Thursday, April 28, 2016
A new book, Engines of Anxiety: Academic Ranking, Reputation and Accountability, may be of interest to many in the legal academy. Written by two sociologists, Wendy Nelson Espeland of Northwestern University and Michael Sauder of the University of Iowa, it looks at the role that US News and World Reports (USNWR) rankings has had on law schools and the students they accept.
Despite many changes in the market for legal education and legal services, over the last several years law schools have continued to focus their attention and energies on maintaining their existing status within this legacy model used to rank and compare law schools. While the researchers heard a lot of bashing of the UNSWR law school rankings during interviews of law school administrators, they also find that most schools make decisions based on how they will impact their own place in the rankings.
The authors conducted interviews with law school admissions directors and faculty members who serve on admissions committees and the concluded that there is an overwhelming focus on Law School Admission Test scores. In fact, they found that LSAT scores are given more weight than any other factor in making admission decisions, sometimes regardless of whether other factors indicate that an applicant would be excel as student or lawyer or not.
Monday, March 28, 2016
Many people are talking about how law schools are in crisis. But few are talking about how to plan proactively in reaction to the crisis. Michael Horn and I attempt to set out a way forward for law schools in our new whitepaper, Disrupting Law School: How disruptive technologies will revolutionize the legal world. http://www.christenseninstitute.org/publications/disrupting-law-school/
As we explain in the paper, there are a number of forces impacting law schools now, including disruption in the marketplace and changes in licensing models for legal services. Technological changes are behind many of these forces.
Among other trends set out in the paper, we believe it is only a matter of time before scalable online competition enters the legal education space. This new competition will pose a threat to traditional place-based law schools. The paper sets out some concrete steps law schools can take to best position themselves for the future.
I would love to hear your take on the market forces impacting the provision of legal services and law schools. Leave your comments below.
Tuesday, September 8, 2015
We note with sadness the death of Dennis Greene, a professor at the University of Dayton School of Law and a treasured member of the Law and Technology community. Dennis was a true polymath - combining a distinguished career in the legal academy with a wide range of other interests. Perhaps most notably, Dennis was a founding member of the retro-rock group Sha-Na-Na, and performed at the legendary Woodstock Festival. He will be badly missed. See http://www.whio.com/news/news/sha-na-na-co-founder-dennis-greene-was-beloved-law/nnZTS/
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Recognition. Understanding. The capacity to communicate key concepts.
Legal Technology is an industry without a category among the large consultancies and business reviews that track growth companies and monitor sector trends. A recent article at Above the Law offered evidence of this oversight - one common among new industries where the dust has yet to settle and the industry has no clearly defined boundaries. With the Above the Law article's strong evidentiary foundation, it's a short step to a few key observations: 1) the Legal Technology industry lacks meaningful trend monitoring by the large technology consulting firm like Gartner and Forrester; 2) the Legal Technology industry remains ill-defined for those on the outside; and 3) the Legal Technology's growth and market is not currently tracked by large, visible, non-industry players.
Given those observations, what are the likely outcomes for the Legal Technology industry? Without a category, legal technology may be impenetrable to those from outside - that includes investors, educators and potential professionals. How does the industry train and recruit professionals? What are the skills necessary to succeed in this area of law and technology? With major reliable source metrics unavailable will the industry gain investment and grow?
Thursday, July 23, 2015
What is a hackathon? A hackathon is an event, typically lasting a couple of days, in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming. It seems a strange companion to lawyers and law schools, however, law school and legal practitioner involvement in hackathons is on the rise. Hackathons have become a way to look for new and innovative methods of legal services delivery with the possible side effect of creating disruptions to the legal industry. The ABA, practitioners and law schools have held weekend hackathons focused on blending law and technology to alleviate legal access problems. As a group we acknowledge that there is a role for technology to play in the resolution of this thorny problem. One of the accidental outcomes of a good hackathon is a deeper understanding of the law and the legal process issues in question. With this thought in mind, VLS decided to offer a course based around the principles of a legal hackathon.
In early June, Vermont Law School challenged students enrolled in Hacktivist Boot Camp to think about the practice of law differently – to think of law as a combination of lawyer, legal knowledge engineer, designer, developer, and entrepreneur would. Students in the course prototyped a legal mobile application and pitched the completed prototype to a panel of judges and a broader audience. The students were thrilled with the outcomes, the judges were impressed with what the students developed in eleven days and, as the faculty member teaching the course, I was excited by the performance of students on legal learning outcomes.
Originally the course was designed to combine the efforts of computer science undergraduates and law students, offering graduate level credit for the undergraduates and J.D. credit for the law students. The course was intended to have a completed mobile application as one of the outcomes. While we had several inquiries from computer science undergraduates, a combination of logistical challenges and financial aid difficulties made attending impossible for those interested.
With a lack of computer science undergraduates, the programming aspects of the course were dropped and the course refocused on designing and building a functional prototype with legal content and the accompanying scoping and project management challenges. Additionally, the goal of teaching students to split tasks between lawyers and technologists and overcome their inherent communication barriers was no longer possible. The new course focus created an emphasis on teaching law students to create rapid prototypes – in seven days with little technical support. By happy accident, the circumstance became an opportunity to pilot this concept with law students and gauge their reactions to the heightened technical aspects of the course. The results of the pilot were surprising. The law students rose to the challenge with enthusiasm and the advanced functionality of their prototypes surprised them. The process of learning the prototyping software through the implementation of legal logic enhanced legal learning outcomes.
The two week summer course met Monday through Thursday morning for three hours. The eight days were split into three main sections. In the first section students learned how to interview stakeholders, develop a project scope and define a project charter. On campus program directors whose programs would benefit from a legal access mobile app visited the class and described their app ideas. The students heard from potential stakeholders about a Veteran’s benefits app, an Immigrant’s benefits app, an app to educate consumer about the impacts of their solar energy purchase and an app to help farmers generate a lease agreement. Students also worked together to identify areas where technology could have a positive impact on legal access, presented their app ideas to the class and located an outside stakeholder to support their ideas. Two student ideas, Text a Lawyer and Pocket Lawyer: DUI Edition, were shared with the class. From legal, design and development perspectives, the class analyzed the scope of the projects and selected three apps that had reasonable scope and were of interest to the students involved. They selected Text a Lawyer, Pocket Lawyer: DUI Edition and the Agricultural Lease app.
The second section of the course began on the third day. Students were asked to install and learn the rapid prototyping tool Axure. At the same time, the teams were responsible for researching the law related to their application, meeting with their stakeholders, testing designs with their stakeholders and creating logic flowcharts of the law for use in their app. On the eighth day their initial prototype was due and they demonstrated it for their stakeholders. With ongoing feedback from their stakeholders, students spent the next two days learning about iterative development, controlling scope creep and managing a project with stakeholder involvement. At the end of day nine, they had a finalized prototype.
The final section of the course involved creating a presentation that explained how their legal application functioned, how the app would be used and other details that were important to their application. During this period, students crafted flowcharts and slides to support their presentation. They also created a judging sheet specific to their application in order to gain specific feedback of interest to them. Judging took place at the end of the day on day eleven. The judges were faculty members, lawyers and leaders in the legaltech industry. Judges were presented with a standard judging sheet and a sheet specific to each app. The panel of judges was active and student found themselves defending their application and their legal, design and engineering decisions during presentations.
Students completed the course with a working prototype of their application that they could use in their portfolio. In follow-up conversations, students consistently expressed surprise at the depth of legal knowledge necessary to engineer the prototype. They learned every possibility in the area of law that their app addressed and the importance of managing the scope and development cycle of a project. While students reported that learning Axure was a challenge, they claimed creating the prototype raised their legal reasoning skills to a new level and deepened their thinking about the law in their area.
The success of a new course should be measured in the accomplishment of student outcomes. This course, as offered without computer science students, had the following student goals:
- Learn to work directly with legal stakeholders
- Learn to produce legal design documents
- Identify areas where technology would have a positive impact on legal access
- Learn legal concepts with sufficient depth to create comprehensive flowcharts of a specific area of law
- Gain the capacity to translating legal, legislative or policy processes into software
- Analyze legal logic and identify the required components of laws and policies
- Learn to positively collaborate with stakeholders and other interested parties
- Learn to manage product development in a team environment
- Produce a portfolio ready application or prototype
- Gain experience pitching a product
Even with the time limitations, the goals for the pilot course were met. Students were empowered in the use of technology and the application of the law. They created apps for the public good. VLS plans to offer this course again next summer and as a full-term course during the school year with the added challenge of learning the technology necessary to build an application.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
There is a nice shout-out for Modria and the future of technology and dispute resolution in an Associated Press story released today. It available at: http://www.usnews.com/news/technology/articles/2015/07/12/silicon-valley-company-starts-to-take-court-disputes-online.
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
This year’s meeting of ICAIL (the International Conference on Artificial Intelligence & Law) is off to a good start. There is a productive mix of the deeply knowledgeable old guard of law and AI, together with new faces (myself included) bringing fresh energy and insights. The venue, at the University of San Diego, is lovely, and the organizing work of Kate Atkinson, Ted Sichelman, Anne Gardner and many others is paying off in many ways. The speakers are presenting carefully framed and executed projects. Nice, very smart people have made me feel welcome. Why do I feel something is missing?
The emphasis of the majority of the papers is on using AI to help illuminate law as we now practice and administer it. There are thoughtful presentations on using advanced techniques to analyze legal opinions, both for their logical content and for the data on arguments and holdings which they contain. The science looks excellent; the goal is essentially limited. In the typology I’ve previously developed, the conversation here is relentlessly linked to legaltech 1.0 and 2.0. The frame for the application of AI is the current system of law, including traditional dispute resolution structures, judicial opinions, and natural language legislation and regulation. With the impatience of a newcomer, I want more.
While using clever tools to create better searches within the existing paradigm is useful as a current exercise, I long for the folks here to help me think beyond what law is today and into what law can be with the help of AI. Clay Shirky (not at the conference), in his cautionary essay Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags, declares:
“…I want to convince you that a lot of what we think we know about categorization is wrong. In particular, I want to convince you that many of the ways we're attempting to apply categorization to the electronic world are actually a bad fit, because we've adopted habits of mind that are left over from earlier strategies.”
There is a lot of intelligence here at ICAIL seeking fancier boxes for sorting the earlier strategies of existing jurisprudence.
I contrast my reaction here with the energy I feel at events like those organized by CodeX at Stanford – there, we hear from people who are breaking off chunks of the field and simply building it. The presentations made in the CodeX context don’t always aspire to the intellectual rigor I see here, and many probably couldn’t get published in ICAIL’s scholarly journal, but a vision of the future burns more brightly, and the impact on legal practice is palpable. Putting that energy and the ICAIL erudition together would be a worthwhile next step in the evolution of legal technology.
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Disruption and Legal Education - Clayton Christensen Institute's Michelle Weise to Address AALS Clinical Conference
(this is cross-posted on Best Practices in Legal Education blog)
As legal education faces new challenges in preparing students for law practice and rethinking the lawyer’s role in society, this year’s AALS Clinical Conference, “Leading the New Normal: Clinical Education at the Forefront of Change,” will focus on the central questions: What is the New Normal? How Should Clinicians Respond to the New Normal? What is the Future of the New Normal?
I am excited to introduce Michele Weise, a Senior Research Fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation (CCI), as the speaker for the third theme. A former Fulbright Scholar and graduate of Harvard and Stanford, Michelle Weise served as the Vice President of Academic Affairs for Fidelis Education, a professor at Skidmore College, and an instructor at Stanford.
In 2014, Ms. Weise co-authored a book with Clayton Christensen, titled Hire Education: Mastery, Modularization, and the Workforce Revolution, about how online competency-based education will revolutionize the workforce and disrupt higher education. Ms. Weise’s commentaries and research have been featured in a number of publications such as The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Boston Globe, Inside HigherEd, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and USA Today.
The Clay Christensen Institute, ranked in the Thinkers 50 in 2013, is the world’s leading think tank on disruptive innovation. “Disruptive innovation” takes a problem, applies a different set of values to solve the problem, and creates a new market that ultimately overtakes an existing market. Recently, CCI has studied how changes in technology or business models impact industries such as education and health care.
Michele Weise is one of the three main speakers at the conference. In her talk, Ms. Weise will help the audience to understand the theory of disruption and how it relates not only to our own role as clinical professors, but also to outside changes impacting legal education. We see clinical education itself as a form of “disruptive innovation” within the legal academy. Our values and methods now stand ready to overtake and profoundly transform legal education, creating a “new normal.” At the same time, we face the prospect that other innovations (in technology and in law practice) will disrupt us, our schools and legal education as a whole. As part of a focus on the “new normal,” we see a strong need to assess how onrushing innovations in technology and practice will transform our clinics and our schools. I believe that, as a speaker, Michelle Weise offers an important opportunity and perspective for the clinical community and by extension, the legal academy.
Speaking personally, as a student of the CCI’s theories for the last few years, I have found it very helpful to have a broader framework in which to analyze what is happening in legal education. Indeed, my recent article, No Path But One, is grounded in the theories of the CCI, as is another piece on which I am currently working. Others in the legal academy are also applying the CCI’s disruption theory ideas to legal education. See:
At this critical time in legal education, I think it is important for the legal academy to understand the “why” behind the changes that are happening around us. Ms. Weise will help us as we begin to understand why higher education is changing and provoke us all to think about how we can prepare for the coming years.
The AALS conference will take place in Rancho Mirage, CA from May 3-7, 2015. Registration for the conference can be found here.
I hope to see you there!
Friday, April 24, 2015
Coming on the heels of last week’s ABA TECHSHOW 2015 (see http://www.techshow.com/) this coming week also has a lot going on around legal technology and related practice reform. On Monday and Tuesday, UMKC School of Law and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation are hosting a conference on Law Schools, Technology & Access to Law and Justice. This is a follow up on a very successful session held last summer. See http://law.umkc.edu/lawtecha2j/. On Thursday, Stanford’s CodeX Center is presenting its annual FutureLaw Conference, where a significant mass of the legal technology scholarly world will assemble and mingle. See http://law.umkc.edu/lawtecha2j/. Over next weekend, May 2-4, also at Stanford is the ABA co-sponsored National Summit on Innovation in Legal Services, where technology-based solutions, and the rule reforms necessary to support them, will be front and center. See http://www.americanbar.org/groups/centers_commissions/commission-on-the-future-of-legal-services/national_summit.html.
With these events and the conversations growing out of them in mind, I contributed the following to Huffington Post (available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/oliver-r-goodenough/innovation-in-legal-practice-beyond-the-current-model-of-professionalism_b_7140128.html).
While the U.S. legal system has many virtues, it also has glaring flaws. One of its chief failures is access: Most of us in America simply can't afford the help of a lawyer that is so often necessary for navigating the complex landscape of the law. This underrepresentation is particularly true in matters like family law, immigration, home foreclosure or social benefits, where there is no outside pot of money that a contingency lawyer can set her sights on. Statistics vary, but in the sizable majority of such cases in state after state, people hoping for a just result come into court unrepresented, without the expert help they may need to get that justice. Many others don't bother to come to court at all. Similar gaps show up in non-litigation processes, like small business formation, social benefit disputes, and estate planning.
Commissions, reformers and critics have wrung their hands over this reality for decades, but the problem has only gotten worse, notwithstanding worthy efforts like Legal Aid. It is time to be honest with ourselves. This crisis of representation is not an aberration. It is a structural feature of the system of lawyer professionalism we have built, and it will not go away until we build a different way to deliver the benefits of law to people in need of them.
Lawyer professionalism, as we currently know it, is not a terrible thing in itself. We set high qualifications of education, admission and conduct for attorneys, and wrap their role in the status and responsibility-laden package we call a lawyer. We then give the people in that package a monopoly on providing legal services, and back that monopoly up with a set of restrictions on investment, geography, and advertising. This arrangement was an advance in its day, serving as a reform to the less structured, and rather rough-and-tumble versions of the bar that went before it. That day, however, dawned in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, and its sun is setting. The plain fact that needs to be acknowledged is that the economics of this arrangement have always left the less affluent behind, and we need to fix this failure.
Fortuitously, advances in technology, scale and business process science are helping us to develop alternatives modes for delivering the benefits of law more broadly. In the commercial arena, online services like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer are the Uber and Lyft of the legal world. Non-profits and governments are also providing technology-based solutions. But these alternatives are butting up against the regulatory structures of traditional professionalism.
What needs to change? The basic rules of the current system of legal practice are determined on a state-by-state basis. Every state has based its approach, with some individual variation, on the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. The American Bar Association promulgated the original version in 1983. Although the Model Rules have been tweaked in various ways over the years, some core, restrictive principles on questions such as outside investment, cross-border representation, and unauthorized legal practice, have remained in place and enshrine the traditions of professionalism in ways that limit most of the innovations that could help solve our problem.
The existing rules and the model of professionalism which they support need to evolve. The concerns over quality and honesty which inspired the rules should not be jettisoned. Rather, those concerns should continue to animate the new strictures, but they need to do it in the context of 21st Century possibilities, including the connectivity, scale and automation that technology can provide.
The transition to the new will sometimes be messy, with experimentation in the individual states running simultaneously with the centralized considerations of the ABA. In fact, some states may well get ahead of the ABA. The power to set the rules resides in the states themselves, and the courts that oversee those rules know better than anyone that the current system often fails the majority of our citizens. Furthermore, as it dawns on the lawyers of an open-minded state that they could actually prosper from embracing change ahead of the rest, we will see some interesting jumps forward. Some mess may need to be tolerated as the new emerges from the old.
Innovation is difficult and carries risks; but the cost of failing to innovate around access to legal services is simply too great a price for our system of justice to sustain.
Monday, March 23, 2015
A Tale of Two Conversations: Is what lawyers do really special enough to be an exception to automation?
Over the past few weeks, I attended a couple of contrasting events that reflect the “battle lines”, if I may call them that, on the potential for technology to disrupt the way we currently practice and teach law.
The first was a session of “legal rounds” held by Legal OnRamp at which I was an invited guest (via call-in through a webex connection). This company is one of the new breed of legal service providers, with a mission to offer “Legal Intelligence Solutions that leverage expert people, best practice process, and state-of-the-art systems to support excellence in internal legal functions and tackle some of the most complex projects faced by legal teams.” See https://www.legalonramp.com/. The conversation was lively, with lots of youthful enthusiasm and optimism. A good portion of the time was devoted to a serious discussion of how to allocate what we think of as legal work between people and machines, using as a starting point the concept of “heteromation” discussed in a September 2, 2014 posting on this site.
A week later, Stanford’s CodeX Center for Legal Informatics and the Palo Alto Area Bar Association sponsored a panel on The Law Firm of the Future, and I was fortunate to be a member of the audience. See the poster at https://www.law.stanford.edu/event/2015/03/04/the-law-firm-of-the-future and the video of the proceedings at www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvSFy5jpRDw. Most of the participants on this panel – largely established practitioners – took the position that there was something inherently special about what lawyers do that will prevent the successful automation of those processes. The one exception went, if anything, too far the other direction – although his starting point seemed valid to me. Such predominant conservatism is unusual for a CodeX event.
Given the nature of this blog, it is to be expected that I agreed with the speakers in the first session more than the second. I came away from the Stanford panel a bit depressed. The arrogance of our profession can be so tiresome. Just because smart people can become very good at what they do does not mean a) that technology can’t improve/substitute for the process or b) that what they do is in fact the best way to accomplish the goal. The pattern recognition skills that several of the speakers referred to as uniquely human are in fact likely to be far easier to automate than truly hard feature extraction problems like voice recognition software. At this point, making progress on many legal automation targets is just a matter of envisioning the next steps and applying resources. If legal tech startup funding continues to ramp up, the resource part may not be that much of a problem going forward.
Law is in the early stages of a relatively common, if often rocky, story: the passing of the importance of what has been a highly valued form of competence. To illustrate this, think about the role of horsemanship in transportation. Horsemanship was a terrific skill when horses were the best mode of land-based travel humans could access. Really competent riders were at a premium and justifiably honored for their accomplishments. When automobiles came along, however, suddenly horsemanship became largely irrelevant. The analogy doesn’t map point for point on the changes we’ll see in the law, but the overall conclusions are useful – being really good at what has been in demand doesn’t make you irreplaceable. In some ways, it just sets you up for a bigger fall.
Friday, March 20, 2015
I'm in DC at the Igniting Law Teaching conference at American University Washington College of Law. I am hearing now from Matthew Homewood of Nottingham Law School on Mobile Devices in the Classroom.
He mentioned that he used to answer student questions via email. But then it was seen by only one student. So he had the idea to ask students to tweet questions to him. To entice them, he told his students that if they tweeted to him during a certain time period, we was sure to get back to them.
They did it. There were many good outcomes. One benefit was that the students had to really think about their questions to get the question down to 140 characters. Next, other students could see the conversation even if just lurking behind the scenes without engaging in the conversation. And, over time, some students started to answer the questions of their class colleagues. So, another benefit is learning socially from classmates.
It was a great talk and will be available soon on LegalED's website. If you want to watch today's conference live, it is being webcast at http://legaledweb.com/.
Monday, March 16, 2015
Last week the Economist ran an articles called Log-On Degree, which spoke about how online learning is impacting higher education. In particular, it focuses on a program that will mix online and in-class instruction to make education more effective.
That topic was the subject of a few talks at last year's Igniting Law Teaching conference and will be central to LegalED's 2015 Igniting Law Teaching conference as well. Last year, David Thomson, LP Professor at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law, spoke in the Flipping Law School Course Pod.
Many believe that the answer to reducing the high cost of legal education is to the remove the third year of learning, but Dr. Thomson has a different idea. If we have to reduce the length of law school, we should remove the first year, and rather than get rid of it, significantly reengineer it by putting most of it online. Online learning environments are now well designed and achieve outcomes equivalent to or better than “ground” classes. There are good reasons to this there are acceptable ways to teach much of the first year material primarily online. Adding back some forms of hybrid instruction could alleviate concerns that the “formation” part of the first year would be lost. In addition, moving most of the first year online would open up law school to a larger cohort of potential students, some of whom might only want the first year of instruction.
Professor Thomson serves on his University’s Distance Learning Council, the Board of Trustees’ Technology Futures Committee, and the Strategic Issues Panel on the Future of Higher Education and received the 2011-12 University of Denver Distinguished Teaching Award. He is the author of Law School 2.0: Legal Education for a Digital Age (LexisNeix/Matthew Bender 2009). He has also published two books in a series of hybrid law school textbooks as well, Skills & Values: Discovery Practice (LexisNexis/Matthew Bender 2009) and Skills & Values: Lawyering Process (LexisNexis/Matthew Bender 2013).
LegalED aims to harness the power of the internet for legal educations. It facilitates blended or flipped learning – by migrating lectures to the web, LegalED frees up classtime for active learning that challenges students to learn the essential lawyering competencies while they are in law school. Professors may assign the videos in any combination for students to view outside of the classroom for active learning that challenges students to learn the essential lawyering competencies while they are in law school. LegalED seeks to develop and maintain a vibrant online community of teachers and students of the law, creating a central hub for the community. Through the video collection, teachers can be inspired to borrow, adapt, and bring great teaching moments into their own courses. With an internet platform, LegalED opens up formerly isolated classrooms by sharing showcasing, celebrating and inspiring innovative teaching. Simply put, the vision of LegalED is to inspire innovation in legal education. Join the movement!
The LegalED's 2015 Igniting Law Teaching conference will take place on Friday, March 20th, from 9am to 6pm. Register to attend in person or live stream the event.
Monday, February 9, 2015
Law week saw the LegalTech show in NYC. The annual sales jamboree for the industry was lively as usual, and a chance to see a number of friends and colleagues. This year there was also a track, organized by Stanford's CodeX Center, for showcasing start-up companies and cutting edge ideas. Tim Baran has blogged in some detail on the new companies - http://www.legalproductivity.com/technology/legaltech-stanford-codex-legal-startups/. There were also three panels looking at what is hot and what is coming next in legal technology. Co-blogger Jeanette Eicks chaired one of them – see https://twitter.com/codexstanford/status/563386307922382848. My own contribution was a short talk providing a conceptual framework for the impact of technology on law and legal practice, the gist of which appeared in a companion op-ed on Huffington Post, available at huff.to/1xfS5fa and reprinted below. Anyone with an academic or applied interest in legal technology should try to get to LegalTech, either in NYC or California, or to the ABA Tech Show in Chicago. You won’t look at the law quite the same again.
Legal Technology 3.0
The impact of technology on law is moving forward with all the subtlety of a charging rhinoceros, transforming traditional practice and spawning new forms of “legal service” delivery. Surprisingly, many expect that the swirling events will just enhance the existing system, leaving it essentially intact, but with certain processes improved. If the experience of other fields undergoing the effects of technological innovation serves as a guide, however, systemic change is around the corner.
The course of technological change for an industry can be broken down into three stages. The now clichéd, but still useful, terms of 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 can apply. In 1.0, technology empowers the current human players within the current system. Applications here include computer assisted legal research, document production, practice management and early e-discovery. Surprisingly, these often create more legal work, as an arms race of deployment rages. Powerful search tools prompt more extensive supporting citations, not less work. Similarly, the proliferation of discoverable data necessitates more associates pouring over the record. While tech companies are still providing new versions of tools like these, the system has pretty fully digested 1.0.
In 2.0, technology replaces an increasing number of the human players within the current system, becoming disruptive. In e-discovery, for instance, machine learning approaches are subtracting the document review jobs that the 1.0 stage created. Companies are marrying word processing with expert systems to create contract document assembly systems that allow sales reps to “paper” deals themselves without review by the dreaded (and expensive) “suits” in legal.
At an individual consumer level, technology-enabled interfaces empower many who can’t (or won’t) afford traditional legal representation. As Clayton Christensen points out, disruptive innovation first flourishes at the “bottom” of the marketplace. For example, LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer provide cheap legal help. Nonprofits and government are also in this game, often for free. Lawyers are still available through paid help desks built into both Rocket Lawyer’s and LegalZoom’s platforms, but whether the expanded market actually makes up for the diminished role is an open question.
A logical extension of 2.0 is that law can become a free utility in a larger service platform. Good expert systems are expensive to set up, but they are cheap to run. Google offers its search system to users for free in order to bring them to a platform where the company makes money in other ways – principally by selling access to the eyeballs of those users to advertisers. Law invites similar treatment. The legal elements of a domestic real estate transaction can appear as a “free” software service of the broker handling the sale.
In this world, traditional notions of the law as a professional activity, carried on by licensed attorneys, lose their justification. Existing disciplinary rules bend and break while a new category of “legal service provider” comes of age. Principles such as competence, trustworthiness and confidentiality remain important; the means for accomplishing them look very different.
Just as Uber and Lyft disrupt the taxi business, legal tech 2.0 frightens incumbent providers and cheers consumers. Desired or not, however, it is still embedded within the existing system. The current web of natural language laws, courts and the regulatory state remain largely intact. Our system of justice evolves but does not radically shift.
We are, however, fast approaching 3.0, where the power of computational technology for communication, modeling and execution permit a radical redesign, if not a full replacement, of the current system itself. If the Internal Revenue Code were enacted in computer code rather than natural language, a good technological parsing engine (rather than the limited biological parsing engine of a lawyer’s brain) could give tax advice quickly and cheaply. Indeed, regulatory compliance could be built directly into computational objects such as a share of stock built as a “smart security,” keeping track of ownership and applicable trading rules. Online dispute resolution looks significantly different from current courts, as the offerings of Modria already demonstrate.
Aspects of 3.0 sound a bit like science fiction, but so did the functionality of a smart phone a few years ago. The conceptual and technological pieces for radical redesign are falling into place; even law will innovate when the world changes. The shape of innovation can be relatively graceful or clumsy, however. If we anticipate the more radical changes and design safeguards into these processes with intelligence and attention to the public good, maybe we can improve the outcomes. We can help a system intended to create justice do just that.
Practitioners who anticipate and adapt to change can prosper in the new world of law. That’s a far better outcome than letting the rhinoceros trample its way through the legal profession.
38th Annual Conference on Clinical Legal Education:
Leading the New Normal: Clinical Education at the
Forefront of Change
May 4-7, 2015
Rancho Mirage, CA
CALL FOR PROPOSALS: VIDEO SERIES
The Planning Committee for the 2015 AALS Clinical Conference issues this call for professors to participate in a video series designed to capture the creativity and innovation that is a hallmark of our community. The video collection will feature ideas about teaching methodology for an audience of law professors. Participants will work with the Committee to develop their topics and videotape their talk on Monday, May 4, the day before the Clinical Conference. The AALS has expressed a strong interest in embedding these videos on its website as part of an effort to convey more effectively the value of a legal education.
The new normal in legal education asks law teachers of all kinds to integrate practical lawyering skills and professional values into their teaching. We seek teachers who have developed thoughtful ideas about law school teaching and who want to spread those ideas to the broader community. We envision this project as a way to showcase you as a leader in teaching innovation and to inspire innovation by others. Starting this year, we mean to create a collection of short videos on law school pedagogy that can continue to develop over time and to foster further integration of active learning and practical skills in the law school curriculum. Topics could include:
- 5 things every law professor should know about learning theory
- the value of reflection in learning
- beyond finals: 5 formative assessment tools for legal education
- faculty teaching rounds: how they work and why you should host them
- teaching collaboration
- how to add a negotiation/mediation/interviewing/oral advocacy/drafting exercise into a law school course
- how to make a simulation/role play successful
- how to bring cross-cultural lawyering into a doctrinal course
- top 5 tips for training externship field supervisors
- what I’ve learned from being a law professor for __ years
- 5 things I’ve learned about advising students
These topics are just illustrative; the value of this format is we can be open to ideas brought forth by participants.
The Clinical Conference represents an ideal time for taping. Each year, it draws us together for focused discussion of our roles and approaches as teachers and as lawyers. Taping at one time and in one location allows us to hire a professional videographer to assure a consistent look and solid production values. This year in particular, we are located in shouting distance of Hollywood, so our options are good.
Video format: We plan to produce up to 8 videos at the conference. We will consider proposals that address all kinds of teaching methods, including both clinic-specific methods and methods that integrate skills, values and professional development into other kinds of law school teaching.
The videos will each be between 5-10 minutes long, with a preference for shorter videos; studies show that shorter videos are more appropriate for an online format. The videos will be in the style of an interview, with a single person talking to the camera. You can view examples of this style, applied to substantive topics in immigration law, here.
Criteria for Selection: If you would like to take part in this project, please send a one-page summary of your video proposal to email@example.com no later than March 16, 2015. In your proposal, please include the following information:
-- your name and school affiliation.
-- a working title for your video.
-- a short description of the content you propose to cover.
-- a short description of your goal for the video, including the impact you would like it to have and the takeaways that you will deliver to the viewer.
-- a short statement of your relevant experience, including past experience with your particular topic, experience with videotaped talks and scholarship or presentations that relate to your proposal.
The Committee will review the proposals on a rolling basis with the goal of notifying the selected presenters by March 16, 2015. Participation as a presenter at the main conference does NOT disqualify you from participation in this project.
Commitment: We ask all people who we accept to make the following commitments:
-- to participate in or review webinars that we will schedule before the conference on how to make an educational video.
-- to develop an outline of your talk before the conference, in collaboration with members of the Planning Committee.
-- to practice delivering your talk to others at your location before you attend the conference. We do not encourage speaking from a text, but instead encourage well-prepared spontaneity in your delivery. Practice can help you feel comfortable in this format.
-- to be prepared to videotape your session on Monday, May 4. For many, this will require arrival at the conference location on Sunday, May 3. Please hold yourself available for that entire Monday. We will develop a schedule before the conference that gives each presenter a reserved time slot.
Taping: The talks will be videotaped at the conference hotel in 45 minute intervals from 9am-5pm on Monday, May 4, 2015. While the end-product will be roughly 10 minutes, you should expect to engage in multiple takes during your taping session.
This is a great opportunity to showcase your innovations to the legal academy. We hope you will consider putting in a proposal for the video project at the 2015 AALS Clinical Conference. If you have any questions, please feel free to email Michele Pistone, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Alex Scherr, email@example.com.
Sunday, February 1, 2015
The number of people interested in the intersection of law and technology is growing. One way to learn more about what is happening in this space is to join or form a local LegalHackers Meetup.
Legal Hackers is "a global movement of lawyers, policymakers, technologists, and academics who explore and develop creative solutions to some of the most pressing issues at the intersection of law and technology. Through local meetups, hackathons, and workshops, Legal Hackers spot issues and opportunities where technology can improve and inform the practice of law and where law, legal practice, and policy can adapt to rapidly changing technology."
Local Legal Hackers groups organize regular MeetUps. If you're interested in joining the movement, check out your local MeetUp, here is a list of the groups and people involved, in cities including Boston, NY, LA, Philadelphia, DC and Seattle and even Stockholm.
I am organizing the LegalHackers Meetup in Pennsylvania. We met for the first time on Wednesday and it was great! More than 40 lawyers, technologists, computer programmers, law students and academics came to our first meeting and more than 70 have signed up for the group.
There is a lot of interest in this emerging field. Join the fun!
Thursday, January 29, 2015
A few quick data points/references from the past week or two. First, Harvard Law School’s Center for the Legal Profession has a new publication – The Practice. While rather pricy, it is a window into what they are thinking in Cambridge. The second issue is entirely about “Disruptive Innovation in Legal Services.” While legal technology isn’t front and center, it is an underlying theme for many of the issues raised. Have a look at https://thepractice.law.harvard.edu/featured-content/
Second, on the other coast, Stanford Law School’s CodeX Center sponsored a presentation by John McGinnis from Northwestern Law School on his recent pair of co-authored papers on the impact of legal technology on practice and jurisprudence: Law’s Algorithm (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2130085) and The Great Disruption: How Machine Intelligence Will Transform the Role of Lawyers in the Delivery of Legal Services (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2436937) These are worth a read. The talk was recorded: it should be posted soon and can be accessed via the CodeX website http://codex.stanford.edu
The material is interesting in its own right, and it illustrates how legal technology and related topics of disruptive innovation are gaining attention at law schools across the spectrum.
Monday, January 19, 2015
The first half of January is a busy time for law professors. There are stacks of papers and exams to grade, new courses to finish preparing, a dive back into the postponed committee work – it all piles up. And thrust into this busy time is the AALS meeting, the annual law professor jamboree. This year’s conference was billed as “Legal Education at the Crossroads” and held in Washington, DC, January 2-5. It was a bit more subdued than usual. Travel budgets are tight, and many schools seem to be riding out the storm of change law and the academy are facing, rather than seeking to figure it out and put it to use.
Those attuned to questions of legal technology and innovation more generally could find some interesting developments. On the programmatic side, there was a President’s session on “Implementing Innovation in Law Schools.” There were sessions aimed at legal technology more directly, although sometimes almost apologetically. The Section on Law Libraries and Legal Information asked “Should We Be Teaching Law Practice Technology?” My reaction, not surprisingly, was to wonder why it was a question instead of a directive. The Sections on Defamation and Privacy and on Internet and Computer Law gave a joint program on “Automated Decision-Making,” and while much of the attention was aimed at elucidating its problems, rather than its potential, at least it was a lively and informed discussion.
The exhibitor space was also a bit subdued – budgets are tight there as well. Nonetheless, several of the major publishers demonstrated much improved e-delivery systems for their texts and support materials. Look for more from this space in the coming year.
And me? I was a late substitute for Michigan State’s Dan Katz on a panel organized by Minnesota’s June Carbone on “Socio-Economics and the Future of the Legal Profession.” I was teamed up on the panel with Bill Henderson and Jennifer Drobac from the two University of Indiana law schools – Maurer and McKinney, both of whom are innovative thinkers. We had a lively discussion that included not only the challenge which technology poses for “professionalism” as a core concept for the delivery of legal services, but also the importance of “JD Advantage” jobs for middle tier law school placement and the possibilities of applying principles of mindfulness in the law.
My take home from AALS is that the frozen conservatism of the Legal Academy on matters of technology is beginning to thaw. It is still behind the advances in the practicing Bar, however, and way behind what is happening in the legal technology marketplace. The NYC LegalTech show is coming in early February, where there are a set of panels being organized by Stanford’s CodeX Center on what comes next in legal technology. No conservatism there.
Thursday, January 8, 2015
The Best Practices in Legal Education blog (where I also blog) was voted by ABA top 100 Blawgs as the top blog in the Careers/Law School category.
Congrats to my friends at the blog, especially Mary Lynch and her tream at Albany Law, who have been supporting the blog for years.
Here is a list of all winners. If you have not visited it, the blog has a rich collection of posts on experiential learning, assessment, learning outcomes and other topics of interest to readers of this blog.
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.