IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, is a national, independent research center dedicated to facilitating continuous improvement and advancing excellence in the American legal system.
Our mission is to forge innovative and practical solutions to problems within the American legal system.
In 2006, we opened our doors at the University of Denver. Founded by Chancellor Emeritus Daniel Ritchie, Denver attorney and bar leader John Moye, business leader and philanthropist Charles C. Gates, and former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Love Kourlis, we had a clear sense of our mission, but also a healthy understanding of the enormity of the task. Our founders witnessed a legal system increasingly under attack from outside forces—a system that was often failing to deliver justice—and established IAALS to do something about it.
People look to our justice system for relief in matters that affect their rights, their businesses, and the most intimate aspects of their lives, but barriers and inefficiencies are effectively denying them real access. Despite the challenges, we believe the American legal system is still the best approach—and we believe all of us share a responsibility to embrace its ideals, expand access, and improve delivery.
Our vision is a system that works for all people by being accessible, fair, reliable, efficient, and accountable: a system that earns trust, because a trusted and trustworthy legal system is essential to our democracy, our economy, and our freedom.
IAALS is committed to restoring fairness, function, and the public’s faith in our system. We listen and put people at the center. We cut through complexity. We empower judges, lawyers, businesspeople, and everyday people to put the best ideas into practice.
IAALS is changing how our system serves people today, while anticipating and preparing for future needs—delivering justice all of us can believe in.
We are a “think tank” that goes one step further—we are practical and solution oriented. Our specialty is the development and application of innovative solutions for the toughest problems facing our courts and profession, and we work with experts, groups, and users of our system around the country to achieve our mission.
Our process is at the core of our success. It allows us to focus our efforts where we can have the most impact, and to stay on the cutting edge—involved with the issues that mean the most to the most people.
We conduct comprehensive analysis, including original empirical and legal research; and we compile existing research.
We work with stakeholders to develop innovative models designed to address the areas of concern in our legal system.
We empower decision-makers across the country to implement those models, through collaboration, consulting, and communications.
We then measure for outcomes and impact, seek feedback, and refine the recommendations, as needed, to achieve maximum benefit to all.
These steps are our keys to advancing a trusted American legal system that is always improving, always accessible, and always serving the people.
IAALS relies upon an experienced and dedicated group of professionals from the field who have achieved recognition in their roles as judges, lawyers, academics, administrators, business people, and journalists. As a part of a major research university, we hold our work up to the highest academic and professional standards.
IAALS' work was previously divided among four initiative areas. Quality Judges identified and recommended empirically based models for choosing, evaluating, and retaining judges that preserve impartiality and promote accountability. Rule One identified and recommended court processes and procedures that provide greater access, efficiency, and accountability. Honoring Families identified and recommended dignified and fair processes for the resolution of divorce, separation, and custody in a manner that is more accessible and more responsive to children, parents, and families. Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers identified innovative models of legal education that align legal education with the needs of an evolving profession. While our work still focuses primarily in these areas, the initiative distinctions were phased out in 2018. Without these silos, we can better integrate our projects, our stakeholders, and our recommendations.