake to calculate the likelihood of extraterrestrial intelligence) to the A2J community– which was funded by LSC, FJTC, and IALS with support from Pew, RAND, the Harvard A2J Lab, and others. We’ll walk through a summary, examples of how to apply it, and a worksheet that you can use to adapt the Framework to your own project.

Short Video Overview of the Drake Equation for A2J
In this 6-minute Rapid Fire overview presented at the Legal Service Corporation’s Innovative Technology Conference, Laura Quinn provides an overview and example of the Drake Equation for A2J.

Worksheet for Applying Drake to Your Own Project
This worksheet – still in a “draft” state while it’s field tested on a few projects—provides a template and examples to help you think through the Drake variables for your own project.

Resources for Researchers

Measuring Online Legal Resources: A Framework Inspired by the Drake Equation, February, 2018
A summary of the original set of research outlining the ideals behind the project, useful to those who want to know not just what the framework is but how it was designed

Update from the Drake Equation Steering Committee, November 2018
Overview of the work that was done between February and November, lessons learned, and how the framework was updated.

Project Partners

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