Pro Bono Net staffers Mirenda Watkins and Adam Friedl share their top takeaways from the Equal Justice Conference, which they both attended (and presented at) for the first time this year.

  Mirenda Watkins

Mirenda Watkins, LawHelp Interactive Coordinator, attended EJC for the first time in 2013.


Since joining the Pro Bono Net team, I heard a lot of great things about the Equal Justice Conference (EJC), so I was really looking forward to attending.  The 2013 ABA/NLADA EJC took place May 8-12 in St. Louis, MO and had over 700 attendees. It was a busy, but fantastic time. I saw a number of new, as well as familiar faces, and came away inspired by the panels and updates on the work being done nationwide to increase access to justice. I learned so much by attending the panels and talking to conference participants. In this post, I’ll share just five of the many things I learned in St. Louis (in no order of importance):

 1)      50 Tech Tips is a popular conference session for a reason! I came away with great advice on  new tools, apps, and software that I can use at work and at home (With one visit to, it’s sayonara Restoration Hardware Catalogues!).

 2)      Jeff Hogue is amazing. Well, I already knew this, but wanted to shout out Jeff and Legal Assistance of Western New York for winning the NLADA Innovations in Technology Award.  Jeff and I also co-presented on a panel entitled, Emerging Technology to Enhance Delivery of Services to LEP Communities: An Overview of Tools and Innovative Approaches. His presentation on translation methods and tools, including machine translations, as well as his ideas for the future really energized the crowd.

3)      I am the only person not on Twitter. My dad keeps telling me to get an account and I don’t listen. Check out #ejcstl to find out what was said in the twitterverse about this event.

4)      There were no construction-related deaths in building the St. Louis Gateway Arch. The conference took place in downtown St. Louis with stunning views of the arch and in close proximity to Old Courthouse, where the first two trials of the historically significant Dred Scott case were heard.

5)      Gamification can have valuable use in the access to justice community. Lisa Colpoys, Executive Director of Illinois Legal Aid Online, gave an informative presentation on gamification in the Self-Presented Litigants Pre-conference session. Games are a great way to convey legal information and can also be used as a learning tool to familiarize self-represented litigants with the legal process. She noted that 3 billion hours a week are spent gaming worldwide (which makes me think I may need to slow down on Words with Friends…).


 Adam Friedl

Adam Friedl, Pro Bono Coordinator, also attended EJC for the first time this year.


Mirenda is a tough act to follow (she should have warned me she was taking notes!). Trying to match her for quality of insight and observation is probably a lost cause for me, but I can win on quantity! Here are the six almost-as-thoughtful-as-Mirenda’s lessons I’m taking away from my first EJC conference:

1)      Non-traditional service delivery models are the way of the future. Numerous sessions focused on uses of technology, unbundled legal services, new ways to educate self-represented litigants… but even the talks I attended that nominally had nothing to do with these topics ended up discussing them in some form.

2)      Collaborative gatherings like EJC spread innovative ideas and create new ones. I frequently found myself explaining some new project I’m involved with, and the response was “we do something kind of like that, just different in way,” or “you know who you should talk to about that.” I learned so much from other folks there about different ways to tackle similar problems, and came home with entirely new (to me, at least!) ideas inspired by what I’d heard.

3)      The Arch is the world’s tallest stainless steel monument, and its width equals its height (630 feet). Perhaps the algebraically-inclined among you could deduce that latter fact by looking, but I never would have guessed.

4)      Important people are paying attention to the economic challenges faced by current and future legal services lawyers. For public interest lawyers like Mirenda and myself who went to law school, after it cost about $8 million, things can get a little disheartening. I was really impressed that the conference organizers invited national student loan expert Heather Jarvis, as well as Equal Justice Works, to hold a session on student loan strategies—and that so many program directors were there!

5)      The innovative work that Chief Judge Lippman and Judge Fisher are doing on Access to Justice in New York is being recognized and replicated across the country. It makes me even more excited to have a small part in those efforts.

6)      It’s important to pace yourself: the hundred-plus session offerings all look fantastic, but you have to accept that it’s not possible to take everything in. It reminds me of those all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants my grandparents took us to—just because they have 100 kinds of pie doesn’t mean that you should try to eat that many.

So Mirenda: EJC, Portland, 2014? I’ll tweet you about it.