Tim Baran is the LawHelpNY program manager at Pro Bono Net. His two-decade journey in the legal space has taken him from the Federal Courts to Law Firm Library Director to Legal Tech Ambassador to Legal Marketing. He works closely with legal services and community-based organizations and manages initiatives that leverage technology and LawHelpNY’s online resources to expand access to legal assistance for low-income and vulnerable communities and strengthen collaboration within the civil justice sector in New York. These are his thoughts on his first ever Equal Justice Conference.

Summer camp, winter camp…band camp. People who attend conferences year after year refer to their experience as fondly as they recall their adolescent and teen camping experience.

Summer camp is how I refer to my dozen or so years at the ABA Techshow, although it’s in February, in frigid Chicago. Why? Because it’s a fond recollection of spending the summer in the Poconos during some of my teen years, meeting new people and building meaningful friendships, learning new things, and just having a grand ole time

My first Equal Justice Conference (2019) in Louisville felt like the beginning of such a tradition, another summer camp experience, because, well, I never went to winter camp. A “justice” summer camp. My Twitter connections – people I deeply admire – became IRL friends. Hanging out with my Pro Bono Net teammates drew us even closer, if that’s even possible.

But it wasn’t just about all the feels, it was also about all the learning. Absorbing the rich experience and knowledge of those around me who’ve been walking the talk for many many years was almost overwhelming. I imagined one of the days being devoted to “speed dating” where we schedule chats in 15-minutes increments with people we want to learn from, give to, and build relationships with. One can wish.

The learning continued at dynamic sessions with thoughtful speakers although the multitude of concurrent sessions made it difficult to choose. A highlight was attending Rebecca Sandefur’s session because when Rebecca Sandefur speaks, we listen. Another was the session on community lawyering. The exuberance and passion on display was electric and inspiring, and their inclusion of the community they serve on the panel drove the message home. A model for future panels.

They say teaching is the best way to learn, and the opportunity to participate in a couple of panels was indeed instructive and a privilege. I witnessed with pride, my teammates, Quisquella, Mike, Jess, Claudia, and Mirenda prepare for and give presentations. Liz, weathering all sorts of travel issues, may have pulled a Hermione to participate in four panels! She modeled calm and cool under pressure.

Finally, the community. We’re nothing without community, and oh, what a community!  Lawyers, techies, project managers, pro bono and civil justice advocates…all working to address the legal needs of the marginalized and underserved. One of the highlights for me was the POC luncheon with fellow sisters and brothers of color in the access to justice space supporting each other, sharing our stories, and bringing our perspectives.

Can’t wait for next year’s justice summer camp!