chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
Annual Report

Annual Report



The American Bar Association launched the ABA Center for Innovation in September 2016, to encourage and accelerate innovations that improve the accessibility, effectiveness, and efficiency of legal services in the United States. The Center has had a highly successful first year, taking on a number of impactful projects and initiatives, such as:

  • Developing a FloodProof resource as part of a comprehensive effort to aid Louisiana flood victims;
  • Collaborating on the creation of Hate Crime Help to direct hate crime victims to geographically relevant information and resources;
  • Launching a social entrepreneurship project with the Legal Services Corporation that will facilitate LSC grantees' implementation of cutting-edge tools and services;
  • Collaborating on the creation and design of a 21-century Miranda tool to help arrestees understand their rights;
  • Creating a Fellowship Program that enables innovators to develop and implement impactful projects; and
  • Hosting and organizing national events and programs that spotlight cutting-edge legal services innovations.

These are just a few of the Center’s initiatives. This website contains more details about them and other projects, including some that are still under development.

As we start our second year, we remain grateful for the support of the American Bar Association and our growing network of sponsors and collaborators within and outside of the profession.  We encourage you to read about what we have achieved together and to reach out to us if you are interested in joining our efforts to improve the effectiveness, accessibility and affordability of legal information and services.


Andrew Perlman
Chair, ABA Center for Innovation

Marty Smith
Vice Chair, ABA Center for Innovation

Janet Jackson
Managing Director


The ABA Center for Innovation expresses its appreciation to the following for their financial support and commitment to the work of the Center:

  • ABA Business Law Section
  • ABA Criminal Justice Section
  • ABA Standing Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness
  • American University Washington College of Law
  • Cisco Systems
  • William C. Hubbard
  • Rene and Judy Perry Martinez
  • Microsoft
  • North Carolina Administrative Office of the Court
  • North Carolina Bar Association
  • North Carolina Supreme Court
  • Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law

Additionally, the ABA Center for Innovation is extremely grateful for the invaluable programmatic support it received from our partners:

  • ABA Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities
  • CuroLegal
  • Illinois Institute of Technology Institute of Design
  • Seyfarth Shaw
  • Stanford University Design School
  • Suffolk Law School
  • Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP
  • Tulane University Law School

Programs and Projects

Guided by its Programs & Projects Committee, the ABA Center for Innovation has undertaken a number of initiatives that are encouraging and accelerating legal services innovations. Here are a few examples:

A. FloodProof


Last year, floods ravaged the areas in and around Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Yet flood victims often lack the documentation of home ownership that is required to establish eligibility for FEMA, SBA, and state recovery disaster assistance. The ABA Center for Innovation and several partners responded with FloodProof: 

Working with Stanford Law School, Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS), LSU Law School, and Louisiana Appleseed, the Center created a mobile app to help Louisiana flood victims gather information and documents needed to establish home ownership and complete disaster relief applications. The Center later developed a web-based version of FloodProof and explored efforts, in cooperation with the ABA Standing Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness and Louisiana Appleseed, to drive greater awareness and use of these new technology resources. Through a collaborative effort with SLLS, LSU Law School, Southern University Law School, Baton Rouge Bar Association, Louisiana Appleseed, and local and state government, flood victims are being introduced to both the mobile app and web platform to assist in recovery. The overall FloodProof project, including the mobile app design, was made possible by funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Baton Rouge Area Foundation.

The ABA Center for Innovation is now working to repurpose FloodProof to respond to hurricanes that battered the United States and the Caribbean in 2017.

B. Hate Crime Help

A recent spate of hate crimes across the United States spurred the Center to take action. With generous support from Cisco Systems, and in collaboration with CuroLegal, Suffolk Law School, and Stanford Law School, the Center developed a portal to help people determine if they have been a victim of a hate crime and learn more about state-specific hate crime statutes. The Center held a design event at Suffolk Law School on March 20, 2017, to jumpstart development.

Almost everybody has a smartphone and can pull up this information on a browser from anywhere. We’re huge believers in the idea that technology can scale access to knowledge.”
Nicole Bradick, ABA Center for Innovation partner, CuroLegal

The Mad-Libs-like tool, Hate Crime Help, assists victims of harassment, violence, and property damage, resulting from acts based on religion, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability, or sexual orientation.

In its coverage of the tool, the Washington Post noted that “reporting a hate crime is notoriously hard,” and is designed to facilitate reporting and help people find relevant resources.

C. Social Entrepreneurship

There is growing interest around the world in social entrepreneurship. To date, legal technology companies have not been particularly active in this area, even though social entrepreneurship could be particularly impactful within the legal industry, and in improving access to civil legal services.  The ABA Center for Innovation, in collaboration with the Legal Services Corporation, is establishing an initiative that will encourage more social entrepreneurship in the legal technology space by matching legal tech companies with local legal aid agencies to provide them with free technology resources and support.

D. Online Legal Tech Course

The Center seeks to expand the knowledge and skills necessary to broaden innovation in the legal industry. To that end, the Center is developing an online course designed for lawyers seeking a better understanding of how technology can be utilized effectively in their practices. The course will run six to eight weeks and cover document automation, artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, data science, and other topics that are essential to developing innovative approaches to the delivery of legal services. If you are interested in learning more about this course, please contact Janet Jackson.

E. Immigration Justice

Within days of a recent executive order regarding immigration that detained scores of immigrants at airports, the ABA Center for Innovation worked with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the ABA Law Practice Division to launch, a site that supports pro bono attorneys seeking to engage in immigration law. The site provides necessary resources for organizing pro bono attorneys nationwide. The Center also prepared a toolkit for quickly developing rapid response websites. This project demonstrated that bar associations can work together with agility and common purpose, particularly when aided by innovation.

F. Legal Check-ups

In its first year, the Center assisted with the ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services in its development of a free, online legal checkup tool. The checkup will consist of an expert system of branching questions and answers that helps members of the public identify legal issues in specific subject areas and find appropriate resources. The project is funded by an award from the ABA Enterprise Fund.

G. Innovation Clearinghouse

The Center is creating an Innovation Clearinghouse to catalog ongoing legal services innovations in the United States so that we can better understand existing projects, avoid duplicating efforts, and inform the Center’s decisions regarding new initiatives. In addition to conducting its own research, the Center has asked the public for help with identifying innovative projects and innovations.

H. Miranda Tool

The ABA Center for Innovation—working with the ABA Criminal Justice Section, the ABA Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights & Responsibilities, the Illinois Institute of Technology Institute of Design, Chicago-Kent School of Law, and Tulane University School of Law, and in consultation with Harvard’s Access to Justice Lab, and the National Center for State Courts—is developing a Miranda app for use by police officers to inform people with limited English proficiency of their constitutional rights. A Center-led team of design students, computer science students, a law student, and an IIT professor has created several prototypes and is now working with police and community stakeholders including prosecutors, defense counsel, and adults of all ages with limited English proficiency to test these prototypes.

I. #ABAStands4

Center staff and volunteers worked with ABA Member Services to inspire and launch ABA stands4, a website and social media campaign that demonstrates the ABA’s commitment to improving access to legal services and the rule of law in the United States and around the globe. ABA stands4 is shining a light on public service works undertaken by numerous ABA entities, including the Center.

Using design thinking techniques learned in the Center’s Boot Camp (see “Fellows Program”), Center staff and Fellows are now working on the second iteration of ABAstands4.

Fellows Program

Through its Fellowship Program, the ABA Center for Innovation helps emerging and established legal innovators to create a new program, project, or tool.

Following a rigorous selection process that included a review over 100 applications, the Center’s Fellows Committee selected its inaugural cohort of NextGen and Innovation Fellows.

NextGen Fellows

NextGen Fellows are recent—within the last five years—law school graduates, who spend one year in residence at ABA Headquarters to develop an innovative tool, product, or program that will improve access to and delivery of legal services in America. NextGen Fellows receive salary, benefits, space, and training. Bar admission is not required. Current Fellows are working on a wide range of projects, including cybersecurity tools for marginalized populations, software to aid persons facing eviction, and an app to help self-represented litigants.

Innovation Fellows

Innovation Fellows are midcareer attorneys or other experts, who spend 9 to 12 weeks at ABA Headquarters to develop an innovative tool, product, or program that will improve access to and delivery of legal services in America. Innovation Fellows do not receive a salary, stipend, or benefits, but are given time, space, and training. Current Fellows are working on a wide range of projects, including collaborative software for innocence projects, electronic matching programs for scholars and advocates, and even building a state-specific innovation center.

Boot Camp, Curriculum, and Goals

All Fellows undergo a rigorous and engaging week-long Boot Camp:

The Boot Camp enhances Fellows’ people, process, and technology skills. Sessions include Legal Tech 101, Lean Thinking & Process Mapping, and Design Thinking for Lawyers.

Following Boot Camp, Fellows take part in the Fellowship Curriculum, which includes guest lectures, site visits, daily “scrum” meetings, and frequent project planning sessions. As they create their projects, Fellows follow a design thinking model that includes four steps: Research, Analysis, Synthesis, and Delivery.

In the Research phase, Fellows conduct observations, interviews, textual analysis, and secondary research to understand the problem or problems facing users. During Analysis, Fellows review the results of their research, framing and reframing the problem or problems they have identified with the goals of understanding that research’s meaning and identifying patterns. In the Synthesis phase, Fellows employ anti-orthodoxy exercises to generate a large concept catalog. Finally, in the Delivery phase, Fellows home in on one or more solutions, prototype and pilot those solutions, and, ultimately, launch their tools, products, or programs.

All Fellows work toward three goals: (1) researching, designing and prototyping an innovative tool, product, or program that will improve legal services in America; (2) writing about their project; and (3) speaking publicly about their project.

Presentations, Publications and Media Coverage

Presentations By Center Leadership

  • William Hubbard, Address to the South Carolina Circuit Judges Conference, March 8, 2017.
  • Andrew Perlman, Howard Lichtenstein Distinguished Legal Ethics Lecture, The Future of the Legal Profession: Innovation, Technology, and Regulation, Hofstra Law, Hempstead, NY, March 9, 2017.
  • Judy Perry Martinez, SXSW Panel: Affordable and Accessible Lawyers, Really?, Austin, Texas, March 14, 2017.
  • Judy Perry Martinez, ABA Tech Show, Keynote Plenary: Obstacles and Opportunities – Straight Talk with the CEOs of Avvo, LegalZoom, and RocketLawyer, Chicago, Illinois, March 17, 2017.
  • Judy Perry Martinez, Judge: Tech for Justice Hackathon, ABA TECHSHOW 2017, Chicago, Illinois, March 17, 2017.
  • Sarah Glassmeyer, Plenary: The Future Is Now: Creating Opportunities for Your Firm in a Changing Marketplace, Chicago, Illinois, March 18, 2017.
  • Judy Perry Martinez, Plenary: The Future Is Now: Creating Opportunities for Your Firm in a Changing Marketplace, Chicago, Illinois, March 18, 2017.
  • Judy Perry Martinez, Stanford CodeX Conference, Palo Alto, California, April 6, 2017.
  • Judy Perry Martinez, Cleveland Bar Association, Ethics Committee Breakfast, Cleveland, Ohio, April 21, 2017.
  • Judy Perry Martinez, University of Akron School of Law, Miller-Becker Center for Professional Responsibility, Distinguished Lecture, Akron, Ohio, April, 21, 2017.
  • Judy Perry Martinez, Presentation on the Future of Legal Services, LSC Board of Directors Meeting, Washington, D.C., April 25, 2017.
  • Andrew Perlman, Presenter, An Update on the ABA Center for Innovation, Legal Services Corporation Board Meeting, Washington, D.C., April 25, 2017.
  • Andrew Perlman, Panelist, CLOC’s Magna Carta for the Corporate Legal Services Industry, Corporate Legal Operations Consortium Annual Meeting, Las Vegas, NV, May 10, 2017.
  • Geoffrey T. Burkhart, Address to the Illinois Advanced Judicial Academy, Springfield, Illinois, June 6, 2017.
  • Geoffrey T. Burkhart, Address to the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, Baltimore, Maryland, June 7, 2017.
  • Judy Perry Martinez, Harvard Advanced Leadership Initiative Conference, Panel on Marketing and Fundraising, Cambridge, Massachusetts, June 9, 2017.
  • Andrew Perlman, Panelist, Artificial Intelligence and the Practice of Law, Rhode Island Bar Association Annual Meeting, Providence, RI, June 15, 2017.
  • Judy Perry Martinez, Kentucky Bar Association Annual Meeting: Get Ready for Here They Come: Your Opportunities to Shape the Future of Legal Services, Owensboro, Kentucky, June 22, 2017.

Publications by Center Leadership

Media coverage of the Center


Just Debt? Reimagining fines & Fees in America

Countless jurisdictions employ fines and fees in both criminal and civil cases. The damaging effects of fines and fees for low-income persons are widely known and include job loss, eviction, license suspensions, and even imprisonment.  This program explored opportunities for innovation in this area.  The event was cosponsored by the ABA Center for Innovation and the National Conference of Bar Presidents and featured CNN commentator Van Jones, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice and President of Conference of Chief Justices Maureen O’Connor, American Civil Liberties Union Deputy Legal Director Jeff Robinson, the Arnold Foundation’s Joanna Weiss, ABA President Hilarie Bass, and the Brennan Center’s Nicole Austin-Hillery.

Thursday, August 10, 2017
5:00 – 6:30 p.m.
Sheraton New York Times Square – Metropolitan Ballroom West, 2nd Floor
Watch highlights here.

Spotlight on Innovation

Ten speakers delivered crisp, high-level TED-style talks regarding legal innovation in America. Topics included artificial intelligence, legal education, bail funds, online dispute resolution, electronic expungement tools, civil legal aid, and criminal justice reentry. This fast-paced event concluded with a short speaker meet-and-greet.

Saturday, August 12, 2017
2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
New York Hilton Midtown – Gramercy East/West

How You Can Help

The ABA Center for Innovation collaborates with individuals, organizations, and foundations. To make a charitable gift to support the important work of the Center for Innovation to improve access to justice for all, please contact the ABA Fund for Justice and Education. If you have project ideas, resources, or subject matter expertise and would like to collaborate with the ABA Center for Innovation, we encourage you to reach out to Center staff:

Janet Jackson, Director
[email protected]

Sarah Glassmeyer, Project Specialist Manager
[email protected]

Lanita Thomas, Office Manager
[email protected]

ABA Center for Innovation
American Bar Association
321 North Clark Street
Chicago, Illinois 60654

Phone: 312-988-5192

Email: [email protected]

Follow us on Twitter

The material in all ABA publications is copyrighted and may be reprinted by permission only. Request reprint permission here.