The first part of the LSC Summit on Technology and Access to Justice took place last week. I think it is appropriate for me to pass on to the community some very personal and impressionistic non-specific highlights.
First, it was one of the most exciting and positive gatherings I have ever attended, with very wide apparent agreements among participants from legal aid, courts, technology vendors and experts, funders and local and national stakeholders about not just the general potential of technology, but about which technologies and directions are of the most value, and how to integrate them.
Second, hearing from experts in successful integrative and incentive based community experiments in health care – including moving from an illness-based to a health-based approach – deeply influenced our thinking, and moved me at least to think about moving from a dispute-resolution model to a “justice orientation.”
Third, it was absolutely electrifying to hear from Todd Park, White House Technology Czar, about harnessing the power and creativity of the geek community to build transformative innovations accessing existing data (http://nhs.georgetown.edu/147868.html). There’s lots of energy now for a similar event in access to justice.
Fourth, I was struck by how much the draft LSC Strategic Plan (http://accesstojustice.net/2012/06/19/draft-lsc-strategic-plan-available-comments-requested-by-july-11/) runs in parallel to, and provides a framework for, implementing the recommendations of the Summit. I note that this first part of the Summit focused on the vision itself. The second one, tentatively scheduled for the fall, will look at implementing and operationalizing that vision. In particular, the commitment to identifying and incentivizing Best Practices, as well as raising additional resources for such directions, should make this all much more possible. Similarly, the commitment in the Strategic Plan draft to outcome measures is the operational foundation for the kinds of long term use of data for advocacy, planning, strategy, service provision and management that we talked a lot about last week.
Fifth, that we were addressed by an access and technology-committed head of the Conference of Chief Justices, Chief Justice Eric Washington of DC, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_T._Washington) and that he reiterated the commitment of the Chiefs to LSC, to access and to the collaborative use of technology, underlined just how far we have come in building a national access to justice community. The discussions were not just about legal aid, they were about changes in the courts too, and the right court people were at the table. The potential there is beyond calculation. Similarly, to have the Department of Justice, though its Access Initiative, present and playing a role in planning the Summit, was not just enormously helpful but moving. They know that they are a Justice Department, and they act on it.
Finally, I have to salute the Board, President, and staff of LSC, as well as the astonishingly creative contributions of the 45 or so participants, for their commitment to this enterprise, as well as consultant John Greacen, who perfumed nothing short of brilliantly. I also have to note that almost nothing we talked about could have been realistically envisioned without the hard work of the access technology community in the years since the first Summit in 1998. As details for the Recommendations and more are announced, people will see just how much we have to build on, and how much we are now going to be able to do.
It going to be an inspiring and transformative ride.