Today is Pi Day.
That day of the year when the date – March 14th – matches the first three digits in the number known as pi or, 3.14. And chances are, your social media feeds have been busy showcasing the clever puns and endless excitement over what appears to be nothing more than an interesting connection between math and life. Why then, you might be wondering, would we dedicate an entire blog post to something so irrelevant?
What, after all, does pi have to do with legal technology and access to justice?
Well, we’re glad you asked. And to answer those questions, we need to take a deeper look at the many pieces of pi 😉
In mathematics, pi (or π, in symbol form) is an irrational number, meaning that it can’t be expressed as a common fraction because its decimal representation is infinite and has no repeating pattern. Simply put, it just goes on and on, in what seems to be a random collection of numbers. But random and irrational as they may seem, pi gives us a very precise solution to a rather basic problem. And in the realm of access to justice, that’s exactly what we need.
The practice of law has long been known as one of the last “traditional” professions in this age of technological innovation. While others jumped on the digital bandwagon, law firms and lawyers resisted, choosing instead to hold fast to their tried and true way of doing business. And who could blame them? It was working.
But over time, even the most diehard firms have begun to realize that this digital revolution is more than just a fad and slowly but surely, they’re all getting on board. The thing is, we can’t afford that kind of long hesitation when it comes to access to justice. We need bold and innovative solutions to ensure that everyone has access to the legal assistance they need.
And that means its time to think outside the box. That means we need to apply a seemingly irrational approach to find the perfectly precise solution to this life-changing issue. Instead of just thinking in terms of committees and studies and generic instruction for example, maybe we start thinking in terms of training and empowering those we seek to serve.
Let’s stop focusing on how to create solutions that preserve the rules. Let’s rewrite them instead.
Wherever You Go, There You Are
In its most basic form, pi is the equivalent of a circle’s circumference divided by its diameter. And if you’ve ever needed to build a circular structure – such as a round pen for horse training – you can bet that understanding this simple equation comes in handy.
But its when we apply this equation to our own lives that we begin to see just how insightful it truly is.
We have long described the feeling of getting nothing accomplished as “working in circles” or “spinning your wheels.” Its the feeling that no matter how hard we work (or how far along the circle, or circumference we travel), we seem to end up in the same place that we started.
And it can certainly feel that way when you’re fighting outdated policies and short-sighted beliefs.
But maybe we just need the other half of the equation.
There is an old saying that “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.” In calculating pi, that’s referring to the diameter that reaches from one side of the circle to the other, essentially cutting it in half. But in the world of providing legal aid, it points us to something much more profound.
We know what Point A looks like… we’re standing there right now. We know that millions of low-income Americans will go without legal assistance because they can’t afford it and because there’s not enough free resources to go around.
The question is, what does Point B represent? What reality do we want to see? Equal access to justice for all?
Then let’s create the scenarios we need to bring that reality to life. Let’s talk crowdfunding and community organizing. Let’s create coalitions that unite the supporters and advocates in such a way that we become a force the politicians can’t ignore. Let’s apply the irrationality of doing it in a way we haven’t done it before, so that we can forge a new path toward a better world.
We don’t have to keep walking around the circle. It’s time to start cutting across the middle.
Sometimes Showing Up is Enough
Last but not least, pi is a mathematical constant, meaning that it continues to “show up” naturally and significantly, in various ways.
In scientific terms, this illustrates the undeniable connection between math and our Universe. Pi can be found in everything, from the pupils of our eyes to the ripples in a pond to the waves that carry light and sound. It’s found in the shape of the planets and the double-helix of our DNA. It is the “proof of the thing,” a small assurance that we’re on to something, that we’re headed in the right direction, even though we know there’s still so much more to learn and do.
And that’s an assurance we can apply here as well.
Maybe we don’t have all the answers. Maybe our system isn’t perfect and our processes leave much to be desired. But as long as we keep showing up – as long as we continue to contribute to the grander picture we want to paint – we become the assurance that something better is on the way.
We become the proof of the thing – proof that maybe there is a method to the madness after all, something amazing hidden beneath the chaos, just waiting to be discovered.
Proof that access to justice isn’t just “pi in the sky.”
Happy Pi Day!