OASIS Board Member Spotlight Series: Q&A with Jim Cabral

An ardent supporter of OASIS since 2003, Jim Cabral is a recognized thought leader in the justice and public safety technology communities.

The OASIS Board of Directors is comprised of industry leaders who play an integral part in the organization’s success. Each month, we’ll interview one OASIS Board Member to give you a better sense of who they are and why they serve the OASIS community. Meet Jim Cabral, Vice President of Court Relations at InfoTrack, Vice Chair of the OASIS Board of Directors, and long time OASIS member.

Jim serves as Chair of the LegalXML Electronic Court Filing Technical Committee (TC) and the LegalXML Member Section. He is a member of the Code List Representation, LegalDocumentML (LegalDocML), Litigant Portal (LP), and LegalRuleML TCs. Jim also participates in NIEMOpen as co-chair of the NIEM Technical Architecture Committee and is an expert voting representative to the Project Governing Board. In 2020, Jim was named an OASIS Distinguished Contributor for his significant impact on the advancement of open standards and/or open source projects. 

We’re happy to have you on the OASIS board. Can you tell us about your role at InfoTrack?
I am a Vice President of Court Relations at InfoTrack, a legal technology provider. We integrate attorneys and their information systems, especially their law practice management systems, with the courts and their technology.

You’ve been involved with OASIS for years. How did you first get involved?
I joined OASIS to work on LegalXML. I got involved not just with the courts, but also to work on standards for integrated justice such as electronic contracts, electronic notary, etc. As a management consultant for more than 20 years, I’ve mostly worked in the areas of public safety and justice within courts. I have extensive experience partnering with courts to integrate their systems with legal systems.

Years ago, I was involved with Justice XML, which became the Global Justice XML Data Model and finally the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM). NIEM is now NIEMOpen, an OASIS Open Project. We were working with what was known as “integrated justice,” helping to connect law enforcement with prosecutors, and the courts with prosecutors, corrections, supervision, probation, and various other justice partners. Working in management consulting with justice and public safety, we  talked about standards from the very beginning.

Tell us about your professional background…
I have degrees in electrical and biomedical engineering, and have done a lot of networking and security IT work as a graduate student. I’ve been working with Extensible Markup Language (XML), application programming interfaces (APIs), and things like that for most of my career. Whenever it came to the technology side of certain projects, I was always the one that was brought in because I had the engineering background.

What inspired you to join the OASIS board?
I have been an OASIS member for a long time, involved in LegalXML and other TCs before I had any aspirations of joining the Board. I contributed to those committees for a while and wanted to make sure that perspective was represented at the Board level. I started serving as an interim board member as a result of a special board election. After a brief hiatus, I decided to run again after hearing about NIEM transitioning to OASIS. 

What’s your connection with NIEM?
I’ve been involved with NIEM almost as long as I’ve been involved with OASIS. I have been there through the evolution of NIEM from the Justice XML Model to the Global Justice XML Data Model,​ and then finally to NIEM. I am excited to be here now as it transitions to NIEMOpen at OASIS.

What excites you about OASIS and why are you so passionate about its mission?
I’ve always been an advocate of OASIS as standards are very important to me. I’m often frustrated by people, especially those working in technology, who want to innovate as quickly as possible and end up with one-off proprietary solutions to problems. To me, those can only go so far. 

To really make a difference in the world, to really get the type of adoption and broad support that you need for these kinds of innovations to take hold and make a difference, they need to become standards. 

I’ve been involved with OASIS and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) for a long time, and in my opinion, they are two of the best standards organizations in the world.

What are the benefits to becoming involved with the OASIS community?
The idea that we’re all at OASIS to work collaboratively, even with some that may be competitors, really creates a safe space for doing that work.

As far as what sets OASIS apart from some of the other standards organizations are things like NIEM, UBL, and ebXML. These are all very big projects that helped build our reputation. You consistently find others coming to OASIS because of that reputation for doing great work and for being independent.

OASIS has an incredible brand that’s well known and well respected and I want to make sure that we continue to preserve that.

What are some of the reasons why people should bring their projects to OASIS?
OASIS is a mature and successful organization. The OASIS process has shown to work time and time again. As long as you follow the process, you’ll end up with a truly open standard, free of intellectual property concerns, and ready for you to use in your implementation.

What type of skills and expertise do you bring to the OASIS board?
In addition to my work on the legal technology side with LegalXML and so on, I’ve also had experience working with the public sector. There’s a lot of interesting things happening at the state and local government level. I’ve developed and implemented best practices as a management consultant. Having that expertise is something that the OASIS Board values. 

What’s your role as Vice Chair?
Gershon Janssen is a fabulous chair, and I’m here to help support him in any way I can. I serve as backup in the event that he’s unable to make a meeting. As Vice Chair, I am part of the  Executive Committee, which helps craft the agenda and prioritizes the items for discussion by the board.

How do you hope to make an impact as a board member during your term?
I want to ensure that OASIS continues to be a sustainable organization and continues to evolve. I’m very proud of how OASIS has expanded beyond standards to include open source and open projects.  I’m also excited about our selection of Francis Beland as the new Executive Director of OASIS. I think he’s going to help take OASIS in some new directions that will greatly benefit the organization.

What are your goals as an OASIS board member?
One of the reasons I joined the board was to make sure that NIEM and other open projects had a voice at the board level. Open projects are fairly new to OASIS, and it will be impressive to see OASIS absorb and support a project as mature as NIEM. I think we’re going to learn a lot from this process, and ultimately I think it will help us recruit other open projects of this magnitude.

My goals over the next year are to help NIEM continue to transition to OASIS, learn as much as possible about what it’s going to take for OASIS to support additional open projects, and develop best practices to onboard future open projects.

What is an achievement/accomplishment that you’re proud of? 
I was very proud to be recognized as an OASIS Distinguished Contributor.  This award plaque hangs proudly over my desk as a constant reminder to me of what’s possible with collaboration.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received? 
As the African proverb says: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I mentioned this in my OASIS Distinguished Contributor award acceptance speech.

Can you tell us about a role model or mentor that you’ve had and what inspired you most about that person?
When I started out at OASIS, I was very much involved with the Electronic Court Filing (ECF) TC, and I eventually ended up becoming the chair. The previous ECF co-chairs were John Greacen and Tom Clarke, who were some of the founding members of the LegalXML Member Section. John Greacen is an attorney in New Mexico and Tom Clarke, at the time, was a vice president for the National Center for State Courts.

They created a very exciting, collaborative community where they pulled people from various projects to work together on the standard. I was very impressed with their ability to recruit people to the effort as well as their independent voices that made it clear that the objective was to work collaboratively. I appreciated their consistency, their honesty, and even their stubbornness when it came to making sure that the standard was something that everyone could use.

What trends do you see in the industry that are most exciting or thought provoking? 
All you have to do is turn on the news and everyone’s talking about Artificial Intelligence (AI). One ongoing argument is the need for structured information versus unstructured information. Most of what we collect and what we encounter is unstructured information. At OASIS, one thing that we’ve done very well is come up with models for structured information sharing.

Some believe that AI doesn’t need all that structured information because AI can pull out and extract whatever you need out of the unstructured information. While AI can be very good at pulling out information from unstructured information, the problem is when your AI and my AI pull out different information from the same unstructured information. As a result, we don’t have semantic interoperability. We’re looking at the same data, but we’re coming up with two different sets of knowledge. 

We need to figure out how to use both of those together to capture that structured information, and then share it in a way that is consistent, so you and I agree on what that actually means and what the knowledge is in that data.

Can you share an impact story about OASIS or your work in open standards?
Electronic Court Filing (ECF) basically created a market. Until standards like ECF, court solutions were kind of one-offs. Let’s say a court selected a particular vendor to come in and provide, for example, their public access system or their report filing system. That was the one available option, and from an attorney perspective or from a self represented litigant trying to work with the courts, hopefully that one option met their needs because that was the only one that was offered.

Standards like ECF allow the courts to publish an API and say, “If you want to interact with the courts, here’s the API that you need to connect to.” That allows market providers like InfoTrack to come in and say, “OK, I recognize that this group of attorneys or this group of self representing litigants have some specific needs. I can build a solution that caters to their needs, but then integrates with the court’s API.” From the court’s perspective, it’s all the same because it’s all coming in through the same place, the same API. From the filer’s perspective, it actually shows a lot more flexibility and adaptability to their particular needs. ECF has created a market allowing legal technology providers like InfoTrack to better serve the needs of the court and legal communities. In the U.S., 55% of the population are in jurisdictions where the courts support ECF.

What are your thoughts on the future of standards?
I think we have to continue to adapt and be open to new ways of developing standards. Open Projects is one of those examples where if you already have some IP and you think it should go through a standards process, OASIS has a path for you to set up a project to do just that. You can pick out the pieces that should go through the standards process and then proceed using the tested OASIS standard track.

What are a few words that come to mind when you think about the work being done at OASIS?
You can’t say OASIS without saying “open.” I would also say “collaborative,” “innovative,” and “proven.”

What is a fun fact about you?
I’m a bugler. I’m involved with a volunteer organization called Bugles Across America, and we play “Taps” to honor our veterans and our public safety workers at their funerals. Bugles Across America allows families to request a bugler, and a volunteer like myself will show up at the burial site to play “Taps” for them. It’s a song that only has 24 notes, but it means a lot to the families of the veterans, and that’s why I do it.