It is self-evident to many lawyers how these principles should interact in any society of opportunity and equity. The rule of law is the foundation for everything that lawyers do from Cairo, Ill., to Cairo, Egypt.

What is less understood is why these conditions are so critical to providing the necessary traction to make people safe, create prosperity and boost public health. The project is attempting to address this knowledge gap. As one of four core components, a team of scholars including Nobel economists James Heckman and Amartya Sen will analyze how the rule of law affects efforts to address the world’s gravest problems.

The project is developing a rule-of-law index to assess how well different countries are adhering to the rule of law. The index, which is still being developed, will be tested in two stages, in a total of 10 countries, including the United States.

The year will culminate with a World Justice Forum, scheduled for July 2008 in Vienna, Austria. This international, multidisciplinary “town square” will enable top theorists and practitioners to share information, build new networks, create new tools and incubate new programs.


Starting Thursday, more than 9,000 attorneys, judges and other people interested in the legal profession will come together in San Francisco for the American Bar Association’s 130th annual meeting.
To kick off the event, The Recorder is presenting articles from the incoming ABA president, William Neukom, and the outgoing president, Karen Mathis.

It is encouraging to report that even in our own country, a multidisciplinary approach has already paid dividends on rule-of-law issues. As recently as last year, a ballot initiative called “Jail4Judges” threatened South Dakota’s court system, because it would have exposed judges to lawsuits and even jail for decisions made in court.

Instead of fighting this insidious initiative on its own, the state bar formed partnerships with civic groups and the business community, pointing out that they had a stake in protecting a stable, impartial and reliable court system. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the measure.

Similarly, access-to-justice commissions are creating innovative partnerships at the state level to make legal assistance more readily available to low-income Americans.

Similar coalitions can bring pressure nationally and overseas to fight against injustice, while deepening the commitment of all sectors to the rule of law.

Expanding the rule of law is a generational challenge that we can ignore no longer. It is time to issue a call to action.

With humility and curiosity, let’s reach to other fields of endeavor. Step by step, partnership by partnership, country by country, let’s cement the rule of law as the basis for establishing communities of opportunity and equity.

William H. Neukom is president-elect of the American Bar Association. He is a partner in the Seattle office of Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis, and former lead counsel for Microsoft Corp. This article was originally published in The National Law Journal, a Recorder affiliate based in New York City.