Legal academic publishing isn't synonymous with innovation. The mere mention of it can, for some, bring up repressed memories of the most banal and stuffy aspects of law school. But the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wants to change that.
When Rodney Smolla was featured as a Legal Rebel in 2009, he was in the midst of leading an innovative plan at Washington and Lee University School of Law, which involved eliminating traditional third-year coursework and replacing it with experiential learning.
When David Van Zandt became dean of what is now Northwestern University's Pritzker School of Law in 1995, he faced a steep learning curve. Up until then, he had never managed an organization of more than a few people.
Before they were buzzwords, Luz Herrera was a pioneer in the world of "low bono" practice, nonprofit law firms and legal incubators. All three innovations have blossomed and spread across the country since then.
In the 10 years since Emery K. Harlan, co-founder of the National Association of Minority & Women Owned Law Firms, was featured as an ABA Journal Legal Rebel, he says little has changed for diversity in the profession.
When Ralph Baxter joined the inaugural class of Legal Rebels in 2009, he was the CEO and chairman of Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe. Just a year into the biggest recession since the Great Depression, he caught the ABA Journal’s attention through his initiatives that took Orrick from a domestic, California-based firm to an international heavyweight while navigating economic turbulence.
Many lawyers are reluctant to adopt new legal technology, says Monica Goyal, who developed platforms including My Legal Briefcase, which helps parties in the Canadian small claims courts, and Aluvion Law, which uses automation to cut legal services costs for small businesses.
Perhaps in five to seven years, as Colin Rule sees it, half of U.S. citizens who file court cases will have access to online dispute resolution software walking them step by step through their matters, resolving up to 80 percent of cases.
Since the late 1990s, Joyce Raby has spent a career bringing technology to legal aid. While a booster and believer in technology's potential to improve America's legal system, her experience is tempering.
"We've been saying for a very long time that technology was going to be the saving grace for the justice ecosystem," she says. "I don't think it is."