On this fifth anniversary of showcasing Wisconsin’s innovators through the “That’s a Fine Idea: Legal Innovation Wisconsin” initiative, we got to wondering. Innovators keep innovating, right? So, what have past innovators been up to since being recognized as movers and shakers? We asked some of them to tell us what they’re trying to fix or to make better now.
Colleen Ball: Turbo Tax Meets Appellate Briefs
State Public Defender Colleen Ball was recognized with the Lifetime Innovator award in 2016 for her work to expand access to justice, particularly for helping pro se parties navigate the appeals process.
Through the State Bar’s Appellate Practice Section, I worked with four software engineers from the Milwaukee School of Engineering to build “Brief Assistant.” It is a web application designed for anyone who finds formatting Wisconsin appellate briefs tedious and Rule 809.19 an impenetrable thicket. That is, just about everyone.
Brief Assistant allows the user to draft a correctly formatted initial brief, response brief, or reply brief that can be downloaded, saved, edited, and then filed in an appeal.
The app follows two tracks: one for pro se litigants and one for lawyers. Any lawyer can use the app for any kind of appeal (civil or criminal). It’s especially helpful to solo and small-firm lawyers who may lack administrative support.
For pro se users, the app provides a checklist to help avoid the sort of pesky oversights that cause the court of appeals clerk’s office to reject a brief. The app also provides a sample model brief so pro se users can see just what a record cite, a case cite, an argument heading, and so forth look like in the finished product.
6 Big Ideas: 2018 Wisconsin Legal Innovators
Who are Wisconsin’s innovators? The “That’s a Fine Idea: Legal Innovation Wisconsin” initiative spotlights these movers and shakers who infuse the legal profession with a dose of creative thinking.
David Simon & John Turlais: Navigating India’s Business Compliance Challenges
David Simon and John Turlais, both with Foley & Lardner in Milwaukee, were recognized in 2015 for devising a new tool, called Foley Global Risk Solutions, to help U.S. companies comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) when doing business abroad.
We continue to focus on the FCPA and anti-bribery compliance, investigations, and enforcement defense. India has become a particular area of interest, as many of our clients face difficult compliance challenges doing business there. The Foley FCPA team has partnered with Delhi-based lawyer Sherbir Panag to develop processes and systems to help U.S. companies navigate the challenging Indian business environment consistent with U.S. (and Indian) law.
We think India presents an amazing business opportunity for Wisconsin companies and are excited to help companies do business there the right way. Our chief priority is to help clients with international operations understand the applicable laws and how they apply to business activities so they can proactively prevent violations, rather than reacting to enforcement actions after the fact.
Brian Potts: Making Connections with Goods Unite Us
Brian Potts, with the Madison office of Perkins Coie LLP, was recognized in 2017 for inventing LegalBoard™, a law-focused keyboard with keys for inserting symbols, footnotes, comments, legal phrases, and more with just a quick keystroke, saving time and frustration when typing legal briefs.
LegalBoard is still going strong. I’ve also helped found a second company, called Goods Unite Us. It’s an app and website that provides political-donation information on nearly 4,000 brands and companies. We recently closed on $225,000 in funding and are adding more than 1,000 new app users a day. My wife, Abigail Wuest, is the CEO, and the company has three employees.
Sue Hansen & Greg Hildebrand: Family Law Mediation Goes Mainstream
Sue Hansen and Greg Hildebrand were recognized in 2015 for creating the Family Mediation Center, Milwaukee, to help divorcing couples who want a lower-conflict, lower-cost, healthier process for separation and divorce.
Our Family Mediation Center offers family law mediation as a positive option for couples who want a low-conflict, low-cost divorce and has continued to grow. We are also seeing a dramatic increase in requests to our law firm, Hansen & Hildebrand S.C., for mediation services and have two additional lawyers to help meet that need. This is partly due to a rule passed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2017 permitting lawyers who mediate family law cases to neutrally draft and file all necessary legal and court documents on behalf of both parties.
The Family Mediation Center has expanded to provide mediation training to help develop and ensure that lawyers are trained and available to meet the need for this growing area of practice. In the three years since we were honored to receive the Innovation Award, we have committed ourselves to being problem-solvers and innovators. Family law mediation is now becoming a mainstream option, and no longer an alternative process.
Mike Gonring: Helping Low-income Domestic Abuse Petitioners
In 2014, Mike Gonring was recognized for creating the Milwaukee Justice Center’s Mobile Legal Clinic. Housed in a transformed bus, the clinic travels Milwaukee County, reaching people who can’t afford time away from work.
One of the things I did before retiring from Quarles & Brady in the fall of 2014 was start a Lawyer for a Day program in Milwaukee County Domestic Abuse court. In partnership with Sojourner Family Peace Center and the Marquette University Law School, lawyers provide free representation to domestic abuse petitioners one afternoon per week. This lawyer-for-a-day format of limited representation is an effective way to help abate the problem of lack of legal representation for low-income people (as indicated by the Eviction Defense Project in Milwaukee County). I am working with Legal Action of Wisconsin and Sojourner to establish representation on another afternoon. With luck, we will get Monday through Friday covered at some point.
Other opportunities to provide legal advice also continue to grow. For instance, in my retirement, I set up a clinic at the Mexican Consulate in Milwaukee to provide parental and financial powers of attorney to undocumented individuals.
Beth Ann Richlen: A Partnership with Legal Action of Wisconsin
Beth Ann Richlen, Wisconsin Judicare, Wausau, was recognized in 2014 for the online legal clinic Northern Wisconsin Legal Advice Project.
I am very lucky to have been nominated again this year, as part of the victim rights team. Wisconsin Judicare continues to try to find new and innovative ways to serve the needs of our clients. We are currently working on a wide variety of ways to deepen our partnership with Legal Action of Wisconsin so that we can provide seamless civil legal aid statewide. Our recent efforts include moving to joint statewide grants and using video conferencing to connect our offices, and our newest project is investing in the same new case management system that will allow us to transfer cases and share statistical data.
Internally, Wisconsin Judicare will launch a new online intake system in 2019 that allows applicants’ cases to be triaged online, eliminating duplicative data entry. The new system allowins clients to apply more easily for our service using mobile devices.
William Caraher: Creating an In-house Collaboration Tool Specifically for Lawyers
Bill Caraher, chief information officer at von Briesen & Roper s.c., Milwaukee, was recognized in 2016 for beta testing and early adoption of the ROSS Artificial Intelligence tool as a research platform for bankruptcy law.
We have created a function on our intranet called the “Live Feed,” a collaboration tool that works great for our attorneys and staff. The Live Feed is hosted inside our environment and allows everyone to share content, thoughts, skills, and more. They can also pose questions, ask for internal experts to help on an issue, and so on. The firm has seen great success and adoption.
There are next-generation collaboration tools out there such as Slack. These allow teams to communicate in a chat-like interface using hashtags, and so on. But in a law firm environment, there are confidentiality challenges when using these tools. For instance, Slack is only hosted in the cloud, and you can cut and paste conversations from one “private” stream to another stream – not good at all for client confidentiality. So we customized our own tool.
Syovata Edari: From Creating Sentencing Videos to Making Award-winning Chocolates
Syovata Edari was on our radar in 2014 for her work using videos at sentencing hearings to help tell her clients’ stories.
After leaving the federal defender system in 2014, I encountered resistance to being accepted into the “good ole boy” referral network. I have a passion for chocolate making, so I started gifting my chocolate to lawyers to “sweeten” dispositions. They loved it and started buying it. For a while I was kind of living a “daredevil”-like double life, except chocolate was my art, my way of serving and connecting with humanity. I was lawyer by day, flavor architect by night.
I began professional master training, laying the foundation for what has become an internationally recognized award-winning chocolate company called CocoVaa Chocolatier. I’ve been recognized as one of America’s Top Chocolatiers by the International Chocolate Salon and awarded the highest rank, Grand Master. I’ve also been named an international rising star by the Academy of Chocolate Awards in London.
I still practice in a limited capacity and only when I find a case compelling. However, chocolate is now my main income. This year I designed and built my first real chocolate shop at The Marling building in Madison, which should open in November. Everything in the new shop is unique, and I personally supervised the construction without a general contractor.
It all goes to show you that there can be a life beyond law if you seek it. It also goes to show you that when life throws you lemons, you can make some damn good chocolate!