SRLN Conference Schedule and Early Registration Deadline

The Tentative Schedule for the SRLN Conference (Feb 23-24) in San Francisco is now available, and early price-reduced registration, link here, closes very soon, on Feb 1.  General registration will remain open after that day.

A two-day in-person national conference for lawyers, judges, clerks of court, self-help services professionals, librarians, technologists, funders and other allied professionals to explore and develop successful strategies and new thinking for providing 100% access to justice.

It will be held at the Judicial Council of California, Milton Marks Conference Center, and is in affiliation with the Judicial Council of California’s Family Law Facilitator and Self-Help Center Conference.  This change will enable a greater focus on 100% access to justice, the Chief’s Resolution, and the Justice for All Initiative, as well as the myriad innovations spreading throughout the movement.

From looking over the schedule, I would suggest these reasons for making the financial and time effort to get there.

  • This is the only gathering that gives appropriate equal weight to the courts in the access to justice triad of courts, legal aid and bar.
  • This is an important opportunity to think positively rather than defensively about the changed climate.
  • This is the first conference at which there will be specific attention to ensuring that the voice of the litigant and consumer is heard by legal institutions.
  • This is the first conference in the ATJ world that will focus on on simplification issues.
  • There is he first non-tech conference at which there will be significant focus on human design issues.
  • A track on engaged and active judging will move this critical area forward.
  • There will be a special series of workshops focusing on establishing new self-help programs.
  • With all the movement in research and indicators, this will be the first opportunity to think about how it relates to practice and how it should move forward.

Above all, take a look at the list of speakers.

As you may know, I have had to cut way back on my travel, but this is so important in setting directions for the future that this will be my first trip outside the DC area since June.  I look forward to connecting with old friends and new allies as we move forward together.

See you there.




Posted in Meetings | 2 Comments

Karen Lash, LAIR, Transitions and the Future

Another sad but expected one.

As Karen Lash of the DOJ Access to Justice Office announced, with her usual grace and optimism, in an email earlier today:

Today is my last day with the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Access to Justice. It has been an extraordinary honor and privilege to serve as a Deputy Director and to lead the White House Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable. Each of you has played a critical role in the myriad accomplishments  — whether creating and using new resources for civil legal aid that further federal priorities, to statements of interest in access-to-justice litigation, and to support for strategies that enhance the public defense function.

 I’ll miss the work and all of you.

 Karen, in over six years with the Office, has touched every aspect of its work. However, her greatest legacy is probably the Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (LAIR), which is already having, and will surely continue to have, a huge impact on access to justice through the sensitivity that it has already engendered throughout many of the Federal agencies to the need to integrate that access perspective into agency functioning.

Indeed, that legacy is particularly appropriate, since from very early on Karen was working to focus the ATJ Office on just that integration. Her efforts to ensure a research commitment have been massive, and are now deeply embedded, and not just in the Federal government.

As I have previously noted, LAIR is a perfect model for replication in the states, that are now so far behind the Federal government in taking advantage of the leveraging potential from such relationships.

I would like to add a personal note. When I told Karen about four years ago at an NLADA meeting about my medical diagnosis, we had a very nice supportive conversation. A day or two later, she reached out to me (completely unnecessarily) wanting to apologize for not having, as she felt, risen to the occasion, and we then talked deeper and further. This was so typical of her. She always sets the very highest standards for herself, and when she feels she has not met them, goes back and does what needs to be done to meet those standards.

In terms of the future, I understand that Karen will be doing some consulting projects and working on ways to apply all she’s learned about how the executive branch of government functions and the myriad ways access to justice is essential to good government.  That would be truly wonderful. So, what seems today like a sad day may later be remembered as a launch day.

But in any event, it is still a day to again thank you, Karen, for the warmth, intelligence, focus, strategic perspective and energy you have brought to our community.

Posted in Dept. of Justice, Funding, LAIR, Transitions

Transitions: Access to Justice Office

Sadly, there are going to be a lot of these in the next few days.

This is from an email sent out by Lisa Foster, outgoing Director of the Office for Access to Justice at DOJ.  The good news is that, as she leaves with a job wonderfully done, the Office stays not just very alive, but in very good hands under Maha Jweied who has been such a big part of everything that has been happening.

As most of you know, Thursday will be my last day as Director of the Office for Access for Justice. For a little over two years, I have had the privilege of leading a team of committed and talented attorneys and working under the leadership of two extraordinary Attorneys General. I am enormously proud of the work we have done, but none of it would have been possible without all of you.  One of the singular aspects of this Office is our mandate to reach outside the building and engage with the wide and wonderful community of advocates, judges, administrators, researchers, educators and policy makers engaged in justice reform.  Collaborating with all of you has made our work better.  And I have made so many good friends.  Thank you for welcoming me into your company and for all that you do to pursue justice.
And you will still be able to pursue justice with ATJ.  I am pleased to announce that Maha Jweied will be the Acting Director of the Office for Access to Justice. You can also can also contact Senior Counsel Allie Yang-Green or Senior Counsel Bob Bullock. 
I do not know yet exactly what I will do next.  I do know that I will continue to focus on state and local justice system reform.  In the short run, I will likely do some consulting; in the long run . . . I’ll keep you posted.  .  . 

Each Director of the Office has brought new and different strengths to the task.  We appreciate Judge Foster for many things, but I remember her in this role most of all for her ability to articulate a broad integrated and innovative vision for access to justice that did so much to get the community ready for a much deeper understanding of how to provide access.  As such, I think we will look back at her tenure and see this as a time in which that broad vision gave the movement a flexibility and strength that will enable it to do well regardless of the environment.  Moreover, her work with Karen Lash and many others on LAIR helped provide roots in the system that will help ensure the ongoing effectiveness of the bipartisan agenda, again regardless of short term environment.

We look forward to many future contributions.


Posted in Access to Justice Generally, Dept. of Justice, LAIR, Systematic Change

Moving Forward With Federal ATJ Data Collection To Support the Chiefs 100% Access Resolution

Its a routine thing, best seen as the normal functioning of government, which is coming more and more to recognize the nonpartisan importance of access to justice issues and measures to all government goals, including making the system work for all.

A new LAIR Factsheet issued by DOJ’s Office for Access to Justice, which summarizes recent activities, includes this very important institutionalizing step.

To further build a statistical infrastructure in the United States that addresses key civil access to justice questions that are not currently answered, BJS will undertake a multi-year effort to develop, test, and implement a person- based survey of legal needs, services, and outcomes. The survey will augment the limited administrative data currently collected by the federal agencies. Work will begin in March/April 2017, with a goal of fielding a supplement to the ongoing National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) at the earliest feasible time (January to June 2019 or later) The civil justice supplement will be administered over 6 months in more than 70,000 households to a randomly selected adult in each household. Prior to data collection, BJS will develop the instrumentation, draw on the expertise of ATJ and Working Group stakeholders, develop data collection protocols, conduct cognitive tests of proposed measures, and complete a full pilot test.

The key phrases are “a person- based survey of legal needs, services, and outcomes” and  “supplement to the ongoing National Crime Victimization Survey.”  (link added.)

This means many things, but perhaps the most important is that by the end of 2019 we will have a routine, institutionalized national measuring system to help us guide the successful implementation of the Chief’s unanimous, and thus bipartisan 2015 100% access to justice resolution.  That remember, reads as follows:

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators support the aspirational goal of 100 percent access to effective assistance for essential civil legal needs and urge their members to provide leadership in achieving that goal and to work with their Access to Justice Commission or other such entities to develop a strategic plan with realistic and measurable outcomes; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Conferences urge the National Center for State Courts and other national organizations to develop tools and provide assistance to states in achieving the goal of 100 percent access through a continuum of meaningful and appropriate services.

The two fit together perfectly, and even more so, now that the states are affirmatively moving forward through the Justice for All initiative.

I am sure that the two will work together to make sure that they support each other in every way possible.



Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, Access to Justice Generally, Census Bureau, LAIR, Legal Aid, Metrics, SRL Statistics, Systematic Change, Triage | 1 Comment

Now is the Time to Preserve the History of Government (and More) on the Internet –The WayBack Machine

Very few people know about the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.  It is an amazing tool, which lets you look at the history of websites, that is to say how they have looked over time.

Here, picking an example totally at random, is the history of the Department of Justice Access to Justice Program Website.

Here is part of the page, which acts as a gateway into all the dates that have been captured.


Using this, you can see what many many sites looked like in the past.  Here, for example, is the first capture of that site, performed in November 2010, when Larry Tribe was still head of the Access Office.


This may turn out to be a particularly important tool as government data may be less reliably permanent in the time to come.

The system even includes a tool to capture a website as of now,, for future precise and reliable citation.  (This only works with sites that allow crawlers.)

I would strongly encourage anyone dealing with governments that might change their histories and commitments to use this tool to trap and keep the history.  It can also be used to prove the public positions that corporations have taken or implied.

It is almost as if we were to discover that the Memory Hole in 1984 in fact kept a history, rather than burned everything.  (Now there is a nice idea for a novel.  It would make all the Stasi revelations seem like child’s play.)


Posted in Consumer Rights, Dept. of Justice, Evidence, Freedom of Expression, Technology, Tools

Legal Aid HackathonShows the Coming Change in Access to Justice Culture is Enormous

I love it.

Before the TIG conference, there was a legal aid Hackathon.  Here is the presentation that summarized it.  Astonishing.

This slide is my own favorite, and self-explanatory.


Other projects included a write clearly tool, a legal check-up tool, legal aid grants open data standard, knowledge management, and justice hub.

All fascinating and exciting.

But the really big point is the cultural transformation that is starting to happen within the legal aid community.  Almost all of these are not “new” ideas, in the sense that they have never come up in a brainstorm.  Some have even been the subject of prior TIG grant applications.  But they show a new level of creativity and concrete vision that sees tech as fully integrated into — or rather the leader in integrating and transforming into capacity for 100%.  That makes this an important cultural change moment.

Now actual steps are happening.  And look at who is making them happen.


I do not know whether I am more embarrassed or delighted to report how few of the people in the room I know.  A new generation with new energy and productivity, not just for tech but for an integrated access to justice vision.

But more importantly, these are not the traditional power holders, or “old lions” of legal aid.  These are the new doers.

That is why it is in rooms like this that the access to justice revolution is happening.

I invite of any of the hack groups to please write a guest post for this blog on their project, now or as their project moves forward.  Regardless of this, groups should feel free to reach out to me if they think I might be of any conceptual help.

I hope that hackathons like this will become a routine feature of every ATJ conference, and that there will be a system for quick and small TIG grants to facilitate immediate action on good ideas, not constrained by the length of the funding cycle.


Posted in 100% Access Strategy and Campaign, Legal Aid, LSC, SRL Statistics, Technology | 2 Comments

A Challenge: How Do We Even Out The Rates of Media Outreach Capacity for Access to Justice at the National and States Level?

Voices for Civil Justice, funded by the Public Welfare Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and others, and headed by Martha Bergmark, has done amazing work in terms of getting the access to justice messave out at the national level.

They have had a hand in 250 placements of media coverage about civil legal aid in more than 80 national and significant regional outlets. This has included multiple placements in prominent outlets including the New York Times (19 pieces), NPR, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, Bloomberg News, CBS Evening News, PBS NewsHour, and The New Yorker.  They have built a 1,000-member, 50-state network of media spokespeople.  Clips are here.

But progress is less dramatic in terms of the state ATJ programs of all kinds rising to the challenge and developing the capacity to do this on their own.  In the end, such local capacity is far more effective, not only because it simply provides better content, but because it builds the local relationships that can be called on in moments of challenge and crisis.

To be specific, based on a survey conducted by Voices with over 300 responses from 47 states:

  • At the organizational level, 32% of respondents organizations had communications plans, significantly up from 2o14 when the number was only 26%.
  • But, at the statewide level, the story is not so good.  Only 3.5 percent of statewide entities (e.g. Access to Justice commissions, IOLTA funders) said their state has a written, coordinated communications plan. (Its a little better that 29% have a written plan for specific initiatives such as fundraising and legislative advocacy, but that should be 100% already.)

I suspect that the reason is that only one third of state entities have staff or consultants working on communications, and I suspect that most of those have many other tasks.  This work is too easy to put to the back of the pile — at least unless there is an urgent nudge e-mail from Voices in your inbox!

At the organizational level, the the percentage with staff assigned has stayed the same since 2014, but there has been a 6 percent increase in organizations devoting 50-100% FTE to communications, a 4 percent increase in organizations devoting 101-150% FTE to communications; and a 3.5 percent increase in organizations devoting 201% FTE or more to communications. These higher numbers would help explain the existance of the plans.

This just underlines how far we have to go in getting capacity to be built at the statewide and multi-stakeholder level.  Obviously, this parallels the many other capacity areas in which so much needs to be done.

While the challenges of messaging are now more complex than ever, this is not the time to be frightened of telling those aspects of our story that have universal or near universal appeal.




Posted in Access to Justice Boards, Access to Justice Generally, Communications Strategy, Legal Aid | 1 Comment