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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

UC Davis Law student wins international competition for app that assists domestic abuse survivors

Alison Corn’s “Next Steps Advisor” app highlights UC Davis Law School’s emphasis on equal access to justice 

UC Davis Law Student Alison Corn was recently awarded a second place prize at the International Iron Tech Lawyer Invitational for her innovative app assisting domestic abuse survivors, according to the UC Davis School of Law.

Corn’s experience in legal clinics and access to justice courses provided through the UC Davis Law School paired with her graphic design background served as the inspiration for her web application. She specifically mentioned her work with the UC Davis Law School’s Family Violence Prevention Clinic.

“My second year of law school, we worked at a clinic in the self help clinic at the Yolo County Superior Courthouse,” Corn said. “People come in when they need help with something, but don’t have a lawyer. Specifically, we worked with people who wanted to file a domestic violence restraining order.”

The “Next Steps Advisor” web application is designed to provide step-by-step instructions for clients at the Yolo County Superior Court filing domestic violence claims and restraining orders. With such a complicated process, a case-specific app may prevent clients from feeling lost and confused during an already stressful situation, Corn explained.

“It is just insanely difficult for folks who are in stressful, often intense and dangerous situations to not only have to complete this packet of information on their own, but complete them under their circumstances,” she said. “I saw this need for an app or resource to tell people exactly what their next steps were, specific to their case, not just a generic handout.”

The information on the Next Steps Advisor app is specific to Yolo County. For example, one procedural step in filing a restraining order is using the Sheriff’s department to deliver the restraining order. Corn’s app provides detailed directions to the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office and clarifies the process for the user.

The Next Steps Advisor app can be translated into Spanish to accommodate a wider range of users. 

“It can be super intimidating, especially for people who come from vulnerable situations or even vulnerable communities themselves,” Corn said. “A lot of the clients that we worked with, English was not their first language.” 

Diana Glick, a law adjunct professor at UC Davis, helped Corn translate the app into Spanish so that it became “a tool that reaches out to more people in Yolo County,” she explained.

Glick also served as Corn’s academic mentor for the Iron Tech Lawyer Invitational competition.

“My role as an academic mentor in Alison’s project was to serve as a sounding board for her project,” Glick said. 

She offered legal and procedural accuracy to Corn’s app based on experiences that both she and Corn observed in the Yolo County courts. 

Glick teaches a course at the law school that focuses on access to justice and barriers to legal representation such as financial, language, disability and more —  topics all addressed through Corn’s project.

“UC Davis law school is very committed to access to justice issues, evidenced by their support for this class and their support for Alison’s project,” Glick said. “The students who I’ve interacted with have really inspired me.”

The Iron Tech Lawyer Invitational is an international competition highlighting law students’ efforts to address justice accessibility through technological solutions. Corn’s “Next Steps Advisor” app was the only U.S. finalist.

Corn’s second place award in the Iron Tech Lawyer Invitational included $2,500 to be donated to the Yolo County Court, according to the UC Davis Law School Website. With these funds, Corn expects the app to be expanded to other court cases and users. 

Written by: Hannah Blome — campus@theaggie.org


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