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ABA Center for Innovation taking fellowship applications for those who would improve the law


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The ABA Center for Innovation is accepting applications for its inaugural fellowship program.

Open to both newly minted lawyers and mid-career professionals outside the law, the program seeks applications and proposals to create or develop projects to improve the legal industry. Those who wish to apply should have an idea that bridges the access-to-justice gap in the U.S.; utilizes technology to deal with a vital legal need; designs or builds a more effective way of delivering legal services; provides the public with easier access to legal information; reduces the backlog of cases in various courts throughout the country; creates tools that allow lawyers to better represent their clients; or helps pro se litigants represent themselves more effectively. The deadline for applicants is Jan. 31.

“Nothing is off the table,” says Janet Jackson, director of the Center for Innovation. “Anything that we feel has promise to improve access to justice, the practice of law, the efficacy of courts and the improvement of legal education, among other things—all of that is on the table.” Jackson also says that ideas need not be technologically based, noting that the center would also accept ideas for process improvements. “Be creative and come to us with your best ideas,” Jackson says.

The NextGen Fellowship program is open to law school graduates who have received their JD within the last five years. NextGen Fellows will work out of the ABA Headquarters in Chicago for one year and will receive a stipend of $45,000 plus benefits. The NextGen Fellowship program begins on August 1, 2017 and participants will be expected to complete their work by July 31, 2018. Bar admission is not required.

Meanwhile, the Innovation Fellowship program is for experienced, mid-career professionals looking to take a 9- to 12-week sabbatical from their full-time jobs to work on projects designed to improve the practice of law and delivery of legal services. As with the NextGen Fellows, Innovation Fellows will be based out of the ABA headquarters in Chicago, but will not receive a stipend. Instead, the center plans on working with outside organizations to develop sponsorships to aid Innovation Fellows. People interested in applying for the Innovation Fellowship do not need to have a JD. Fellowship offers will be made on a rolling basis, and the first batch of Innovation Fellows will be expected to commence work on their projects in April 2017.

“The fellowship programs will provide an unparalleled educational and training opportunity that a lot of people would not otherwise encounter,” says Jackson. “Creative thinkers who are looking to make a positive difference in how legal services are delivered and accessed in this country will have access to some of the great thinkers within the legal profession, law schools, tech companies, the design industry, and the ABA itself. We believe that we are giving back to our fellows as much as they’ll be bringing to the table.”

More information is available on the ABA Center for Innovation’s website.


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