The new Executive Orders on immigration introduced by the Trump Administration have pushed some lawyers to act on behalf of immigrants in need of legal help. But many lawyers who want to help don’t know where to start. In this episode of Law Technology Now, host Monica Bay talks to Chad Burton and Ed Walters about the creation of ImmigrationJustice.us, a website built to organize legal professionals who are seeking ways to volunteer their services. They discuss how the website was built in a single night for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the team involved in its creation, and the template that they hope can be used for similar issues in the future. They conclude the episode by saying how important groups of active trendsetters, like the ABA Center for Innovation, will drive change within law.
Ed Walters is the CEO and co-founder of Fastcase, an online legal research software company based in Washington, D.C. Under Ed’s leadership, Fastcase has grown into one of the world’s largest legal publishers, currently serving more than 800,000 subscribers from around the world.
Chad Burton is the CEO of Curolegal and is a former litigator who developed one of the nation’s first “new model” law firms, leveraging cloud-based technology and modern business practices to develop a lean virtual law firm. He also serves on the Governing Board for ABA’s Center for Innovation.
Law Technology Now
ImmigrationJustice.us: How Lawyers can Respond to Trump’s Immigration Laws
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Monica Bay: And I am Monica Bay.
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Bob Ambrogi: — here on ‘Law Technology Now’.
Monica Bay: Hi, I am Monica Bay and welcome to ‘Law Technology Now’. Today, we’re doing something we’ve never done at ‘Law Technology Now’. We’re actually doing a double-header. We have two back-to-back podcasts both dealing with immigration.
The first one features Judge Shira Scheindlin, who is talking about how the new organization called the American Immigrant Representation Project or AIRP and that you can find at HYPERLINK “http://www.legaltalknetwork.com” legaltalknetwork.com.
Today’s podcast features Ed Walters and Chad Burton and they are going to talk to you about how the American Bar Association created ImmigrationJustice.us in one day. Let’s start off please with Chad, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Chad Burton: Okay. Well, thank you Monica for having me. My day job is I’m CEO of a company called CuroLegal and we develop software and other innovation platforms for the legal industry including Bar Associations law firms and legal aid groups. And I’m in this role I guess as far as the podcast we’re talking about today is you are chairing the futures initiative for the Law Practice Division.
Monica Bay: Terrific. And Ed, your turn to tell the folks who I would die of shock if people don’t know you either but go ahead in case there were a few.
Ed Walters: Well, I’m the CEO of Fastcase and I teach the Law of Robots at Georgetown University Law Center. In the ABA, Chad and I actually are both on the Law Practice Division’s Futures Initiative rather as well as on the ABA’s Center for Innovation and both of those groups were supposed to meet one after the other on a Friday and a Saturday during the ABA’s mid-year meeting. And it’s interesting that Chad and I are on both committees because they both ended up playing a role in this effort.
Monica Bay: So both of you tell us how it happened? What did you do and what is ImmigrationJustice.us? Which I understand from Bob that was his contribution he came up with the URL. So tell us the story.
Ed Walters: Chad, do you want to lead off?
Chad Burton: Sure. Yeah, I will start off with our meeting. Yeah, Ed captured it well that this is a — the punch-line for this at the end is a great example of how groups within Bar Associations can collaborate and by removing barriers produce something very effective and very quickly.
And the way this started out was we had the Law Practice Division Futures Initiative meeting down in Miami for ABA mid-year; had our agenda worked out then we’ve been — we’re going to tackle a small topic of redefining the delivery of legal services during this meeting.
So we have — it was kind of going to be boring but then at the beginning of the meeting, where it can be going around the table and talking about what’s new and reach out to immigration groups, he is with AILA (the American Immigration Lawyers Association) and he’s a practice management advisor with that group and he was talking about the challenges that they’ve — this is like a week in after the executive order and just an unprecedented professionally challenging week for Reid and his organization.
And the topic turned to, are there ways that we can help and what Reid had indicated was if they were hung up on creating a site to help harness the energy of lawyers who are both immigration lawyers and not immigration lawyers, who want to help with this. And they just got caught up because they’re doing 5 million things at once and so much is happening.
And this is where Ed really jumped in and as we were talking through this, we ended up ditching that agenda and we’re looking at a way to do two things that came out of this. One is propping up a site that AILA could use to get started in harnessing this energy of lawyers but also to look at it from a bigger picture perspective to be able to put a process in place so that other groups, whether it’s immigration issues or natural disasters, whatever a site needs to go up quickly and you need to mobilize lawyers quickly, let’s put that protocol in place and document what we learn from this process, and that’s what came out of it and that’s how we got started. Is that fair, Ed?
Ed Walters: I think that’s exactly right and a couple of things really jumped out to the whole committee. One thing was that the fact that AILA and Reid got stuck at the website stage, they got stuck in the building of a website to coordinate the efforts of volunteer lawyers. It just seemed like something practical that we could solve right away. Building a website in 1998 was like a super-hard thing. Building a website in 2017 really isn’t a hard thing anymore.
So we really thought that’s a place where the committee could help right away, do something that Friday afternoon. We had this conversation at 2 o’clock and we said, I bet you, we could have a website online tonight. We can refine it tomorrow, but really within a 36-hour period we could have a website that helps coordinate the efforts. Especially looking around that room there was a lot of very bright people with a lot of capacity at the table, so we thought, that would be really useful.
But the second thing, as Chad said was, we wanted to template the work, document what we did so that the next time something came up for the American Bar Association, I mean, who knows what it’s going to be, pandemic flu, a hurricane, some other crisis that people needed to respond to quickly; there would be a — in case of emergency break glass document, that would say, here is how you can put up a simple website within a really short amount of time.
Frankly it took us longer than it probably should have, close to 11 or 12 hours that day to get the good base site online, but our hope is that it took long because we were fumbling around with a few things. Once you document it, it should be a two or three-hour thing. And so, there were really two products of it, one was the website; ImmigrationJustice.us that we were going to hand to AILA so they can use it to coordinate people’s work. And then the second would be a kind of a rapid prototyping template, here’s how you create this very quick document in the future, sign-ups and things like that, how you find the domain, how you sign-up for a WordPress account, how you set up a simple WordPress site in a short amount of time.
I should add too, I don’t know that this would have been as easy if it weren’t such a really talented group around the table.
Monica Bay: Well, that brings me to my next question and I’m putting you on the spot here and I recognize that we may forget someone possibly, but can you tell us a little bit about who was at that table?
Ed Walters: Yeah, Chad tell me if I’m missing anybody. So, we’ve already mentioned Reid Trautz, who is a Practice Management Advisor for AILA. Dan Lear of Avvo was there, Aaron Street from Lawyerist, and he was working very closely with Sam Glover of Lawyerist who behind the scenes did the first template for the WordPress site who put that online. He also did a lot of the heavy lifting that night.
Sarah Glassmeyer who works for the ABA now and who works for the Center for Innovation was in parallel also working on a site to help the ABA with large respond.
Monica Bay: And Catherine Sanders Reach was also there, right?
Ed Walters: Yes, Catherine Sanders Reach did the initial sign-up form for the AILA site. It really is a pretty amazing group of people.
Chad, am I forgetting anybody?
Chad Burton: Yeah, we had Nicole Bradick from Curo, Brooke Moore who is a lawyer in Arkansas was there, Sofia Lingos from Boston was there, Bob was on the phone, Eric Mazzoni was on the phone. I believe that was the – I am trying to think, I think that was everyone that we had in the room.
Oh yeah, we don’t want to forget Chas Rampenthal from LegalZoom who came in at the very last minute and didn’t contribute at all, so we don’t want to forget about that.
Okay, I feel like — they forget to give LegalZoom credit for changing the world, we will make sure Chas was there and so we can’t forget about that.
Monica Bay: And Bob told me that he was literally driving — actually it was in his post, literally driving from, I think it was Legaltech New York to his home in Boston.
Ed Walters: Yeah, there were a few people who were double-booked, so Chas Rampenthal came from another meeting. I think Eddie Hartman came through and Rich Granat came in kind of in the middle of the project too. I mean, you talk about like a collection of people who have skills to bring to bear, that’s an amazing collection of people.
And then you have the Center for Innovation starting that night. We had a couple of people from the Center for Innovation come through and say, okay, we’re working on something in parallel, how can we make these things go together?
So right away Margaret Hagan from Stanford and Sarah Glassmeyer from the ABA started getting to work on combining the site that they were working on with the site that we were creating for AILA so that in a very short amount of time we had a pretty dizzying array of expertise at the table working on this site, but I want to make sure that I emphasize, there were a lot of very bright people who were working on this. The idea of templating it of creating a Google Doc that shows the way for the future means that you don’t have to have all of that kind of who’s who of Legaltech working on the site for the future. You can really just kind of follow the steps and really any non-technical lawyer could have a website online in a couple of hours.
Monica Bay: I think that’s brilliant, yeah, absolutely brilliant.
Ed Walters: Our goal here, Monica, is that creating a website shouldn’t be really that much harder than creating a Word document with styles. That used to be a dizzying difficult task in the past, but now really almost anyone can do it, and I think in the future websites will be exactly the same way.
Monica Bay: I think that’s so amazing and it really reflects back on how much we have even with all the people saying that lawyers aren’t adopting technology, but that’s such an absolute right thing to say that here we go that difference between now and even five or ten years ago was breathtaking.
I was very moved by one of the paragraphs that Bob said which was, “We’ve all seen the worst of committees, the inertia and the dysfunction. I was witnessing the best of what a committee could do. In no time, members were sketching out a wireframe for the site, brainstorming domain names, weighing options for platforms, and outlining content. By the next morning the basic site was launched, awaiting official review and, it was hoped, approval by AILA.” I mean, if you step back it’s just amazing that that could be done and the fact that everybody was in the same place at the same time, is just breathtaking.
What do you take away from this, what are the lessons learned on this?
Chad Burton: I think since this is what Bob would say is that this is not just what should be the model of how to pop up a website quickly, it’s also how organizations especially in the Bar world can and should function. And having the right people at the table is important but also recognizing that it was no one was doing this for their own credit or their own organization, this was really just to hand this over to AILA, and help them in a very short period of time which oftentimes as we know in the Bar world you jump into conversations like this and we could have probably spent in traditional Bar models, six months trying to identify the user, and then gathering experts to come in and give us their information and their thoughts on it. It’s like, well no, we’re just going to go, we’re not asking anyone for permission here, and Reid was comfortable with it, and the worst case scenario out of this would be that AILA said, thanks, but no thanks, we’re just going to proceed in our own way and the worst case is we have a process that could be used again and by other groups that’s not a waste of time by any means.
Monica Bay: Chad, tell me a little bit about the ABA Center for Innovation which was cited as a very important part of this process?
Chad Burton: Absolutely. So the Center kicked off in September 2016 and the Center for Innovation is one of the recommendations that came out of the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services report and that recommendation was adopted by the ABA Board of Governors and we kicked off this fall and that’s as Ed had mentioned that we’re both involved with that, that’s another group where when we attend those meetings I feel like a child sitting at the grown-ups table with the individuals who are involved with — general counsel from some of the largest companies in the world, law school dean, just amazing group of people.
And Ed mentioned the staff so Sarah Glassmeyer, Jeff Burkhardt from the center were already working on tackling this problem and so we have this really good staff as well who are running the show for this, and so the center now is really focused on helping to accelerate innovation within the profession which sounds like a lot of words. If you go to the Google “ABA Center for Innovation” it’s got a new site that Sarah primarily put together and it’s highlighting a lot of the projects that are going on. We’ve got a Fellows Program so that people that are coming right out of law school or going to have year-long fellowships where they can work on certain projects or other projects within the center, we also have mid-career fellows they’re going to be a part of this where folks that want to take a six-month leave of absence from their current job or whatever they are doing to do the same to work on innovative products and projects within the industry, so very new, but we are off and running very quickly. Ed, anything else you want to add to it?
Ed Walters: Yeah, if I can. There’s a woman named Beth Noveck who was the first deputy CTO of the White House and when she left government she went to NYU and NYU said we would like to set up a think tank around your work, and she said, no, we’re going to set up a do tank. We have enough think tanks, we need people who actually go do things. And I love the role of Bar Association committees, ABA committees, the Futures commission, the Center for Innovation to really do things.
There’s plenty of time to think and reflect, but there’s also times to act, and I think there is a great opportunity here to show that it’s not as hard as everyone thinks, so this is a great do tank moment where you have a couple of committees who work together over a 36-hour period instead of spending a couple of days figuring out who’s going to be on the committee and then what the charter for the committee is going to be and six months later starting to do the work this was rapid prototyping, this was an iterative thing we put up just a bare-minimum, viable product website and then revised it over the course of the weekend and then handed it off to somebody. I love that idea of committees as do tanks.
Monica Bay: That’s fantastic. And one of the things that’s really been amazing is that the legal community is jumping up in ways that in my career have never seen and for the ABA to be willing to do something fast as you’ve all said is really, really a major, major change.
One of the other folks that Bob talked about was in Seattle where a group of the lawyers worked with the legal software company and I’m going to probably butcher the thing on this. Is it Niota Logic?
Ed Walters: Yeah, Niota Logic.
Monica Bay: Thank you! They launched HYPERLINK “http://www.airportlawyer.org” airportlawyer.org, a website and an app to collect information on travelers in need of legal help and to connect them with volunteer lawyers at a dozen major airports and just the intensity of this throughout the legal community is really quite amazing. I think this may be something that’s going to change the way that the ABA which for years and years and years has always thought to be slow and careful, of course, we all want to be careful, but the slow has been how the ABA has been for a long time, so personally, I find this really, really exciting.
We are running out of time, but I want to give each of you a chance to sort of give final comments on this and what your reactions are to this entire situation.
Ed Walters: Chad, do you want to go first?
Chad Burton: Sure. Yeah, this way we can end it in a much more articulated fashion with you, Ed, that’d be good. Yeah, I mean, I think Monica what you are talking about as far as the mobilization and the fast nature of it, it’s also highlighting the important role that our profession is going to continue to play and delivery of services in a lot of different ways that maybe emergency type scenarios that we just didn’t see coming.
I mean, I guess we should have seen some of this coming, but to that extent and to see that kind of fast response where you’ve got what like a thousand lawyers standing around in an airport trying to help, and what this does is, it’s highlighting the need for continuing to quickly evolve the way we deliver legal services.
So those lawyers — let’s pick the next event whatever that is, where we need to mobilize a lot of lawyers the importance of being ready for that, not just having a website up, but it highlights the importance of strong modern practices. So if a lawyer was saying, okay, of those thousand lawyers, they were standing around and saying, I’m ready to help, and if somebody looked at them and said, great, we need habeas petitions, can you jump on your computer and take those out with your doc assembly program?
And if they are saying, oh, I’m sorry, I left my 20:37 back at the office, I can’t really help right now, that’s not useful. And so, as we look at these kind of situations the more modern practices we have set up, I think that will be important for helping to further advance these kinds of needs.
Ed Walters: I’m kind of blown away by the dream team that was around the two tables for the kind of the Futures Committee and then the Center for Innovation that worked on this project. If you look at Reid Trautz and Chad, sorry Chad, Aaron Street and Sam Glover from Lawyerist, Catherine Sanders Reach, Dan Lear from Avvo, Nicole Braddock, Sofia Lingos, Brooke Moore, Eric Mazzoni, Bob Ambrogi, Sarah Glassmeyer, Margaret Hagan — this is a — it’s a really incredible group. And that’s — one of the real powers of the ABA is the convening power, to get all of those people in a room together.
If you look at the people on the Center for Innovation, Martha Minow, the Dean of Harvard Law School, you have the General Counsel of Cisco, you have all of these people who have an amazing array of talents. Being able to put them together should catalyze amazing actions, and I love the convening power of the ABA for that.
If we can combine that with this idea that you can lay out the steps to take effective action, if you have that kind of all-star group, Eric Mazzoni and Bob Ambrogi and Chas Rampenthal and Eddie Hartman and Rich Granat, all working together on anything and then just saying, here’s the breadcrumb trail, here’s the steps that we took and here’s how other people can take this kind of action in the future.
I think that’s really powerful, the convening power of the ABA and then the documentary power to show how to do this in the future, to show other people how to take effective action. I think there’s something really beautiful about that. And I hope it’s long-lasting. If you combine this do tank mentality for committees and then the idea that you can show others how to do it, documenting the experience and leaving a path for other people, I think that’s a model for a very powerful action in the future.
Monica Bay: I completely agree with you, and the other thing that I keep thinking about is, this may be a turning point for the entire profession, because they are the ones who are stepping up like immediately and the dynamics between the president, that and journalists as well, because all of a sudden we’re in a position where it’s the lawyers that are standing up to help.
And it’s the lawyers who are going to — and the judges who are going to be saying, you can’t do that, and I’m already sensing and I know I’m not the only person who said this it’s not an original thing to say, but I think this is going to change the way that America and the world think about lawyers, and think about judiciary, and boy, the beginning of America sounds like they did a really good job of having various different checks and balance.
On this point, I want to give each of you a chance to please tell our listeners how they can reach you if they would like to reach out to you. Chad, why don’t you start first?
Chad Burton: One way is Twitter; my Twitter handle is @chadeburton or @chadeburton as some people prefer. Website for the company is HYPERLINK “http://www.curolegal.com” curolegal.com, and you can find my information there.
Monica Bay: Ed, how about you?
Ed Walters: You can get me on Twitter @EJWalters or on the web at HYPERLINK “http://www.Fastcase.com” Fastcase.com.
Monica Bay: Well, thank you both and congratulations on an amazing, amazing accomplishment that you both did.
Thanks again to Ed Walters and Chad Burton, and thanks to you for listening to ‘Law Technology Now’.
We hope you’ll be back at our next edition.
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