On Friday afternoon, I was privileged to witness something remarkable. An American Bar Association committee tasked with crystal-balling the future of law practice suddenly pivoted to address a problem very much in the present and, in a matter of a few hours, solved it.
As I made the long drive home from Legaltech in New York City to Massachusetts, I was the lone remote participant in a meeting taking place some 1,400 miles south of me of the Futures Initiative committee of the ABA’s Law Practice Division. By the time I dialed in late, the discussion had already turned to whether the committee should abandon its agenda to address an issue of greater moment.
Reid Trautz, a member of the committee and the practice management adviser for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, had raised the difficulties AILA was having managing the many offers of pro bono legal help coming into it in the wake of President Trump’s executive orders on immigration. AILA planned to create a website to help manage the offers but had plenty else on its plate.
For chair Chad Burton, who is CEO of CuroLegal, and the other members of the committee assembled in Miami at the ABA’s midyear meeting, the decision was a no-brainer. They agreed to put off their futures agenda for, well, the future and turn to the task at hand.
We’ve all seen the worst of committees, the inertia and dysfunction. I was witnessing the best of what a committee can do. In no time, members were sketching out a wireframe for the site, brainstorming domain names, weighing options for platforms, and outlining content. By the next morning, the basic site was launched, awaiting official review and, it was hoped, approval by AILA.
You can see the finished product at ImmigrationJustice.US. The site, as it describes itself, “is a portal to harness the energy of the legal profession and coordinate the efforts of volunteer lawyers helping immigrants in response to President Trump’s Executive Orders altering our immigration system.”
My sole and minimal contribution to this effort was to suggest the domain name ImmigrationJustice. The hard and substantive work was done by the members of the committee who were on site in Miami, many of them working well into Friday evening and over the weekend.
While everyone on the committee deserves credit, special recognition goes to Reid Trautz for his subject-matter knowledge and for coordinating with AILA, Aaron Street and Sam Glover of Lawyerist.com for helping to set up a WordPress website, Catherine Sanders Reach of the Chicago Bar Association for technical support, Dan Lear of Avvo for helping to compile immigration law resources, and Ed Walters of Fastcase, who not only was instrumental in spearheading the effort, but also provided immigration case summaries and links.
Also playing a key role in the effort was the ABA Center for Innovation, of which Burton serves on the governing council and Walters is a member of the advisory board.
There’s little point in pondering the future of law when justice is currently under attack. Kudos to the Futures Initiative for understanding that action on the problems we face today trumps pondering the problems we might face tomorrow.
Note that this was not the only such initiative this week. In Seattle, a group of lawyers worked with the legal software company Neota Logic to launch airportlawyer.org, a website and app to collect information on travelers in need of legal help and connect them to volunteer lawyers at a dozen major airports.
To read more about this effort, see: