The first group of ABA Center for Innovation fellows is about to hit the ground running to explore how technology can help the effort to deliver legal services to as wide an audience as possible.
Composed of a combination of new or recent law school graduates and those who have worked in the legal or technology field for several years or more, the fellows were scheduled to take part in a “Bootcamp” in late August, where they were to learn “people, process and technology skills,” says Geoff Burkhart, the center’s deputy director and counsel.
After the Bootcamp, most of the fellows will then spend their fellowship at the ABA’s Chicago headquarters working on their projects. Subjects include online portals, apps, and platforms that will allow others to collaborate on future projects that make it easier for those with legal needs to get them met.
The center grew out of the 2016 report of the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services, Burkhart says; the fellowship program is one of the ways it tries to put the report’s recommendations into action.
There are two designations of fellows: NextGen and Innovation. NextGen Fellows have graduated law school within the past five years, and will work full time for a year at the center, except for one who was sponsored by Microsoft and will work at the company's headquarters in Redmond, Wash. NextGen Fellows will receive a salary and benefits and be treated as ABA employees, Burkhart says.
Innovation Fellows are already established in their professions, and will essentially be taking up to a 12-week sabbatical to work at the center. They will not receive salary or benefits.
The center hopes to create a “tech startup/incubator/laboratory” atmosphere, says Sarah Glassmeyer, the ABA project specialist manager who will oversee day-to-day operations. An attorney and law librarian who worked as a research fellow in the Harvard Law Library Innovation Lab, Glassmeyer wants to encourage fellows “to experiment, fail, pick themselves up and try something new, keep hacking away at a problem until they get to a solution.”
Below is a look at the fellows who will be attempting all of this.