Clinical Law Prof Blog

Editor: Jeffrey R. Baker
Pepperdine University
School of Law

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Clinics in the Cloud

Last week, a clinical professor at another law school sent an email to the clinic listserv asking:

“What policies or protocols do those of you who have a cloud based case management system have in place to re-enforce confidentiality and security for students. Is access to the system outside the clinic office part of your policy, and if so, what measures are taken to ensure students remember not to access the system in a non-secure setting, such as the student center, coffee shop, at home, etc.  Pepperdine has a nice series of technology hypotheticals from a few years ago that we have used in training, but beyond that, how are you addressing these challenges?”

As someone who still has a cassette tape player in my 2001 4-Runner (and occasionally uses it!), I waited on the sidelines, but the listserv was silent.  On Friday, someone contacted me off list and prompted me to respond since I had negotiated a contract with Clio last year (here is a copy of the Clio contract https://docs.google.com/a/willamette.edu/file/d/0BwSIrKM39nhKMjZiYWhseGlUcmM/edit and the related state bar due diligence questions https://docs.google.com/a/willamette.edu/file/d/0BwSIrKM39nhKQ3d1N0REM1FneVE/edit). 

As I explained in my response, Jack Lerner and I are just beginning to write a short law review article intended to help clinical faculty and administrators with cloud-based practice management systems, but it is not likely to be completed until later this year or sometime next year.  In the meanwhile, I do think that Brittany Stringfellow Otey’s article, Millennials, Technology, and Professional Responsibility: Training a New Generation in Technological Professionalism, is the best that I have seen dealing with the specific concerns raised.  Here is a link to Brittany’s article on SSRN: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2420153.

Although I am not “high tech,” I explained generally:

“We basically provide students with a fairly detailed manual of policies and procedures that includes confidentiality obligations, review the content in class, and then do another review in a ‘Game Show’ format we call ‘Legal Jeopardy.’  Thus, the students have exposure to what they can and cannot do three times, but then we rely on their own self-discipline.  We have gone through these concerns many times with our tech folks and we have not found a way to impose external controls that still allow for seamless 24/7 access.”

 I offered copies of our confidentiality provisions (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwSIrKM39nhKODJQSFljOWZDbXM/edit?usp=sharing), the “Legal Jeopardy” PowerPoint we use for review of our manual's policies and procedures (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwSIrKM39nhKNno2QUNzbVdTdkk/edit?usp=sharing), and a copy of our clinic manual (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwSIrKM39nhKeWhPaXZEdzBpS2s/edit?usp=sharing) to anyone interested.  I have received dozens of requests for these materials offlist and so decided to upload them all to Googledocs so that anyone with a link can access them.  I decided to add our Digital Technology Usage Policies (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwSIrKM39nhKYmh6R1hkNlFIdlk/edit?usp=sharing), which are part of our clinic manual.

Jack Lerner of USC’s Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic also sent a copy of the confidentiality pledge he requires student to sign in his clinic (https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BwSIrKM39nhKNFVFRjF0VGE4eEk/edit?usp=sharing), and explained that he also has students run utilities at the end of the semester that erase clinic-related files from their laptops.  I found information on one of the programs he recommended for Windows (http://eraser.heidi.ie/).  MacOS has its own built-in utility, according to Jack.  I have already begun exploring with our tech support colleagues here at Willamette the possibility of adding this protocol to our end of the semester practices, and encourage you to consider doing the same.

I hope that these resources are useful to some of you, and think it would be wonderful if we could create a database on Googledocs where we could create a digital commons comprised of useful documents (syllabi, manuals, PowerPoints, etc.) for the entire clinical community to access.  Here is an example of what Sandy Ogilvy created for the externship community (http://lexternweb.law.edu/program.cfm).  Anyone want to take the next step?

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/clinic_prof/2014/05/clinics-in-the-clouds.html

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Comments

Warren, I'm glad that you mentioned Brittany's work at Pepperdine. She really has led some innovation on our security and practice with cloud-based case management. Her Legal Aid Clinic here has led the way, and this coming year we are all going to adopt it with a higher level of compliance. I am sure that she and we would be happy to share what we have done here.

Posted by: Baker | May 7, 2014 8:43:56 AM

Brittany was the first law professor I saw talking about these issues. It was at the 2012 AALS Clinical Conference in L.A. She did a great job advancing my own very nascent awareness and offered some constructive solutions. I was also very impressed by the tech person at Pepperdine who co-presented with Brittany. I was able to bring the model of their close, collaborative relationship back to Willamette and persuade our own tech support staff to work more closely with us by using Pepperdine as a model. I agree that her work at the Legal Aid Clinic is highly inspirational and aspirational for all of us. I hope that Brittany can post on the blog about what she is doing. I learn a lot from her!

Posted by: Warren Binford | May 7, 2014 11:23:39 AM

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