form that an ad hoc group of attorneys developed to help coordinate legal efforts around Trump’s executive orders barring immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.
More broadly, the Center on Innovation has championed a
call to innovate and adapt the legal services model overall in its
first year. “We must help our colleagues understand new tools, the
future of legal services,” Judy Perry Martinez, special adviser to
the center, told audience members at Stanford CodeX’s Future-Law conference this year. In this vein, the center is working on an
online dispute resolution platform that could theoretically offer
complete full-scale legal proceedings without the need to physically appear in court.
Hilarie Bass, co-president of Greenberg Traurig and president-elect of the ABA, has long championed pro bono work in the
legal community. In 2014, she received the Justice Joseph Story
Award for her pro bono work on a case that returned two foster children back to a Florida man and his same-sex partner and
helped overturn Florida’s ban on gay adoption. The platform she
put forward in her current role at the ABA largely hinges on the
ABA’s ability to promote access to justice on a national scale.
Bass sees immense opportunity for the Center on Innovation’s
online dispute resolution project in small claims courts, where
low-income clients are forced well out of their way when small, but
much-needed, sums of money are at stake. “Our current system
requires individuals to take a day off of work, most likely take a bus
or transit system across town for a pretrial conference, at which
time if they can’t resolve the issue, they have to come in for a sec-
ond day,” Bass explains.
“Why can’t we do that all online? Everyone has a smart-phone. If someone could dictate to a phone and scan in their documents, why can’t a judge review what’s been submitted, review the
response, and make a preliminary ruling? We could at least eliminate the first day where they make you go in for a pretrial conference,” she adds.
State bar associations are also looking at ways they can use technology to encourage members to take up pro bono work, something that has taken different forms across the country. But while
the national bar is ramping up its efforts to change the face of legal
service delivery, state bar associations have had to be more narrowly focused and collaborative with their pro bono efforts.
ILLUSTRATION BY PHIL FOSTER