Open Law Puzzle: ABA Summit on Innovations in Law

I was invited to the American Bar Association’s National Summit for Innovations in Legal Services after writing these comments about the need for open data about the law.  I also wrote this about open data right before the Summit.  I was hoping to hear a lot about the better need for data about our courts, since most other innovations right now are revolutions in using, collecting and analyzing data.

I wasn’t disappointed.  There was a lot of talk about the need for better access to data about the law at the National Summit for Innovations in Legal Services. Access to more data would allow scholars to study how the law works, legal aid lawyers to serve more people in less time with less resources, private lawyers to demonstrate a Return on Investment, pro se clients some guidance in the laybringh of law, innoveators the foundation to create apps to open up the law…DataABAFuturessmall

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The calls for more data lasted all weekend, but they started with a morning presentation by Ron Dolin. He talked about the need for metrics for lawyers. The frustration in his voice was evident as he explained how easy it would be for courts to use XML in opinions and court documents, but said that he didn’t know how to make it happen. One of the best crowd voices of the Summit, John Mayer, followed Dolin’s presentation by tweeting that people have been calling for that for 20 years.

Collecting that data isn’t a simple issue. It’s not one that we can leave to the courts alone, especially with the difficulty of coordinating thousands of municipal courts.

Nobody can do it alone.

It will take a broad coalition — from judges at every level, from State Supreme Courts to trial courts, and the organizations that support them like the National Center for State Courts; law schools, including professors and students; legal aid providers who serve (some of) the people least able to afford a lawyer; private lawyers and the organizations that support and advocate for them like our hosts, the American Bar Association; innovators creating platforms for legal assistance like LegalZoom and Avvo; law librarians who have much of the data available now; hackers, with or without their law license, who want to know how they can help and more.

How would we ever get all those people in the same room at the same time? Actually, that is exactly what the National Summit did.

Even though the need for open data may not have been reflected in the breakout group reports (which the author got unreasonably upset about and owes apologies for his Tweetdown), all the pieces to create Open Law were at the Summit. The connections created and the overwhelming call for an open collection of the laws that govern us may make it a reality. And if we can accomplish that, the possibilities are endless.

We need a broad collaborative effort to create open law. The collaboration will benefit each of those parts — often in the very act of collaboration. By bringing the leaders of all these parts to Stanford Law School, #abafutures has made the possibility of Open Law more possible.PiecesExplanation2

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