Monday, December 1, 2014
Innovating in the law school classroom? Using edtech? Teaching Legaltech? I would love to showcase your ideas at Igniting Law Teaching, a TEDx-styled conference on law school innovations.
The conference is March 19-20, 2015 (stay tuned for registration information) in Washington DC at American University Washington College of Law.
Last year’s conference brought together more than 40 law school academics in a TEDx-styled conference to share ideas on law school innovations. LegalED’s Teaching Pedagogy video collection includes many of the talks from last year’s conference (others are being produced and will be available soon).
The topics we addressed last year are: Flipping A Law School Course, Using the Classroom for Active Learning, Simulations, Feedback and Assessment, The Craft of Law Teaching, Applying Learning Theory to Legal Education, Beyond Traditional Law Subjects, and Teaching for the 21st Century. We would love to hear more on these topics and also expand the horizons a bit.
We designed the conference to create a forum for professors like you who are experimenting with cutting edge technologies and techniques in law teaching with the goal of spreading your ideas to the broader community. We see the conference as a way to showcase you as a leader in teaching innovation and to inspire innovation by others as well.
The Igniting Law Teaching conference is unlike other gatherings of law professors. Here, talks will be styled as TEDx Talks, with each speaker on stage alone, giving a well scripted and performed talk about an aspect of law school pedagogy. In the end, we will create a collection of short videos on law school-related pedagogy that will inspire innovation and experimentation by law professors around the country, and the world, to bring more active learning and practical skills training into the law school curriculum. The videos will be available for viewing by the larger academic community on LegalED, a website developed by a community of law professors interested in using online technologies to facilitate more active, problem-based learning in the classroom, in addition to more assessment and feedback.
This is a great opportunity to showcase your innovations to the legal academy. Consider joining us for Igniting Law Teaching 2015!
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
I just finished reading an important new piece, The Great Disruption: How Machines Will Transform the Role of Lawyers in the Delivery of Legal Services, by Northwestern Law's John McGinnis and Fordham Law's Russell Pearce, that has implications for both lawyers and also for legal educators.
Here is how the piece starts:
"Law is an information technology—a code that regulates social life. In our age, the machinery of information technology is growing exponentially in power, not only in hardware, but also in the software capacity of the programs that run on computers. As a result, the legal profession faces a great disruption. Information technology has already had a huge impact on traditional journalism, causing revenues to fall by about a third and employment to decrease by about 17,000 people in the last eight years1 and very substantially decreasing the market value of newspapers. Because law consists of more specialized and personalized information, the disruption is beginning in law after journalism. But, its effects will be as wide ranging. Indeed they may ultimately be greater, because legal information is generally of higher value, being central to the protection of individuals’ lives and property."
The piece goes on to explain how machine technologies will change the delivery of legal services in fundamental ways. It sets out five areas in which we can expect change: discovery; legal search; documents as forms; documents as briefs and memos; and legal analytics. While Richard Susskind's End of Lawyers foreshadowed this evolution in the practice of law -- from bespoke one-to-one legal counseling to a more customized and even commoditized provision of legal services -- McGinnis and Pearce build on that work by providing real life examples of how the provision of legal services will evolve as machines take on a bigger role.
To be prepared for this new era, lawyers would be advised to rethink how they practice law, the parts of their practice that can be performed by technology and the parts that are more bespoke.
In my view, McGinnis and Pearce's piece also has implications for legal education reform. The question that the article posed for me, as a law professor, is whether legal educators are preparing our students sufficiently for this future. If, for example, as McGinnis and Pearce predict, "[p]artners may . . . be able to substitute machines for associates, thereby gaining more leverage at lower cost," then should law schools train students differently? What jobs will recent graduates do as more and more of the work of associates/entry-level lawyers is done by machines? How might we train our students differently in light of these inevitable changes in the delivery of legal services?
In my view, these are questions that everyone in the legal academy should be thinking about -- as the practice of law changes, how might law schools change as well?
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.
Sunday, October 19, 2014
College of Law Practice Management Futures Conference Reinforces Need for Legal Technology Education
The College of Law Practice Management held its 2014 Futures Conference October 16-17 at Suffolk University School of Law in Boston. Suffolk’s Institute on Law Practice Technology and Innovation has a focus on practice management and was an appropriate host for the discussions. My take-away from attending the first day of the two-day event was the increasing urgency for change felt in the large law firms who make up much of the College’s membership. The keynote was given by Tom Sager, now a partner at Ballard Spahr, but until recently General Counsel at DuPont. He described programs he initiated for requiring better practice management, both internally and by the outside counsel he hired, that saved billions of dollars in expenses. This kind of pressure is having its effect on much of the law firm market, including prominent firms that until a few years ago felt securely “above the fray”.
In a break out session in which I participated, there was enthusiasm among the practice-connected members of the group for the possibility of hiring students trained by their law schools to move right into this new reality. In a time of high competition for student placement, their reactions supported the efforts an increasing number of schools are making to offer education for the new possibilities of legal service delivery, including the legal technology that is often a key part of the innovation.
Information on the conference is available at http://collegeoflpm.org/meetings/2014-futures-conference/
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Educational videos are becoming one of the most popular online learning formats in K-12 and higher education. It is time for law professors to start thinking about how to incorporate online educational videos into our courses as well.
Since last year, I have been working with law professors to begin to incorporate educational videos into legal education - to begin to experiment with flipping the classroom. Together with FWD.us, a group of law professors recently launched a series of educational videos on immigration law and additional videos are currently being produced. The videos were made by several law professors from a host of law schools, including: Lenni Benson (NYLS), Amanda Frost (AU), Lindsay Harris (Georgetown), Cesar Cuauhtemoc Garcia Hernandez (Denver), Laila Hlass (BU), Hiroshi Motomura (UCLA), Michael Olivas (U of Houston), Jayesh Rathod (AU), Philip Schrag (Georgetown), Ragini Shah (Suffolk), Juliet Stumpf (Lewis and Clark), Shoba Wadhia (Penn State), Virgil Wiebe (University of St. Thomas), and Michael Wishnie (Yale).
Here is a sample from that collection:
I learned a lot from making these and other educational videos on law and law teaching. Many of my colleagues have asked for advice on how to get started. So, here are 3 easy ways to produce educational videos for legal education together with some lessons learned.
1. Voiceover Powerpoint/Keynote Slideshow
Both Powerpoint and Keynote allow you to record yourself talking over each slide in a slideshow. It is quite easy to record an audio narration over a Powerpoint or Keynote slideshow. Open the slideshow on your computer and speak about each slide at your normal pace. As you move through the slideshow, your voice is recorded. Then, when you are done, save the presentation as a movie, a function available on both Powerpoint and Keynote. Here are useful articles about recording narrations over slideshows.
If you use Prezi, the program does not have an embedded system for adding audio. You will have to record your voiceover using a different program, such a Quicktime or Garage Band and then import the audio clip to your Prezi. Here is a quick Prezi that walks you through that process.
Lesson Learned: To improve the visual quality of your Powerpoint or Keynote slideshow, use as many images as you can and try to reduce the amount of written text on each screen. Research on learning sciences teaches us that learners have both an auditory and a visual track. When they see an image, while listening to a presentation, both tracks are fully engaged. This is best for retention and transfer. When text is on the screen, learners use their auditory track to read the text. Therefore, if you speak as they are reading the text, your students have to make a choice of whether to listen to the narration or to read – they can’t do both at the same time.
iStockphoto is the largest and best solution for paid images. Pricing depends on the size and quality of image you need. Getty Images, which has a lot of professional photography, recently announced that its photos can be embedded for free in certain material. http://www.gettyimages.com/embed
Screencasting refers to a technique where you can record your computer screen while adding a voiceover. It is commonly used for technical training, software training, and step-by-step video tutorials. You’ll likely want to edit the beginning and end of each video segment, so look for a screencasting tool with some editing capabilities. For Mac users, iMovie works well for basic editing. Here are some other tools you could use
- Jing (Windows or Mac)
- Camtasia (Windows or Mac)
- RecordIt (Windows or Mac)
- Screencast-o-matic (Windows or Mac)
- QuickTime Player (Mac only, basic version is preinstalled)
Lesson Learned: Best practices are to keep each video segment short (evidence suggests 6 minutes or less). Think of the videos as short chunks of information that can be packaged in many different ways. If your topic warrants more than one video, then break it into 2 or more, trying to keep each video to 6 minutes or less.
3. Whiteboard Animated Videos
Whiteboard animations are very professional looking and visually engaging. However, they require an upfront investment of time in connection with learning the software and planning your presentation.
The first time I made a whiteboard animated video, the process was cumbersome and time consuming. It took about 6 hours to create a 7 minute video. Now I can do it in much less time, but each video still takes about 2 hours to produce. I find that because of the significant upfront investment of time, this technology is best for topics that will not change over time.
Tape the voiceover first: We want the audience to engage with you. Rehearse your lesson, including the intonation, the pauses, the places where you need to provide emphasis. This is a performance. It is different from teaching a live, interactive class. So find that hidden actor within and exploit him or her.
Audiotaping the voiceover: Audio quality for videos is important. See whether you can borrow a microphone from your school or firm’s IT department. If not, you can use the audio recording on your computer, iPhone, iPad or other mobile device. Audiotape in a quiet place. And relax. It may take a few attempts before you feel OK with the product. That’s all part of the learning process; in my experience it gets easier with practice.
Upload audio into the program: Once the audio is uploaded, you can use it to design the video and set the timing of your animation. Again, with practice, this will get easier.
Here are some programs you can use to make Whiteboard animations. I use Videoscribe. I have not tested the others.
If you want to add video to your course materials, the 3 methods outlined above are all easy ways to experiment with video-based lessons. Thanks to popular online education websites, students are more accustomed to learning from video and many like the ability to go back and review material as many times as needed for mastery. Our digitally native students also appreciate the convenience that online learning affords.
I encourage you to experiment. As with anything else, this also gets easier with time. You will find out what works best for you, and what doesn’t work at all, and each time you try it you will learn and grow. While producing educational videos does take us out of our comfort zone, you can feel comfortable knowing that you’re not alone in testing these new learning modalities. Feel free to reach out to me with questions along the way.
Once the videos are produced, please consider sharing them with LegalED (legaledweb.com). That way, other law professors can see your work and possibly assign them in their courses. In our view, there is no need for everyone to do this alone. If we collaborate, together the community can create a dynamic collection of teaching materials that everyone can learn from.
At LegalED, we are also looking for teams of law professors to curate (think book editor) video content for the site. If you are interested in curating a collection of videos in your subject area, please let me know! You can leave a message in the comment section below or email me at email@example.com
Monday, September 29, 2014
I teach a one credit course entitled Social Media and the Law. In this course, I cover the use of social media in litigation, social media as evidence, the use of social media in the courtroom, by judges, for jury selection, and discuss the ethics issues that might come up for lawyers when they use social media.
However, the main focus of the course addresses the law students' use of social media themselves. This is where the teaching challenges arise. Most of my law students already have profiles on the main social media applications: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and a few play with Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and others. In most cases they have had these accounts since undergrad and have not yet addressed what they will do with their profiles on these sites once they pass the bar and become legal professionals.
For my course, we dive into the practical set-up for each of the main social media applications. We start with the privacy and security settings and then build out their profiles in a professional manner. There is a small assignment in each application so that I can see that they have learned how to navigate it. In many cases they are taking existing profiles and refining them as befits a professional. The feedback I have received from students is that these exercises are valuable to them not only for their future professional work, but for interviews and the job hunt while they are in school. Most of my students in this course are 3Ls.
The trick with teaching social media to law students is that it is a personal choice the students have to make about finding the right balance between their personal lives, their friends and family and hobbies, and their soon-to-be professional lives. I give them my own choices in the use of social media as an example and teach them how to use the settings in each application to build up walls between their two worlds.
Some students dive straight into the idea of sharing their thoughts on the law and their work with the world. Other students flat out refuse to join Facebook for the course, but will have a professional online presence on LinkedIn. For personal reasons, including sometimes domestic violence concerns or for religious reasons, students will not want to join these public applications and want to try to remain anonymous online and protect their privacy. Those students still have to complete an assignment to show me they understand the use of privacy settings on the social media applications. Whether they use it or not, their clients may. And many of them do not realize that some branded networks, such as Avvo, may create online profiles for them after they pass the bar whether they want them or not. I think they need to understand how these applications work regardless with hands-on experience - to protect themselves and their clients. When we cover the material related to the use of social media as evidence, it also makes a lot more sense if they've explored the applications first.
This is one of my favorite courses to teach to law students because of the challenge of keeping up with the changes in social media and because of the way it lets me work with students to help them find a balance between their personal online interactions and their professional careers. It is not the most academic course in terms of case law to work through, but we do have fascinating discussions about ethics and what eprofessionalism means to them.
Sunday, September 28, 2014
To follow on Oliver's post on e-Discovery education, I recently heard from a Philadelphia-based entrepreneur about his company, Clustify, that makes e-discovery software. He would like to offer the e-discovery software to law professors for educational use for free, http://edu.cluster-text.com/.
I wanted to let you all know about a new product, Bestlaw, http://www.bestlaw.io, which can be added to WestlawNext and do lots of cool additional stuff, like make Blue Book citations and jump to footnotes easily.
Sunday, September 21, 2014
In a fascinating development, albeit packed with potential problems, a judge in New York has allowed serving legal notice via social network. The New York Post article reported that “in a groundbreaking court ruling, a Staten Island man got permission to use Facebook to serve his ex-wife legal notice that he doesn’t want to pay any more child support.” The article quoted lawyer Michael Stutman of Mishchon de Reya in Manhatton as saying "the idea that physically handing someone a piece of paper is the only way to serve notice is archaic.”
While this was the decision for a specific case, what are the ramifications of a broader acceptance of social networks as a forum for legal notice? Questions would arise such as who should or could give legal notice in this way and how is receipt of notice guaranteed?
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of social media as a forum for legal notice would come from reliance on any social networking service to maintain its policies or methods long enough for legal notice to be predictably rendered and reliable.
What other aspects should be considered? Is hacking a concern? Security? How to we police such efforts? Is paper service really archaic? What legal standards should be developed for this type of notice?
Thank you to my colleague Jennifer Taub who brought this article to my attention.
Friday, September 19, 2014
A recent posting by Drew Lewis on the Recommind site offered provocative
observations about the failure of law schools to teach even this most basic of
e-lawyering skills. It is useful reading and provides suggestions for concerted
action to help spark more law and technology education. My thanks to Kevin Colangelo at Elevate for
pointing this out to me. http://www.recommind.com/blog/2014/09/18/rethinking-ediscovery-education-playing-catch-longer-viable-strategy
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Good article on the challenges of starting a legal tech ecosystem. Great timing for me, I am starting a new meetup -- LegalHackersPA -- in the coming weeks.
Solomon suggests that law students and recent grads may not be well positioned to see the pain points in the practice yet. So, who should be on the invite list?
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
One of the challenges that legal technology applications face is that they often succeed in automating some portions of a legal process, but still require the involvement of human agency in other portions. Maybe, as they say in the software writing trade, this isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. I thank John Mayer at CALI for calling my attention to an article by information science Profs. Hamid Ekbia and Bonnie Nardi entitled “Heteromation and its (dis)contents: The invisible division of labor between humans and machines” (First Monday, Volume 19, Number 6 - 2 June 2014, available at http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/5331). As we figure out what portions of the thing called “law” can and can’t be automated, the idea of “heteromation” can provide a useful frame for understanding the mixture of human and machine that will inevitably result. The potentially bad news for lawyers is that the human content in such a mix can sometimes be relatively commoditized and not very highly compensated. See, for instance, the experience of document-review temps in many ediscovery projects.
Legal technology is a new area for many in the legal academy. The field, however, is burgeoning in the world of practice, and is becoming a “must know” area for many of us in our research and teaching. How does someone hoping to learn more about legal tech jump in and educate herself? Let me suggest a few resources available via the web as ways to get launched in the field. The list is a starting point, by no means comprehensive, and I hope that my Legal Tech Blog colleagues and others will make further suggestions in comments and future posts. The links are provided in no particular order of priority. The list does not include the many companies active in the field – they are often the real leaders, and getting to know their work is an important element in learning about the field. A good start on their products and services can be made by following up on the links to the marketplaces set out below. The recent post by Michele Pistone provides resoureces for technology and legal education. Happy browsing.
Stephanie Kimbro, Virtual Law Practice, ABA, 2011, available through http://virtuallawpractice.org/
Oliver Goodenough & Marc Lauritsen, eds., Educating the Digital Lawyer, LexisNexis, 2012, available through http://legalinformatics.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/goodenough-and-lauritsen-eds-educating-the-digital-lawyer/
ABA, 2014 Legal Technology Survey Report, Combined Volumes, ABA, 2014 http://shop.americanbar.org/eBus/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productId=133038720&sc_cid=2680141-14A&sc_channel=email&sc_rec=
ABA Techreport 2013, available at http://www.americanbar.org/publications/techreport/2013.html
Law Review Articles and Volumes:
Ronald W. Staudt and Marc Lauritsen, eds. Justice, Lawyering and Legal Education in the Digital Age, Chicago-Kent Law Review Symposium, 2013, issue available at http://www.kentlaw.iit.edu/institutes-centers/center-for-access-to-justice-and-technology/2013-law-review-symposium
Harry Surden, “Computable Contracts”, UC Davis Law Review, Vol. 46, P. 629, 2012, available at http://lawreview.law.ucdavis.edu/issues/46/2/Articles/46-2_Surden.pdf
Ronald W. Staudt, All the Wild Possibilities: Technology that Attacks Barriers to Access to Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, Vol. 42, p. 101, Summer 2009; Chicago-Kent Intellectual Property, Science & Technology Research Paper No. 10-027. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1543329
Industry Publications, Markets and Websites:
Law Technology News, http://www.lawtechnologynews.com/
ABA Legal Technology Resource Center, http://www.americanbar.org/groups/departments_offices/legal_technology_resources.html
ABA Techshow, http://www.techshow.com/
Law Technology Today, http://www.lawtechnologytoday.org/
Organizations, Centers and Other Organizational Resources:
International Legal Technology Association, http://www.iltanet.org/
The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction, http://www.cali.org/
The Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University, http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/
Reinvent Law Laboratory, Michigan State University, http://reinventlaw.com/main.html
CodeX, Stanford University, https://www.law.stanford.edu/organizations/programs-and-centers/codex-the-stanford-center-for-legal-informatics
Center for Law Practice Technology, Florida Coastal University School of Law, http://www.fcsl.edu/clpt
Institute on Law Practice Technology and Innovation, Suffolk University Law School, http://lawpracticetechnology.blogs.law.suffolk.edu/
Center for Legal Innovation, Vermont Law School, http://www.vermontlaw.edu/center-for-legal-innovation
Law Dojo, http://www.lawschooldojo.com/
International Association for Artificial Intelligence and Law, http://www.iaail.org/
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
The focus of this blog is technological change and how that change will impact the practice of law and legal education. While the role that technology can play in the practice of law is beginning to become more evident – with predictive coding, eDiscovery, and companies like LexMachina that use legal analytics to, among other things, predict the outcome of patent litigation -- many in the legal academy still cannot conceive of how technology can change legal education – a method of education grounded in Socratic dialogue, which has endured for more than 100 years. If you are in that camp or know others who are, let me suggest that we do not dismiss the potential for change in legal education without knowing what arguments are being made by those persons who believe the status quo will not endure. Below is a list of suggested readings that might change your thinking about the role of technology in the future of legal education. The suggestions come from my article, which has other suggestions as well.
Here are some ideas about where to start. First, read David Thomson, Law School 2.0: Legal Education for the Digital Age (2009). Also, read the work of Bill Henderson, including A Blueprint for Change, 40 Pepperdine L. Rev. 461 (2013) and Andrew P. Morriss & William D. Henderson, Measuring Outcomes: Post-Graduation Measures of Success in the U.S. News & World Report Law School Rankings, 83 Indiana L. J. 791 (2008). Read David Barnhizer’s article, Redesigning the American Law School, 2010 Mich. St. L. Rev. 249 (2010).
Read, too, assessments about how technology has impacted and will continue to impact higher education generally, works such as Disrupting College: How Disruptive Innovation Can Deliver Quality and Affordability to Postsecondary Education, and The Department of Education’s Meta-Analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies.
Learn about the millennial generation who are “born digital” and how their more networked and connected lives affect the way they approach learning. A great book on this topic is by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser of Harvard Law’s Beckman Center on Internet and Society, Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives (2008). Think about the implications of the fact that between 2000 and 2002, the largest group of first time internet users were between two and five years old, placing the oldest members of this group in college now – and in law school soon. Begin to understand how the emerging “participatory culture” is changing what one needs to learn to be fully prepared to function in the twenty-first century. You can do this by reading Henry Jenkins, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century (MacArthur Foundation).
Begin to explore the potential for law schools to employ teaching methods that use technology to a greatly enhanced degree. For example, read about flipping the classroom, a teaching methodology that blends online lectures (which students view at their own pace as homework) with in-class instruction, as it is used in K-12 education, Jonathan Bergmann & Aaron Sams, Flip Your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day (ISTE/ASCD, 2012), or watch these videos on flipped learning in legal education. By migrating lectures to the web, flipped learning can free face-to-face classtime for active learning, including Socratic dialogues, drafting exercises, simulations and role plays.
Investigate also innovations in adaptive learning, a technique using computer software first to assess what a student knows and then to adapt the content taught to the knowledge level of the student, thus providing a more personalized learning experience for each individual. Computer-based adaptive learning is already being used by the Kaplan test preparation company for college students planning to take the LSAT and GMAT; by Khan Academy for younger students; and by many companies, such as Knewton, for a wide range of users.
Consider as well the impact that gaming can have on education. Follow the work of my fellow bloggers, Jeannette Eicks and Stephanie Kimbro, both of whom are working on projects that involve gaming and law. Read James Gee, What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy (2003); James Gee, Good Video Games and Good Learning, at http://dmlcentral.net/sites/dmlcentral/files/resource_files/GoodVideoGamesLearning.pdf. Educational games are available for a variety of topics, including civics, see http://www.icivics.org/ (a game-based website started for former Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor); climate change, see http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/hottopics/climatechange/climate_challenge/; national conflicts, see http://www.peacemakergame.com/game.php; and even algebra, see http://www.dragonboxapp.com.
Closer to home, monitor the impact that recent decisions by law schools to develop online programs for non-JD degrees has on programs at other schools, such as the decision by graduate tax law programs at, among others, Alabama, Georgetown, NYU, Villanova, and Boston University to offer their programs online. Read Distance Learning in Legal Education: A Summary of Delivery Models, Regulatory issues and Recommended Practices. Attend a meeting of the Distance Learning in Legal Education Working Group, organized by Vermont Law School professors Rebecca Purdom and my fellow blogger, Oliver Goodenough. The group meets three times a year, once in the fall (which is in a few weeks at William Mitchell School of Law), once during the AALS Annual Meeting, and a third time in the spring.
In addition, monitor the effectiveness and reaction of law graduates who take online bar preparation courses such as Themis. Explore some of the new apps being developed for iPads and Androids to teach legal concepts. Law Stack is an Apple app for legal research loaded with various federal statutes. Law School Dojo, by Stanford Law’s Margaret Hagan, is an app with quizzes on legal concepts for a range of subject matters, including contracts, torts, civil procedure and international law.
The internet, the driver of all the changes and developments noted above, is a technology and a tool that, for the reach and extent of its often disruptive and its often liberating effects, can be compared only with the printing press. When writing of Gutenberg’s invention, Elizabeth Eisenstein, a careful and meticulous historian of immense reputation, wrote (favorably quoting Renaissance scholar Myron Gilmore) in her two-volume magnum opus, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, that “’[i]t opened new horizons in education and in the communication of ideas. Its effects were sooner or later felt in every department of human activity.’” As we detail in our article, "[s]o too it is, or sooner or later shall be, with the internet."
Thursday, August 21, 2014
In his August 1st article "This Is Law School? Socrates Takes a Back Seat to Business and Tech" John Schwartz of the New York Times highlights three of the several law schools seeking to expand legal education and what it means to be a lawyer. Both directly and indirectly, the article challenges our conception of where the boundaries of the legal industry should lie and what law students should do post-graduation. His article showcases programs at Michigan State, Northwestern and University of Colorado Bolder law schools devoted to teaching a more entrepreneurial approach to law practice and the use of legal skills.
In discussing these forward-thinking programs, the article also highlighted two tensions playing out within legal practice and legal education. One tension touched upon in the article is found between a more narrow traditional interpretation of legal employment and a more expansive one. How we choose to define and value legal employment will greatly influence our students’ placements and the reputation of law schools who seek new, more entrepreneurial opportunities for their graduates.
Currently when a law student graduates, finds a high paying job in the tech sector, and uses her education to build the knowledge engines of a legal technology tool tradition and ABA rules dictate that we not count that graduate’s job in her law school’s graduate employment numbers in the primary J.D. required employment statistic. By that same tradition law schools graduate lawyers, judges or professors, not business leaders, knowledge engineers or entrepreneurs. Those traditions culminate in law school career services departments that have networks focused on finding graduates jobs as lawyers and clerks or other positions that require a J.D. degree and bar passage. Given that non-traditional positions do not contribute to the primary J.D. required employment statistic, law students receive little encouragement from law schools to think outside the lines of a traditional legal career.
In this job market, we should teach law students to seek opportunities to leverage their Juris Doctorate degree and other personal skills in non-traditional legal professions. Graduates could find high level employment in growing industries where having a J.D. makes our graduates leaders in their field. Arguably these positions should require a J.D. because these functions are the practice of new law. Law school graduates may become knowledge engineers, legal data scientists, legal data visualizers, information governance executives or chief compliance officers. These positions create technology solutions that perform with legal expertise on behalf of a lawyer or use deep legal knowledge on a daily basis. While this path will not be right for all law school graduates, the 20% of graduates it may fit would positively impact law school graduate employment statistics. When we change how we count the employment status of our students so that these new opportunities for legal employment are included in the tally, we will see a healthy expansion of opportunities presented by law school career services offices.
The other tension in the NY Times article exists between those who think technology will bring modest iterative improvements to the legal industry and those who think technology will disrupt the traditional legal industry. "Catherine L. Carpenter, vice dean of Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, tracks curriculum across the country. She said schools are trying to teach their students to run their own firms, to look for entrepreneurial opportunities by finding ‘gaps in the law or gaps in the delivery of services,’ and to gain specialized knowledge that can help them counsel entrepreneurs." Teaching students the business aspects necessary to run their own firms leads students down the more traditional legal paths of counseling entrepreneurs and improving the efficiency of legal practice – at the most iterative changes. However, teaching our students to find “gaps in the law or gaps in the delivery of services” invites foundational questions about the legal system and its function. When combine with technology-driven solutions, the answers students discover to those fundamental questions have the greatest possibility of disrupting the legal industry. Legal technology will open new and underserved markets for graduates that will use both their legal and entrepreneurial skills.
In the New York Times article, Professor Paul F. Campos was “amused by the focus on tech. ‘The irony here is that these new technologies are destroying traditional legal jobs!’” The alternative perspective? Technology will combine with traditional law to shift the legal industry. We will begin to see that these non-traditional legal jobs are the practice of law. Whether this “new law” practice is better and jobs are more or less plentiful remains to be seen.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
I also attended the Start Up Weekend in San Francisco. It was indeed a success, with lots of energy and good projects going forward. Let me give a particular shout out to the organizing group - students at Hastings Law School - who showed terrific initiative and energy in putting it all together. As listed on the event website, they are:
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Earlier today, the Canadian Bar Association released a report, Transforming the Delivery of Legal Services in Canada, which discusses the broad-reaching changes taking place in the legal profession and makes recommendations about how lawyers in Canada should respond.
Among the report’s most significant recommendations are that “lawyers should be allowed to practice in business structures that permit fee-sharing, multidisciplinary practice, and ownership, management, and investment by persons other than lawyers or other regulated legal professionals.” The report also notes that “[t]he key to establishing a viable, competitive, relevant and representative legal profession . . . in the future is innovation.” With this last point, I heartily concur. In fact, one of the main arguments of my recent article, No Path But One: Law School Survival in an Age of Disruptive Technology, is that the need for innovation extends to law schools as well, because the same trends that are impacting the practice of law are also impacting law schools. For both practitioners and law schools, a failure to innovate will mean a bleak future. As my co-author and I say in the article, “What law schools face, in the end, is a real life testing of the aphorism that ‘necessity is the mother of invention.’ The only way forward is to innovate.” Whether, and how, law schools can achieve this, I expect will be an ongoing theme of my contributions to this blog.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
One Legal Labs launched yesterday. It's a tech incubator focused on the legal field. There is a lot that can be done to bring technology into our field -- to make information about the law more accessible, to make legal services more affordable, to make legal systems more efficient. I look forward to seeing the creative ideas that are spawned there.
Monday, August 11, 2014
Mark your calendars for the first Legal + Tech Startup Weekend, August 15-17 at the AirBNB Headquarters in San Francisco, http://legalsf.startupweekend.org/#
The event looks fabulous, with lots of support from the legal startup community. The organizers have done a wonderful job gathering leaders in the law + tech community to participate as coaches and judges, including our own Stephanie Kimbro.
The objectives of the weekend are clear. To:
(1) Leverage the knowledge of legal professionals and students to explore new directions for legal tech products, services, and resources.
(2) Foster positive relationships among Bay Area law schools and the local tech and legal communities.
(3) Provide the opportunity for people across industries to brainstorm, collaborate, design, and develop innovative products and services to address challenges facing the legal system.
To me, the event is significant because it marks a transition in our understanding of the role that technology can play in the legal field. It brings many of the key players in this space together with students and developers to begin to collaborate on technologies that can change how law is practiced, learned and understood. I can’t wait to see what emerges from the weekend.
There is still time to register, http://legalsf.startupweekend.org/#
Friday, August 8, 2014
Law schools must address the intersection of information technology and law practice, and provide law students with a basic understanding of how to assess the risks and benefits of technological advances. Law students need to be prepared to take on different roles once they pass the bar that expand beyond the once-expected, traditional first year associate in a law firm position. These new roles might include legal knowledge engineer, legal technologist, legal hybrid, legal process analyst, legal project manager, ODR practitioner, legal management consultant, and high risk manager.
I co-authored an article with Ron Dolin entitled Course Correction: Teaching Tomorrow’s Lawyers Legal Tech Skills for the summer edition of the ILTA Peer to Peer Magazine. Ron developed the syllabus for and taught the first course on legal informatics at Stanford Law School. Several of his students from that course have gone on to find innovative paths in the legal industry, including Margaret Hagan, his co-founder in the Program for Legal Tech and Design. In our article we summarize the key issues that law schools need to address when designing a curriculum that prepares new lawyers to use technology in a changed legal marketplace.
The following is a list of basic technology skills that we compiled based on our teaching and consulting experience (both of us advise and work with law firms and legal tech startups) that would benefit most law school curricula:
1. How to design the information architecture of a law practice, including for example, understanding data structures, law firm metrics, and how ethics rules apply to the use of technology;
2. Basics of cloud-based practice management systems, including the use of multiple applications and technologies, and their associated interoperability;
3. Selection of technology vendors, products and services, including review of service level agreements and understanding how the selection may affect compliance with the rules of professional conduct or ethics opinions;
4. Secure client portal technology and the basics of online delivery of legal services and unbundling practices;
5. Collaboration technologies that allow for legal teams to communicate remotely, such as virtual deal rooms, client intranets, and other tools developed for the growing field of ODR;
6. Use of technology for client development, including online marketing tools, collaborating with branded networks, online lead generation, creating and maintaining firm websites and blogs, use of social media, and the ethical issues and best practices around these;
7. Payment systems for online billing and collection of fees;
8. Technology that speeds up the processing of standardized legal work, such as document automation and assembly tools and expert systems; and finally
9. Evaluative methodologies to compare features, efficiency, and quality of the tools.
We were one short of a "top ten" list. Feel free to suggest a tenth skills that you might expect to see in a law school curricula and how that skill might be integrated into existing courses or offered as a separate course, elective, or supplemental certificate program.