Twenty First Century Strategic Planning and Innovation Deployment — Lessons From the 2016 Campaigns

A fascinating article and followup chat in the Washington Post may well lead us to a wiser and more effective strategic planning and innovation process for access to justice.  The general approach applies to any such process, and to a certain extent, at any level or size of entity.

Basically, unlike Trump,

As [Clinton] has reoriented her campaign for the general election, her team has devised a structure that reflects not geographic contiguity, with its common weather patterns or vernacular music traditions across neighboring states, but instead the different type of campaigning she will need to win each one. Most importantly, the structure acknowledges the increasing importance of early voting, which offers Clinton the potential to lock in an early lead when ballots begin to be cast in late September.  .  .  .

In Clinton’s Brooklyn headquarters, states with major opportunities for early voting—such as North Carolina and Colorado—are in their own pod, while the remaining states are divided into two. One pod has large, diverse states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, where mobilizing minorities and young whites will be essential to her victory. The other pod contains smaller, mostly white ones like Iowa and New Hampshire, which present fewer opportunities to identify and turn out new voters but a major need for persuasion.

To put it another way, the campaign recognizes that different things need to be done in different places, and planning for and managing places with different challenges and different opportunities together makes sense.

In access to justice we have long toyed with an approach that thinks differently about states in different situations.  Katherine Alteneder of SRLN has been a particularly forceful advocate and analyst of this general approach, making the case that a state has to know where it is before it can know what to do.  One possible set of  category names, for which she should in no way be blamed, is “advanced states,” “foundational service states,” and “emerging states.”

I personally read the Justice of All Strategic Planning Guidance as in general accord with this philosophy, although not necessarily with categories and labels.  In particular, the Chart of components, at page 4 of the Strategic Plan Action Guide, and the Component  Assessment Compilation in the Appendix to that document at page 14, help states and groups at all levels think in an overall way about where they are.  My dependencies doucument, discussed and linked here may also be helpful in this process.

I would reiterate that these materials can be very helpful indeed to states, counties and courts that are not necessarily thinking of responding to the Justice for All RFP.  They are a tool for all, and, in my humble and biased opinion, represent a significant step forward in thinking about strategy and action.

Posted in Access to Justice Boards, Access to Justice Generally, Court Management, Systematic Change | Leave a comment

A Dependencies Tool To Assist in ATJ Strategic Planning and Use of the JFA Guidance

I am sharing, in the hope it may make the process of access to justice strategic planning both for the community at large and specifically those participating in the Justice for All RFP and associated processes, this document that is my personal take for SRLN on the relationships between the different components in the JFA Guidance.  The document clusters the components the same way the Guidance suggests at page 4 of the Strategic Action Planning Guide, which is part of the Guidance pack.  Here is the chart showing that clustering.


I am attaching the document in both docx and pdf formats.  While I would encourage people edit this to reflect their own thoughts, and their state situation, I would ask that those modifications be noted and credited separately.

These are totally my own opinions and judgments, and no other else should be tarred with them.

Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, Access to Justice Generally, Court Management | 2 Comments

Integrating the ABA Futures Report and the Justice For All Components

Its finally here, the ABA Future of Legal Services Report.

As expected, it covers a lot of ground, and is a lot to read.

As an aid to speedy integration into other projects, I have prepared this table that compares the Components analyzed in the Justice for All Guidance, with the Recommendations in the ABA Futures Report.

I very much hope that this table will:

Help those working in each and both groups find support in the different documents for moving forward on both the agendas.

Encourage thinking about the kinds of specific collaborations that the many parallels between the documents could spur.

Strengthen the feeling that this is all in support of a broad consensus in support of not only the goal of access to justice, but also about how to get here.

Encourage people whose primary current engagement is in one of the silos of bar, court, legal aid, to think about how they could help those in other silos do their work.

Encourage other groups developing agendas, strategic plans to think about including in their analysis and reports just this kind of table.  It would be interesting, for example, if the current LSC strategic planning process included such a chart (in this case with three columns) in their final document.

Here is the chart.  Comments and suggests very much appreciated.

Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, ABA, Access to Counsel, Access to Justice Generally, Alternative Business Structures, Attorney-Client, Bar Associations, Court Fees and Costs, Court Management, Document Assembly, E-filing, Incnetives, Law Schools, Legal Aid, Legal Ethics, LEP, Mediation, Middle Income, Mixed Model, Non-Lawyer Practice, Outcome Measures, Plain Language, Planning, Referral Systems, Research and Evalation, Rules Reform, Self-Help Services, Simplification, Systematic Change, Technology, Transparency, Triage, Unbundling | 1 Comment

A Blockbuster Recommendation In the ABA Futures Report Is for A National Commission on Uniform Court Forms

The Recommendation, at page 46 , of the Report, reads as follows:

“The ABA, the National Center for State Courts, the Conference of Chief Justices, and the Conference of State Court Administrators should collaborate to create a National Commission on Uniform Court Forms, similar to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. The purpose of the Commission would be to generate model forms to be used by both represented and unrepresented litigants on a multi-state basis in ways that create consistency and accommodate simplified technological document preparation.”

Given that part of the reluctance of some courts and judges to move towards standardization has been a fear that such a step would antagonize the bar, this has to be a critical recommendation for the future.

Imagine the impact upon the Texas forms debate if such a Commission had been in place, and Texas had merely been asking for comments on the proposed modifications to the Uniform Form to account for Texas law and practice.

I see no intelligent reason that this can not move forward as soon as possible.

Posted in ABA, Access to Justice Generally, Forms, Plain Language, Self-Help Services | Leave a comment

Fascinating Parallel Between Rule Against Diagnosis Without Examination By Psychiatrists and Legal Information/Judgement Distinction

Here is the link to the recent statement by the American Psychiatric Association President drawing attention to the so-called “Goldwater Rule”:

On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement. (Bold added.)

Interestingly, the Washington Post puts it this way:

The short version: It’s okay to talk about psychiatric issues — but not okay to diagnose people you haven’t treated.

Of course, there is a lot of daylight between “shar[ing] with the public .  .  . expertise about psychiatric issues in general” and “offer[ing] a pofessional opinion.”  Most of that uncertainty derives from the wiggle room in the phrase “in general.”  Note also that the Post short version above does not include the qualification, and I have to feel that the Post article overall, while quoting extensively, feels less restrictive than the APA statement.

In any event, I note that there is a lot of parallel with our issues about legal information.  I would suggest that the no opinion from shrinks rule might help us say that the information only rule can seen as simply a “no opinion” rule.  In other words, the simple explanation of our rule is “just the facts, m’am.”  Of course, some would argue that there are no facts in psychiatry — or law.

As to the practical impact on psychiatrists however, I do recall the lovely line in House of Cards, when the FU character drops a hint, the naive young journalist asks the intended follow-up and FU replies:  “Now, you might well think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment.”  That phrase has passed into English, at least in English politics.

Posted in Legal Ethics, Self-Help Services | 1 Comment

More on the Proposed Single Measure for Access to Justice

The more I think and talk with folks about the proposed single measure for access to justice, the more I think we might be on to something that could tell us what we want to know, would allow for comparison of innovations and even of the state of access in a wide variety of contexts, procedural systems, and cases.

The measure, to put it simply, would be:

The percentage of people for whom the facts and law are sufficiently before the decision-maker that the case can be decided on the facts and the law.

For steps prior to completion of the consideration by the decision-maker:

The percentage of people for whom, assuming the remaining steps function appropriately, the previously completed steps have been such that the case will ultimately, if completed, have had the facts and law sufficiently before the decision-maker that the case will have been decided on the facts and the law.

The primary method for calculating this score would be to interview the person and come up with a yes/no assessment.  That interview, remember, would be very like a normal intake interview conducted by an attorney, exploring the same areas, and with the same thoroughness.

So, for cases decided after hearing, the review would be whether the decision-maker actually heard the evidence needed to make an appropriate decision.  For cases decided without hearing, the review would be of whatever paperwork (or tech equivalent) had been gathered.

For measuring the ATJ score of earlier steps, the reviewer would compare the information that had been gathered, with that needed to provide a sufficient chance that the information would ultimately be gathered.  (This is slightly flexible, because it might be, for example, that judges in one court were known to be really good at exploring matters.  In such a court, lack of completeness in forms would have less on an impact on the scoring.)

Notwithstanding this, the forms example helps show how powerful this measure could be for assessing innovations and changes.  A new form draft would be tested by being given to half of a group, and comparison of the scores for those using the new form and the old one would be a simple measure of its impact.

Indeed, in this example, one could measure both the actual form alone, and the access score of the combination of the form and the hearing.  The comparison of the after hearing scores would be a measure on the impact on access a whole, and therefore ultimately more important.  (The study protocol would require that different test and control groups would be needed, because the research interview would distort subsequent results.)  The post-form research result would be completed more quickly, and could be used in the ongoing development process.

The measure is intentionally simple, and as such runs risks, fixable actually, of lack of consistency.  But the simplicity is a very important feature and researchers have many methods for ensuring consistency among reviewers.  Moreover, the simple yes/no conclusion could be supplemented or even replaced by a more precise assessment tools, but all leading to that final encasement.

What this process does not measure is the percentage of people with justiciable issues who in fact do seek redress and get into the funnel above.  Nor does it measure the “justice” of the ultimate result, or ultimate compliance.  But the point is that these will need to be measured differently,and then all three integrated.

p.s.  I am sure that a process like this would provide very useful information to use in improving judicial education.



Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, Access to Justice Generally, Outcome Measures, Series: Outcome Measures | 6 Comments

The Guidance for the Justice For All Strategic Planning Process Will Help In Many Ways Beyond The Development of Planning Project Proposals

The Justice for All Strategic Planning Guidance Materials are now published here.

They will be very helpful for the states that are in the process of putting together the proposals for strategic planning money that are due on October 5, as described in the RFP.  (Disclosure: I have been involved in the planning process for this project, including as one of the expert group.  Obviously, in this post I speak very much only for myself.)

However, the tools can be used in a wide variety of ways to promote access, and I strongly encourage all to look at them carefully from the point of view their own work.  The role of this synthesis of experience is potentially far greater than its use for strategic planning, critical thought that is.

The complete Guidance packet consists of three sections each of which includes a number of resources that will be of broad help to access advocates and planners:

I.    An Introduction to the Effort

This section describes the history and goals of the project, and the key suggested components of access and therefore of planning, the importance of the user perspective and the role and makeup of a planning group.

Perhaps most importantly, at least in planning terms, it contains a a detailed Appendix describing the sixteen components for suggested planning:

  • Design, Governance & Management
  • Resource Planning
  • Technology Capacity
  • Triage, Referral, & Channel Integration
  • Community Integration & Prevention
  • Judicial & Court Staff Education
  • Broad Self-Help Informational Services
  • Plain Language Forms
  • Language Services Integration
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution Integration
  • Compliance Assistance
  • Courtroom Assistance Services
  • Expansion & Efficiency Improvements of Full Service Representation
  • Unbundled (Discrete Task) Legal Assistance
  • Simplification
  • Role Flexibility For Other Professionals

The component descriptions follow a common format, and, in my opinion, represent the first comprehensive bringing together of all these elements, at least in such a common format.

For each of these sixteen, the Appendix details:

  • The rationale and need
  • The key elements for the component
  • General approaches to  building the component
  • Additional comments on matters such as problems, prioritization, risks, and current knowledge status.

I believe that these single page descriptions in the Appendix will prove a highly useful tool for stimulating discussion in almost any forum.  The reflect perhaps 20 years of experience in almost every state, and can be a foundation for much activity.

II.  Inventory Assessment Guide

The inventory assessment guide has been drafted to assist state planners take the measure of the state of access to justice in their state.  This is intended both to help them make the wisest possible choices in their ultimate plan and to lay the groundwork for the measurement of achievable outcomes envisioned in the CCJ/COSCA Resolution.

The overall approach recommended is to follow state customized versions of tools designed to measure the state of play for each of the components, grounded in the elements and descriptions in the Appendix to the Introduction.

The draft assessments for each of the components (which are included in the Guide) suggest standard questions about status, penetration,sufficiency, and scaleability of current deployment.  The answer grid allows for choices all the way from “no” to sustainable, and also for notes.  There is space for additional component notes on each assessment.  My thought it that many states may find it useful to use these note options for begin the analysis of differences by case area, which will have major strategic implications.  The assessment questions incorporate the individualized key elements of each components.

III.  Strategic Planning Guide

The Planning Guide is the key document that brings together all the data and knowledge gathered about the specific state environment with the planning experience integrated from throughout the country.

Firstly, it discusses the development of the planning team, including the importance of including a broader than usual range of stakeholders.  Then, it discusses the different focuses that planning might take, including case type or regional, for example.

With respect to key issue of prioritization, the Guide offers a cluster approach, as shown in the chart below.


As a general matter, work starts at the bottom, and moves up, and many of the higher ones require components in lower parts of the pyramid to be at least partially completed before they can be moved forward effectively.

After discussing reasons that such prioritization might be modified, the document offers an action plan checklist, suggests how to integrate the component assessment into a general assessment, and provides a very general component plan template.

All in all, this is a powerful toolbox.

I urge all involved in the access movement to study it carefully for ways it can help them in their work.  I urge all to share it, talk about it, and pull from it.  It is about far more than the RFP, or even strategic planning.  It is a major distillation of knowledge.

I hope in future blogs to be able to contribute to thinking about ways that this can all be as much help as possible.

Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, Access to Justice Boards, Access to Justice Generally, Planning, Tools, Triage | 1 Comment