Between taking time off work and hiring lawyers, going through the legal system can be expensive.

And when the courts don't even provide hearing dates and times, it's not just expensive, but frustrating and needlessly time consuming.

That's why Nawel Benrabah and some of her fellow third-year law students at Thompson Rivers University designed an app called Summons that she says courts can use to provide litigants and lawyers with better scheduling info.

"We're all about access to justice, and we want to practise what we preach," Benrabeh told Radio West host Audrey McKinnon.

"Not only will it save money for folks who have lawyers but also save money for self-represented litigants who maybe right now are forced to take a half day or full day off work. That can be a pretty hard hit for single parents and young students. That's a lot of time away from their job that really is not necessary."

Summons app

A screenshot from the Summons app. (Nawel Benrabah)

Benrabeh says many of these delays occur during "interlocutory" matters, when lawyers can often rack up significant billable hours for short appointments because of delays and time spent waiting at the court.

"You don't really have a hearing time or date, you can't really schedule that, it's on a first come, first served basis," she said. "So for a self-represented litigant … you're spending hours waiting for your turn in court, and many of these matters will generally take five to 10 minutes."

The app allows court administrators to provide live updates of court schedules and when litigants or their lawyers are to appear to help cut down on these expenses.

Benrabah and her group designed the app as part of a class, and presented the finished product to a Dragon's Den-style panel of Kamloops bar association members.

"We had a lot of positive feedback. Even some of the criticisms, we don't feel as though they are criticisms but rather some really neat ideas for us to take back to the drawing board," she said.

Benrabah will also be presenting the app to a meeting of provincial judges and court officials later in the summer.

With files from CBC Radio One's Radio West


To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Law students design app to make court scheduling easier