The 2022 AALL Conference opened yesterday on a solid note of collaboration and cooperation.
The 2022 AALL Conference kicked off yesterday, July 16 in Denver. It’s the first time the groups have gotten together since 2019. Perhaps appropriately, the keynote speaker was Tani Cantil-Sakauye. Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye is the first woman Chief of the California Supreme Court and an engaging and charismatic speaker.
The Chief Justice talked a lot about access to justice and the way courts are viewed in today’s society society. She also talked about how to deal with the new realities growing out of the pandemic. But more than that, she talked about collaboration and consensus building, collegiality among those who disagree, and leadership. She struck the right and appropriate note for the Conference.
It’s all about good manners. Try to be kind. Try to be compassionate. Assume the best
One thing stood out about her presentation: Justice Cantil-Sakauye is committed to working with others in a respectful and empathetic manner. According to Justice Cantil-Sakauye, “It’s all about good manners. Try to be kind. Try to be compassionate. Assume the best. Collegiality is often about how to phrase things. We have to think about things in a way that isn’t categorical.” Great words to live by in today’s times of contention and bitter partisanship. It was fitting that she opened the Conference. Law librarians by and large seem committed to the same thing: working with others, solving problems, and understanding others’ needs.
Other key points from Justice Cantil-Sakauye’s discussion. Courts are under intense scrutiny in ways different than ever before. We all—especially lawyers—have the responsibility to defend courts and opinions-even those we disagree with. She’s right-its part of our professional duty to respectfully disagree but then defend the court system. Added Justice Cantil-Sakauye, it’s critical to defend the process and its fairness.
Not surprisingly, Justice Cantil-Sakauye was asked about the failure in California to make any impactful changes to law firm ownership and para-professional rules. According to Justice Cantil-Sakauye, the California legislature has much more control over these efforts than perhaps other states. It is the California legislature that sets the bar association dues and controls many aspects of what the bar association can do. The Legislature is thus subject to more intense lobbying efforts of practitioners.
As a result, Justice Cantil-Sakauye said the bar association thus far has had little ability to take a stand concerning things like law firm ownership and paraprofessional rules. Justice Cantil-Sakauye admitted, though, that there are so many A2J benefits to the liberalization of these rules that it will ultimately come to pass. I’m not so sure though given the apparent control the lawyers, as opposed to the Courts, have over the rules.
The Chief Justice was also asked about A2J and where A2J efforts are headed. Significantly, the Chief Justice stated it will be critical for courts to think more about the users of court systems. It is the court users, in my view, that courts need to think of and treat as consumers and clients. Justice Cantil-Sakauye says courts need to take into count the lessons learned from the pandemic about what users want from courts. And about how the users want to interact with courts. All of which is to say we shouldn‘t try to go back to normal.
All her views are consistent with my experience with AALL itself. It’s a collegial and welcoming organization. AALL indeed understands I think, that it really is all about good manners. It’s an unassuming but highly sophisticated group of legal professionals that knows and understands more about legal technology and innovation than perhaps most organizations. And it does so in ways that demonstrate it has no agenda other than to improve and solve problems.
Most of the attendees at the Conference are users and doers when it comes to technology
I bumped into Gregg Lambert, the Chief Knowledge Services Officer at Jackson Walker who along with Marlene Gebauer runs the well-known Geek in Review podcast and who also writes the blog Three Geeks and a Law Blog on the exhibit floor. He put it best when he told me that most of the attendees at the Conference are users and doers when it comes to technology. AALL attendees by and large have a different perspective than the purchasers and sellers you see at some of the other legal tech conferences; there’s no hustle even in the exhibit hall. It’s more about solving problems and making things work for others. About collaboration. About working with others, as Justice Justice Cantil-Sakauye put it, in a respectful and empathic manner.
And that’s one of the reasons AALL is one of my favorite legal conferences.