Guide offers insight into using court chatbots to expand access to justice

Chatbots can be an effective tool for improving access to services and efficiency in court operations. In the National Center for State Court’s new guide, “Court Chatbots: How to Build a Great Chatbot for Your Court’s Website,” the team explains how this computer software works and explores ways courts can use them to expand access.

“We know chatbots can provide great benefits to both the public and the court. However, we want to encourage courts to plan well and adequately support chatbots to ensure they are effective,” said NCSC Court Management Consultant Aubrie Souza, lead author of the new guide.

Today, one can find chatbots helping court users in Arizona, Los Angeles, and Miami answer frequently asked questions and provide information about navigating the court website and finding resources. Users interact with the chatbots via a menu or free text. In some cases, chatbots communicate with users in multiple languages.

The guide breaks down chatbot basics and identifies key areas to address when considering a solution for your court. It also covers important topics such as distinguishing between providing legal advice and legal information (Tiny Chat 26) and addressing digital divide concerns (Tiny Chat 4). The guide emphasizes that while a chatbot can help lessen the workload caused by phone calls, emails, live chats, and in-person visitors, it should supplement, not replace, staff.

Recommendations for building a good chatbot include:

• Secure a vendor contract that addresses responsibilities such as maintenance, updates, security, data ownership and troubleshooting.

• Make the chatbot accessible by using plain language and text, colors and cues that can be recognized by users with visual impairments, and screen readers.

• Pay close attention to how the chatbot will appear on your website and the expectations it sets for users.

• Provide users with transcripts and instructions on how to contact the court or an external resource if needed.

• Recruit real users to test the chatbot before launch.

“Millions of Americans go to court every day without a lawyer, and resources to help them are limited,” said Zach Zarnow, deputy managing director of NCSC’s Access to Justice team. “Courts have a duty to meet all users where they are and communicate about those processes clearly and effectively. Chatbots can be a helpful option for assisting court users in finding relevant and reliable legal information and to fulfill the court’s access obligations.”

To read the guide, visit