I have a love/hate relationship with best-of lists. Many are superficial. Many have suspect or opaque methodology. Others are pay-to-play.
Yet there are those that have real value to readers and to those featured on the lists.
I’ve created and developed many best-of lists over the years, including the ABA Journal’s Legal Rebels and the now-retired Blawg 100 franchise.
The Blawg 100 was a way to expose lawyers, notoriously slow to embrace changing technology, to the world of blogging. Legal Rebels was created as a way to report in a positive way the technologies and business models disrupting the legal industry.
One list I have admired since its inception in 2011 is the Fastcase 50. Where other lists are narrow or lack diversity, the Fastcase 50 continues to impress with honorees from diverse backgrounds, practice areas, and who’ve had an impact on the profession.
This year’s list, the 10th, is no different. I recognized many names, but what I especially like is that there are names new to me. Names I should know.
On the 2020 list, honorees are working to improve the profession and, specifically doing work to narrow the access to justice gap.
Among the #A2J Heroes to follow are:
Tiela Chalmers (@TielaChalmers), a pro bono champion and CEO and General Counsel of the Alameda County Bar Association.
Lisa Colpoys (@lcolpoys), a longtime legal aid advocate bringing her vast public-sector knowledge to law students and schools to spur innovation.
Shon Hopwood, a onetime “jailhouse lawyer” turned law professor and tireless advocate for criminal justice reform.
Vasu Kappettu (@justiacom), who as COO and CTO at Justia, is the driving tech force behind the #freelaw effort to make caselaw, codes, regulations, and government information available and accessible to the public. I enjoyed working with Kappettu many years ago when we were building the ABA Journal’s Blawg Directory and its search capabilities that, thanks to Vasu, were powered by Justia.
Liz Keith (@elizk), is an indefatigable social justice advocate as head of programs for Pro Bono Net. I had the pleasure of working with Keith and her hard-working team earlier this year. The recognition here is much deserved.
Jeff Kelly (jeffk_nc), who was not on my radar but will be now that I know he chairs the Future of Law Committee at the N.C. Bar and is working to develop technology solutions to improve access to justice.
Bridget Mary McCormack (@BridgetMaryMc), who has leveraged her role as Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice to advance technology and vastly improve access to courts not just in her home state, but across the country.
Bryan Stevenson (@eji_org). If anyone could win the #A2J Heroes category for the Fastcase 50 it would be Stevenson, who as founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of Just Mercy, has elevated the access to justice conversation from Main Street to Hollywood Boulevard.
Matthew Stubenberg (MatthewLawTech), who like Colpoys started out in legal aid, quickly understood the need for tech-savvy in the #A2J space. He is currently associate director of legal technology at Harvard Law School’s Access to Justice Lab. He’s created tools to make the criminal justice system easier to navigate, such as the “Not Guilty App” and MDExpungement.com.
This year’s list also recognized professionals in memoriam, including Alli Gerkman, who before she died in 2019 was senior director of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System and an advocate for fair and accessible courts.