University of Denver

IAALS Advances Justice with Tony Lai

Founding Executive Director

IAALS simply would not be what it is without the support of our partners and friends. They are essential to our efforts and hail from a wide range of backgrounds, viewpoints, and sectors. Every month, IAALS will shine the spotlight on one such person and take you behind the scenes for a lighthearted glimpse into those upon whose guidance and support we rely. Together we are advancing justice.

Tony Lai, CEO and Co-Founder,

Tony is one of a kind. As is reflected in his comments below, he sees the big picture and can envision unique solutions to old problems. I first met Tony at our Unbundling Conference last fall, where he gave a talk that brought the audience respectively to their feet and/or to tears about what justice really means and about a society that provides true access to justice. We then met last spring at the Town and Country Mall across the street from Stanford to talk about IAALS. Tony barely had time to eat his lunch because of his enthusiasm and ideas—both of which are boundless. But, he is not just a font of unrelated ideas; rather, he knits them all together and is able to see causes and effects. And, of course, he is incredibly tech-savvy. He is connected, internationally, to the innovators in law and delivery of legal services. With Tony in our midst, we can expand the reach and possibilities of IAALS’ impact exponentially.

Last month, we caught up with Tony to bring you May’s Partner Profile.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? To be living in a world where we are all conscious of our common purposes, and where our increasingly fragile and interconnected human and ecological systems can be better governed for the flourishing of all humanity and life on earth, something I like to call the "Symphony of the Commons", with a big hat-tip to Elinor Ostrom's work.

What is the trait you most deplore in others? I abhor bullies, especially those in positions of power, who commit violence against others, whether that violence be physical or emotional; but I believe that everyone has the capacity to change.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would like to exercise more and make for time for racket sports. I also have a deep appreciation for adrenaline sports like skiing that can simultaneously allow you to commune with some of the most awesomely beautiful landscapes that nature has to offer.

Who is your hero of fiction? I am drawn to fictional characters that exemplify our human ability to have self-mastery and self-awareness and that can consciously act to transform themselves and the universe around them. These heroes become examples of hope and for those reasons, Neo from the Matrix, Simba from the Lion King, and Luke Skywalker from Star Wars top my list.

What is your most treasured possession? When I was 12-years old, I was given and learned to play a 300-year-old violin which was sadly stolen from me last year. My most treasured possession is now the memories of that instrument. I do now own an electric violin, though, and love playing and composing music with friends.

Who is your favorite musician/band? I have eclectic tastes, but put Daft Punk at the top of my list. Their smooth and funky sound and beat-based electronica moves me. Creating music with friends is one of the best things a person can do. Not only does it create a shared experience, that experience can be replicated and reinterpreted over time.

What is it about IAALS that attracted you to get involved? As I reflect on my last answer, it occurs to me that IAALS is like a composer of orchestral music. As an orchestra has its various sections that play their distinct parts while being part of a larger experience, IAALS sees the legal system and how the parts of it relate. IAALS can help ensure that one section doesn't play too loudthat all are sections are heard in harmony. In so doing, IAALS creates a beautiful sound in which all musicians and instruments are in equipoise.