The Fastcase 50

Posted: 16 June 2014
By: Neota Logic

An ecosystem of innovation in law

With two of our co-founders among the Fastcase 50’s (Michael Mills 2012 and John Lord 2014), we decided this morning to have a fresh look back and around at our 198 colleagues among the Fastcase 50 since its inauguration. The four classes of the Fastcase 200 are here: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014.

The tour is inspiring, humbling, and provocative.

The Fastcase 50’s are, in the language of the encomia and in alphabetical order: courageous, interesting, and provocative … entrepreneurs, innovators, leaders, techies, trailblazers, and visionaries.

Lively adjectives and active nouns aside, who are they? They are a remarkably wide-ranging (and free range) collection. Again in alphabetical order, the Fastcase 50’s are:

  • academics, advocates, authors, bar leaders, and bloggers
  • commentators, computer scientists, editors, and engineers,
  • entrepreneurs, general counsel, inventors, and journalists
  • judges, justices, lawyers, and librarians
  • government officials, professors, and programmers
  • publishers, regulators, and reinventors
  • students, technologists, thinkers, and writers

And often they wear more than one of those hats. We’re not given to exclamation here at Expert Thinking, the Neota Logic blog, but … what an extraordinary gathering of talents!

More than any other honorary assembly that we know of, the Fastcase 50’s reach across law for the poor, the middle class, and the corporate class; law for those with lawyers and without; and law for citizens and those who might become so.

If the flood times come, Fastcase can build an ark (perhaps digital rather than of gopher wood) and the 50’s will climb aboard 2 by 2, all species represented, to refound the profession.

Noah's Ark - Walters Art Museum

Walters Art Museum

What are the Fastcase 50 doing? Most notably, they are doing and doing different.

No free riders or sliders or hangers-on, no passive watchers. And all, each from a different vantage point, are pushing and pulling the profession (and, yes, the industry) to serve its many and varied clients and constituents better.

They champion transparency—in lawyer/client relations, in government data, policy, and practice, in judicial proceedings, and in legal education. They advocate for access—to the law itself, and to justice. They build structures, systems, and tools for access, quality, economy, and efficiency.

They also collaborate. Our tour of the four classes found time and again 50’s who are working together across organizations and projects, who influence and inspire one another.

Neota Logic’s graph across the network is small but illustrative.

Class of 2011

Beth Noveck, former Deputy CTO of the US and leader of the Open Government Initiative, now director of The Governance Lab at New York University. With students in the Lab, Neota Logic built a Crowdsourcing Advisor to improve public participation in governance.

Class of 2012

Tanina Rostain, professor, co-director of the Center for the Study of the Legal Profession, and creator of the Technology, Innovation & Law Practice program at Georgetown University Law Center. Roger Skalbeck, associate law librarian at GULC and teacher in the TILP course. For five semesters, soon to be six, students in the course have built Neota Logic expert systems serving access to justice organizations, coached by adjunct professor Kevin Mulcahy of Neota Logic and culminating in the IronTech Competition.

Mark O’Brien, co-founder and executive director of Pro Bono Net. One of us serves on the board of Pro Bono Net, and Neota Logic is building with Pro Bono Net the Legal Services Corporation-funded New Mexico Triage System and the Robin Hood Foundation-funded Immigrant Justice Corps system. And Mark is now co-teaching with Tanina Rostain.

Michael Poulshock, Stanford CodeX, builder of many production expert systems in law and policy, and inventor of new software tools. His work nudges Neota Logic toward ever-better software.

Richard Susskind, author, speaker, and adviser to firms and governments. His widely known graph of evolution in law practice frames what we do at Neota Logic, and appears on our web site (with permission, of course).

SusskindGraphic

And his first books, Expert Systems in Law and Latent Damage Law—The Expert System, inspired one of us to study expert systems in the first place.

Class of 2013

Matthew Burnett, director of the Immigration Advocates Network (IAN). IAN and Matthew worked with students at Georgetown University Law Center in Tanina Rostain’s course to build the Immigration Navigator, a Neota Logic application. And Neota Logic is working with IAN on the Immigrant Justice Corps system.

Ron Friedmann, consultant at Fireman & Co., writer of the venerable and admiredStrategic Legal Technology blog, which today is as much about the business of law as about technology. Neota Logic has been guided in many ways by Ron’s insights.

Bill Henderson, professor and director of the Center on the Global Legal Profession at Indiana University Maurer School of Law. At Bill’s invitation, one of us served as visiting-professor-for-a-day in a very engaged, lively class, and joined fellow 2013 Fastcase 50 Richard Granat in a panel presentation to students.

Jim Sandman, president of the Legal Services Corporation, which has funded the New Mexico Triage System being built by Pro Bono Net and Neota Logic, and organized the Technology Summit, to which one of us contributed and we wrote about in Access to Justice—Everyone, Anytime, Anywhere

Class of 2014

And in the latest round, Neota Logic is proud to have two new 50’s as friends and collaborators: Scott Rechtschaffen, chief knowledge officer of Littler Mendelson, and Ken Grady, chief executive officer of SeyfarthLean Consulting.

* * *

As these snippets illustrate, from any one person among the Fastcase 200, there are lines linking in many directions to many others. A fermenting brew of, yes, “courageous, interesting, and provocative … entrepreneurs, innovators, leaders, techies, trailblazers, and visionaries.”

Can this wattage (the measure of power, after all) be harnessed? Or multiplied? Perhaps it’s time for the Fastcase Forum, an occasional gathering of the 50’s to strengthen the network, speed up the exchange of ideas, and spontaneously combust new collaborations. We’ll ask @EJWalters.

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