This is the season for legal
tech announcements, whether they be about new or improved products or significant mergers, acquisitions, and funding. One announcement recently caught my eye, though, not because the product was cool or the merger lucrative. It was because it involved a big legal tech company simply doing good. Doing the right thing.
On October 19, LexisNexis and the National Bar Association (NBA) announced a multi-year agreement to advance the rule of law. The goal is to create programs and initiatives to combat systemic racism and racial inequality. When I dug deeper, I discovered this agreement came about mainly due to the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation’s efforts. We all know about LexisNexis, the behemoth legal tech company with a myriad of products and legal customers. I didn’t realize that LexisNexis also created the Rule of Law Foundation. The Foundation is a not for profit entity whose mission is to advance the rule of law around the world.
The Foundation sees its Rule of Law effort as having four pillars:
- equality before the law,
- independence of the judiciary,
- the assurance that citizens have access to law, and know what law is and
- assuring that citizens have access to legal remedies.
But I discovered the Foundation is not some pie in the sky nonprofit that pats itself and its donors on the back and reiterates how great it is. Instead, it focuses on real world practical projects that can make a difference.
For example, the Foundation partnered with the International Bar Association to create the eyeWitness to Atrocities app. This app allows individuals to record incidents of violence and atrocities and then self authenticate that video automatically with date, time, and location stamps. It also prevents the video from being tampered with. The video is automatically uploaded to LexisNexis servers and maintained, so it can not be traced to the device owner on which it was recorded.
The Foundation has also worked with the American Bar Association to help create and pass uniform model laws to curb human trafficking
The Foundation has also worked with the American Bar Association to help create and pass uniform model laws to curb human trafficking. It has worked with the United Nations on such projects as the United Nations Global Compact’s Business for the Rule of Law Framework (B4ROL)
According to LexisNexis Executive Vice President & General Counsel and Foundation President Ian McDougall, it is just these practical projects that the Foundation seeks. McDougall believes the best way to enhance the rule of law is to undertake successful practical projects that advance the Foundation’s pillars and have a lasting impact. The Foundation isn’t looking to merely sponsor the rule of law-related activities, says McDougall. Instead, it looks for entities that share the same vision and then works with those entities to advance projects. It’s all part of a long-term plan to promote the rule of law internationally.
McDougall also strongly believes that advancing the rule is not just the right thing to do. The rule of law, says McDougall strengthens and promotes business interests as well. The Foundation has gone so far as to create a Rule of Law Tracker, which demonstrates the positive impact the rule of law has on gross domestic product, crime reduction, and even infant mortality rates.
The partnership with the NBA offers the opportunity for some new and impactful projects, says McDougall. According to McDougall, “We must do more to eradicate racism and ensure equality for all under the law, transparency of law, independent judiciaries, and accessible legal remedy. We look forward to collaborating on initiatives with the NBA to influence and address inequality in our communities.”
While there are no joint projects yet, McDougall says the two associations are looking at such things as developing technological tools to document and confront racism, creating election protections by developing election guidance protocols, and an election protection resource kit. The two entitles are also talking about creating a rule of law award to showcase rule of law work that might otherwise not be noticed. And McDougall has his pet project: making sure that all U.S. courts have sufficient webcams and microphones so that the public has the ability to see and hear what is going on.
Doing good for doing good’s sake seems an appropriate label for what the Foundation is up to
Certainly, LexisNexis derives some indirect business benefits from championing its Rule of Law efforts. But McDougall was quick to point out that almost everyone in the legal community already knows who and what LexisNexis is and does. So it’s not doing this for name recognition.
Instead, doing good for doing good’s sake seems an appropriate label for what the Foundation is up to. Kudos to it, LexisNexis, the National Bar Association, and importantly to Ian McDougall for his passion for the rule of law.