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  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 and the video of the proceedings at  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.

March 23, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 20, 2015

Live from LegalED's Igniting Law Teaching Conference

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.

Professor Homewood shared a lot of nice ideas about using technology in our teaching.  The big takeaway for me is how to use Twitter for teaching.

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



March 20, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 16, 2015

Online Learning and Legal Education

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.


March 16, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 9, 2015

LegalTech Show in NYC

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 -  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  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 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.


February 9, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

AALS Clinical Conference: Producing Video Series on Teaching Pedagogy

 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



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 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,, or Alex Scherr,


February 9, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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!

February 1, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Data Points from Harvard and Stanford

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

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 ( and The Great Disruption: How Machine Intelligence Will Transform the Role of Lawyers in the Delivery of Legal Services (  These are worth a read.  The talk was recorded: it should be posted soon and can be accessed via the CodeX website  

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.

January 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 19, 2015

AALS Meeting Pays Some Attention to Technology

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.

January 19, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Best Practices blog wins ABA top 100 Blawgs

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.  


January 8, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Calling Best Law Profs

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 Call for Talks for Igniting Law Teaching 2015 is now out,  We’ll be reviewing proposals on a rolling basis, until January 15th.

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!

December 1, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How Disruptive Technologies Will Transform the Role of Lawyers

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.



October 21, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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

October 19, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Making Educational Videos for Legal Education

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, 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. 

Watch this slideshare for tips on how to make slides pop.  There are also tools such as Haiku Deck that you can use to create your slides before exporting to Powerpoint or Keynote.

Looking for stock Images?  These two links list several great resources to find free images for your presentations. Make sure to read the terms of use since each site’s terms may vary slightly.


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. 

2.   Screencasting

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

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. 

I have made many whiteboard animation videos.  Here is a link to two whiteboard videos on flipping the law school classroom and here are two on persuasion for lawyers.  

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.  

Lessons Learned:  

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.

Next Steps:

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 (  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 


September 30, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Teaching eProfessionalism to Law Students with Social Media


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. 


September 29, 2014 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Teaching e-discovery

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,­.

I wrote a little about predictive coding and e-discovery in my recent article,  In the article, I talk about how this is changing the practice of law and believe that our students should be familiar with these changes.
If you do decide to incorporate it into your course, please keep us posted on how it works in the comments section below. 

September 28, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Bestlaw -- a legal tech product to improve search functions

I wanted to let you all know about a new product, Bestlaw,, which can be added to WestlawNext and do lots of cool additional stuff, like make Blue Book citations and jump to footnotes easily.  

It was created by a Berkeley law student and is available for Chrome now, but he is working on making it available on other search engines as well.  If you do decide to use it, I would love to hear feedback in the comment section below.


September 28, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Social Networks as a Forum for Legal Notice

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.

September 21, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Lewis Posting on e-Discovery Education

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.

September 19, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Interested in LegalTech?

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?

September 11, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mixed Machine and Human Processes: "Heteromation"

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 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.

September 2, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)