On Friday, July 13, Ayyoub Ajmi, digital communications and learning initiatives librarian at UMKC School of Law, won the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Innovation Tournament. The contest sought to identify the most compelling, innovative ideas that AALL members would like to implement in the workplace; two individuals won $2,500 to support development and implementation of their projects.
Ajmi proposed building an open source case management system for law school clinics. Previously, he guided the Continuing Legal Education department as they switched to an open source CRM and an open source intranet.
“I worked with the stakeholders, faculty, staff, students, campus and vendors to make sure we got the service our users needed,” Ajmi says. “Now, in addition to saving over $128,000 in the past 18 months, we have two platforms our users appreciate and use.”
He would like to apply the same sort of thought to the clinics.
At UMKC, several clinics share concerns over the limitations they encounter with commercial case management software. The software can be expensive, and it doesn’t meet their needs. Faculty are unable to assign a case to multiple students; students are unable to track the time they spend on cases; and they are not able to store confidential information with confidence it will remain secure. Clinics end up utilizing multiple, incompatible platforms, which results in slower productivity and the potential exposure of their clients’ information.
“There’s an alternative: I want to build a case management system for law clinics based on an open source platform called CiviCRM,” says Ajmi.
CiviCRM is a web-based constituent relationship management system used by thousands of nonprofit organizations all over the world. CiviCRM can be installed on top of existing websites such as Drupal, WordPress, or Joomla. It is also fully customizable and expandable.
“The goal would be to focus only the features we need and make it easy to deploy by any clinic with minimum investment,” Ajmi says.
Ajmi proposed focusing on simple deployment, a new user interface and improved security.
The development of this case management system would take three phases. The $2,500 will go toward the first phase of building the system: completing a workflow inventory, implementing the core features and gathering feedback. The second and third phases would involve improving and building features and eventually sharing the system with other law schools to build a community of law clinics around the project. In addition to the winnings from the Tournament, the UMKC law library is matching the funds to expedite the process.
“With AALL’s support, I’m not only helping my faculty and our clinics; this will help faculty and clinics elsewhere,” Ajmi says. “Whatever code we develop will be made available to everyone. That’s the power of open source.”
Phase one of the new case management system is scheduled to launch in fall 2018.