5 Questions with Elan Fields: Will Gideon Break the 80% Gap for Legal Help?

Topics: Access to Justice, Government, Law Firms, Legal Innovation


Elan Fields is the founder of Gideon, which launched in August 2016 and uses artificial intelligence and mobile app technology to improve access to justice. In 2016, Fields had a Social Entrepreneurship at Watson University in Boulder, Colorado, and became a Social Innovation Fellow at StartingBloc, in the greater Los Angeles area, in February 2017. Fields lives in the New York City area.

In May, Fields presented Gideon at CodeX: The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics. “Gideon uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to automate the intake, triage and resource analysis for legal service providers,” described CodeX Executive Director Roland Vogl. “Gideon provides evidence-based legal assistance instantly after performing multi-dimensional analysis.”

Justice Ecosystem asked Elan Fields five questions:

1. What is Gideon and what inspired you to create it?

Elan Fields: Access to justice should be understood as a human right. Yet, we live in a country where there is a fatal disconnect between the laws on the books and access to those laws and their protections.

Increasingly, more people are going into courts self-represented, and far too many of them are losing their homes, their jobs, custody of their children, and are being victimized by discrimination and consumer rights violations due to a lack of legal representation. For millions of Americans, legal representation is cost prohibitive and 80% of those eligible for federally-funded legal aid are unable to get their civil legal needs met.


Elan Fields, founder of Gideon

Upon thorough investigation into these issues, it became evident that the legal industry is failing to keep up with emerging technologies and utilize digital-age resources and tools, leaving law firms and legal aid organizations to rely on inefficient manual processes.

Gideon envisions a world where legal services are democratized, meeting the needs of both the private bar and legal aid providers, as well as the people who need civil representation. We leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence to help lawyers modernize their legal practices, enabling them to operate at their highest quality and capacity and ensure clients get accurate and personalized care. We are here to augment, not replace invaluable in-person resources.

2. Why did you pick the name Gideon?

Elan Fields: Inspired by the Civil Gideon movement and advocating for the right to counsel for civil legal issues, we created Gideon to bridge the justice gap.

3. How does it work?

Elan Fields: Seamlessly integrating with websites, Gideon’s proactive artificial intelligence conducts a personalized intake and data-driven assessment process for consumer-based legal practices. Available 24/7, Gideon engages all online leads in natural language and uses intelligent algorithms to qualify them. Gideon provides lawyers with valuable case insights and an analysis of likely outcomes based on precedent and case law.

We have developed an automated triage system specifically for legal service organizations — directing persons needing legal help to the most appropriate form of assistance. Our system determines eligibility, identifies priority cases for in-house assistance, refers cases to outside private attorneys, and networks appropriate cases with non-legal resources.

4. Who is using it now?

Elan Fields: We are working with several law firms and organizations specializing in tenant rights, consumer rights, employment rights, civil rights and personal injury, and are beta-testing our product in those practice areas. We are in the process of increasing the number of beta users.

5. Where do you want to be in two years, five years or 10 years?

We plan to become an indispensable operational tool for law firms and legal aid organizations across the country. Further, we envision building a consumer-facing version of Gideon to be part of the next generation of online legal marketplaces and lead generation providers.

We will provide a new paradigm for the public to access the eco-system of all existing legal services. Gideon will deliver high-quality and pre-qualified leads directly to the inboxes of lawyers and perform an automatic eligibility analysis for both legal and non-legal intervention, accommodating the needs of all income levels.