ASL Students Earn ‘Bold Idea’ Award in National Competition

GRUNDY, VA (SEPTEMBER 9, 2019) – When third year Appalachian School of Law students Arbre Kornely and Richard Gibson decided to enter the Justice Innovation Challenge, with their Small Town Business E-Triage app, they both knew they had a good idea. They also knew they would be up against some stiff competition. Having learned of the competition late in the game, they forged ahead and within a few days developed a functioning prototype website to illustrate their idea to connect small business entrepreneurs with the legal resources they need to navigate how to start and grow a new business.

They just recently learned that while their app proposal did not win the competition, it did garner the judges’ attention, netting them the “Bold Idea” award in the national challenge.

Both Kornely, who came to ASL from Jacksonville, N.C.,  and Gibson, who came from the North Metro area in Georgia, chose to attend ASL for its small class sizes, no metropolitan distractions and ASL faculty members with practical experience to share and a wealth of real world experience outside the classroom.

The challenge which is run by the Access to Justice Tech Fellows program and sponsored by the Law School Admission Council, invites law student innovators and entrepreneurs from around the nation to participate in developing practical solutions that address communities’ legal needs for a chance to receive seed funding and mentorship.

“We are very proud of Arbre and Richard and their work to develop and design the access to justice app which they designed,” said ASL Dean, Justice (ret.) Elizabeth McClanahan. “Not only did they bring recognition to themselves, but in entering the competition and subsequently earning the ‘bold idea award,’ they also brought positive recognition to the Appalachian School of Law. We congratulate them on their success.”

Kornely and Gibson partnered with Mountain State Justice in West Virginia — a non-profit legal services firm dedicated to working with underserved West Virginians, through legal advocacy and community empowerment, offered regardless of ability to pay.

Kornely interned at Mountain State Justice this summer. She said the experience taught her there was a gap in terms of small businesses and their need for legal advice.

“I was the idea person; Richard was the brains behind the application and did a great job,” Kornely said. “We entered the competition just a few days before it was due. While we did not win it, the judges found our project laudable; encouraged us to continue working on it; and to think about scalability.”

“The competition challenged us to come up with an innovative, technology-based solution for those who could not afford legal services,” Kornley said. “We decided to create a triage-type application that could be strategically placed at locations where artisans and farmers without Internet access frequent to find work. The app would allow prospective employees to connect with local small businesses who share their values; help those already in the workforce with any employment law issues; ensure new small business owners are appropriately following regulations; and help hopeful business owners with business formation issues.”

Gibson said when Kornely asked him to help with the project, he readily agreed. Website building was within his wheelhouse and therefore, he was able to develop a functional prototype site. That working prototype illustrated to the judges how the concept would function in pairing entrepreneurs with the legal resources they needed.

The website/app Gibson translated from idea to functionality is essentially a legal assistance and networking landing page. Before being redirected to outside websites, the app asks if the user needs any legal assistance and encourages them to contact Mountain State Justice for an intake. Depending on the person’s needs, they select among “Starting a Business/Sharing Your Trade;” “Already Own a Business;” “Need Legal Help;” “Workers.” Questions or checklists appear that direct site users to whatever they need. At the end, users are encouraged to contact Mountain State Justice for an intake if legal advice is needed.

The app also provides a link for current businesses to subscribe for networking. Subscribers would be charged a monthly fee based on a sliding scale.

Gibson noted the app is wholly scaleable as far as working in a variety of settings to provide legal access solutions offered through the app for those seeking them.

Now that the competition is complete, Kornely said she hopes to translate her idea into a fellowship after graduation to allow her to continue working with Mountain State Justice and to give Beckley’s artisan community much needed legal services.

“It was a pleasure working with Richard and I truly appreciate his assistance in refining the idea and creating the app,” Kornely said.


September 9, 2019

Media Contact: Cathy St. Clair – 276.202.0383 or

Posted February 13th 2021 Posted by Brian Presley