The ABA has announced that the Justice Index has been awarded an ABA Pro Bono Award. (Press coverage of the Index here.)
This certainly helps cement the status of the Index as a major infrastructure component of the access to justice movement. As the description on the ABA site explains:
The Justice Index (“JI”) began in 2011 with the simple insight that it’s hard to fix a problem when you can’t see clearly what is going wrong. We have never had effective ways to understand which states’ justice systems struggle the most to assure access to justice and which, despite challenges, are making it easier for vulnerable people in our society to protect their rights.
Thanks to the work of scores of volunteer lawyers, data professionals, state court officials, legal aid lawyers, law students and others, the JI is helping everyone to see the access to justice crisis in America more clearly. The JI is an interactive website that uses data, findings, indicators and indexing to rank the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., on their adoption of selected best policies for assuring access to justice. By promoting self-analysis and making the adoption of best policies highly visible, the JI promotes positive change across the land.
Together with other initiatives, such as Justice for All, and SRLN, the Index is empowering those in each state who understand that the states justice system must hold itself accountable for its success at providing 100% access. Indeed, as described, this is happening.
Equally important, moreover, is how much this award demonstrates the increasing recognition of the value of pro bono for access infrastructure projects. As the story is told on the site:
When we began in 2011, lawyers at Skadden Arps researched A2J policies and programs across the country with the help of students at Penn and Cardozo law schools and in-house lawyers at UBS. Pfizer joined the team in 2012, bringing its legal staff and financial support, and introducing NCAJ to Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory, which joined the team and created the data analytics and web tools the JI relies on to this day. Kirkland & Ellis joined the team in 2013 just months before the JI went live and helped get us through the last moments before launch. The JI would not have been possible without all of these commitments.
In 2014, we began a second round of research and four law firms joined the team to re-canvas the country and provide a new and updated data set. Morgan Lewis Bockius, O’Melveny & Myers, Patterson Belknap, and Simpson Thacher, along with Kirkland, contributed the work of more than 50 lawyers – partners and associates – to the effort. Attorneys from General Electric also joined the team. With the continuing support of Pfizer and Deloitte, we launched the updated site in Spring 2016, alongside the ABA’s Equal Justice Conference in Chicago, generating extensive media coverage.
I hope that firms explore many such additional transformative roles. Here are some thoughts on needed infrastructure components that firms might think about embracing and building.