Friday, March 30, 2007
Posted by Alan Childress
Gene Koo (Fellow, Harvard Law's Berkman Center) has posted to SSRN, "New Skills, New Learning: Legal Education and the Promise of New Technology." Already it has many downloads. Here is his abstract:
A large majority of lawyers perceive critical gaps between what they are taught in law schools and the skills they need in the workplace, and appropriate technologies are not being used to help close this gap. This was the core conclusion of a new study by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, in partnership with LexisNexis, which found:
• More than 75 percent of lawyers surveyed said they lacked critical practice skills after completing their law school education.
• Today's workplace demands skills that the traditional law school curriculum does not cover.
◦ Many attorneys work in complex teams distributed across multiple offices: nearly 80 percent of lawyers surveyed belong to one or more work teams, with 19 percent participating in more than five teams. Yet only 12 percent of law students report working in groups on class projects.
◦ Smaller firms can stay competitive with larger firms through more nimble deployment of technology tools and by exploiting the exploding amount of data openly available on the Web. Attorneys at these firms need tech-related skills to realize these opportunities.
• Legal educators seriously under-utilize new technologies, even in those settings, such as clinical legal education, that are the most practice-oriented.
Research also suggests a breakdown in post-school workplace training, with smaller firms particularly unable to afford formal professional development.
• Neither law schools nor most workplaces provide new attorneys with a structured transition between school and practice. Only 36 percent of lawyers surveyed report a dedicated training experience during their first year of employment.
• Clients are increasingly unwilling to pay for training of associates, e.g. prohibiting firms from billing for young attorneys' attendance at client-facing meetings. New lawyers' involvement in such meetings has long been an important apprenticeship activity.
Finally, advances in computing and networking offer potential solutions to shortcomings in skills training at law schools.
• Utilizing authentic practice technologies to support law school clinical programs exposes law students to the practical tools they need to succeed in future practice.
• Learning through computer simulation mirrors the technology-based foundation of most legal practice settings today and enables participants to experience non-linear decision making closest to real-world casework.