Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bus to the PBLAC Meeting

Today I hopped a bus downtown for a Pro Bono & Legal Aid Committee (PBLAC) meeting, at the Washington State Bar Association. I'm used to driving downtown and parking, and in theory the Committee will pay mileage and for parking; this would give me more control over . However, I was encouraged by Seattle In Motion to try to convert as many trips as possible to more sustainable methods; it's not just a good idea, it's also fun to try to play a little game that can net me free bus tickets as a prize!
The trip went pretty smoothly, and I caught up on my reading (I'm starting David Brin's The Transparent Society, ten years late but what the heck! it's still very relevant.)
The main subject of the meeting was some strategizing for WSBA's long-range planning. We'd gotten the materials yesterday, and when I reviewed them last night, the one thing that struck me was their use of vague language of the sort that has plagued the access to justice community at least as long as I've been around them - certainly in the last century! I snapped off a quick response in case something happened to get in the way of my attending:
"I have to say that a quick glance at these materials shows no measurable, meaningful goals: merely "enhancing" and "promoting" and similar weasel words. When you define a project by the expenditure of effort and not by the solution of problems, you cannot succeed. Why are we not setting "Closing the Justice Gap" as the central guiding principle from which all the rest hangs?"
I invested an hour or more this morning going over the material in more detail. There's a lot of specific and helpful work that could be done, but I didn't send any of that in. As it happens, that was o.k. because early in the meeting it turned out that much of what was sent us wasn't for comment; there was just the one item to work on. There were a few eyebrows raised at my message (e.g. the word "weasel"), but I put on my neutral face because, frankly, we're all grown-ups hear and blunt talk can be useful.
It turns out that some of the more long-term committee members also had concerns - not precisely those I had raised, but definitely consistent. We had a good discussion and I was gratified to see a good result, incorporating ideas about the Justice Gap and also broadened the focus from lawyers only to the broader legal profession (WSBA is the natural hub for the legal profession in Washington State; it's just silly that pro bono efforts don't systematically coordinate with paralegals etc.) It was definitely worth showing up in person; I'm not sure how this worked but it there was a lot of in-person nonverbal language that was very useful.
I was also happy to make a few connections between people and/or resources. In particular, when Andy Guy talked about the use of translators with the innovative Long Distance Lawyer program, I was able to point him to Seattle University's video on the use of interpreters; after the meeting I saw him talk with SU's Diana Singleton which may have just been a coincidence or it may have been the power of networking.
The bus trip back was just as convenient as the trip out. I could get spoiled!
Once home, I logged my trip on the Seattle In Motion website and saw I had only 1 more trip to go to be eligible for a few free bus tix. Perhaps Sunday?
I resumed my audit of the food supply, but it's going slowly: we have a lot in the fridge, and I can eat only so quickly!
Mom called to wish Ji a happy birthday - Dan has to be working out of town so it's up to us to provide birthday cheer!
Life is complicated, but it's also good!

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