New Zealand Law Society - University of Otago animates the law

University of Otago animates the law

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The Otago Legal Issues Centre has teamed up with the Auckland Community Law Centre to develop a series of animated videos that explain common legal terms and situations for the general public.

The colourful, short-animations are aimed at people who are having difficulty accessing information about the process of bringing or responding to a civil dispute.

“The idea came out of my thesis research on litigants in person in the civil courts,” says Dr Bridgette Toy-Cronin, Director of the University of Otago Legal Issues Centre.

“That research found that people often struggle to understand the procedure and terminology used in court. The lack of understanding can make the process feel hostile and alienating, so these videos aim to help bridge the gap.”

Using Dr Toy-Cronin’s thesis research, the project traced the experience of people litigating in person from deciding to proceed in person, finding support, through to filing, negotiating, and litigating in court.

“The videos are designed to follow this process and explain concepts or processes that the research identified were difficult for people to follow,” says Dr Toy-Cronin.

The videos' animations were designed by University of Otago Arts and Media student, Jacinda Kumar with the scripts shaped by Otago LLB student Bayden Harris. The whole project was overseen by the Legal Issues Centre’s Post-Doctoral Fellow, Dr Bridget Irvine.

The videos currently available are the first group in a series.

“These [following series] will be on 'preparing for court', 'going to court' 'understanding settlement' and cover topics such as ‘what is an interlocutory’ and ‘what to wear and take to court’.”

The project organisers are keen to have the legal profession’s feedback and any suggestions for future topics.

“If lay people (whether represented or not) better understand the Court system, then the whole process runs more smoothly and that is good for all the users of the legal system.”

The animated videos can also be used as a resource that lawyers can refer their clients or opposing litigants in person to.

“We hope that the videos will be helpful to both clients of lawyers and litigants in person.”