1. What do you do and how did you get involved with this work?
I am a law school professor at the Maurer School of Law who conducts research at the intersection of three areas: psychological science, access to justice, and legal education. I refer to the points of intersection between these areas as human-centered civil justice design, access to justice service learning, and life transformative legal education. I teach civil procedure, law and psychology, project management, and also co-direct the IU Maurer School of Law’s Access-to-Justice Service Learning Program and Center for Law, Society & Culture.
I first became involved in access to justice issues when engaging in pro bono during my first year in law school at Georgetown. While at Georgetown, I volunteered a few hours a week for the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights & Urban Affairs, primarily conducting intake. I also became interested in interdisciplinary legal thinking in my first year in law school, though psychology has interested me for many years. Personal disclaimer: My wife is a professor in IU’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, and my father is, and my grandfather was, a psychiatrist. Indeed, but for being a lawyer, I might have been a psychologist!
2. In your opinion, what is the most important thing currently happening in your field and why is it so important?
I will speak about two trends, though they are interrelated. From the angle of the field of civil justice, we are seeing increased attention on the people who navigate their way through our civil justice system, and their hopes, aims, aspirations, concerns, and how designing the system itself can either facilitate or frustrate these needs and concerns. This new way of thinking about the people whom we serve is weaving throughout many different fields, industries, and areas in society--law being one of the latest. To be sure, many have cared about the quality of justice in the past. What we see now is that this way of thinking has been linked to systems thinking and an empirical outlook, and with technology.
Turning to the next trend, in my view, this puts pressure on legal education. Some lawyers will continue to engage in the practice of law using new technologies to create work product. This is quite similar to the past, such as legal research and writing. But increasingly, lawyers are pushing in new directions and new roles. And many of these new roles will require increasingly sophisticated ways of connecting with and working with other people. Knowing the law is a subset of this skill. Thinking like a lawyer is increasingly broadening to include social and emotional skills and a way of relating to members of the public. This trend has always existed. It has reached an inflection point.
3. The Clinic primarily serves low-income individuals and families with unmet legal needs. How do you see your work impacting and affecting that community?
From research, to teaching, to service, my effort as a legal scholar, teacher, and coordinator of the A2J service learning program, and facilitator of Indiana’s legal needs assessment is designed to broaden access to justice for low-income members of the community. My hope is that the work that I do, such as facilitating work with Project GRACE on expungements, or learning about and addressing the needs of low-income seniors, veterans, homeless persons, or immigrants in our community positively impacts the community served by the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic.
4. What positive and negative trends or changes do you expect to see over the next few years within your field?
I am hopeful that the effort and energy of so many judges, lawyers, and legal aid providers around the state to collaborate, connect, and work together to address the needs of low-income members of the community will have an impact and improve access to justice in Indiana.
5. What resources--books, TED Talks, articles, etc.--do you recommend to those who are interested in learning about and engaging with this community?
One of the books that I would highly recommend for those wishing to learn about these issues is Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy. Several excellent TED talks include:
1. Leslie Morgan Steiner's "Why domestic violence victims don't leave"
2. Bryan Stevenson's "We need to talk about an injustice"
3. Victoria Pratt's "How judges can show respect"
4. Vivek Maru's "How to put the power of law in people's hands"