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?
Monday, September 29, 2014
I teach a one credit course entitled Social Media and the Law. In this course, I cover the use of social media in litigation, social media as evidence, the use of social media in the courtroom, by judges, for jury selection, and discuss the ethics issues that might come up for lawyers when they use social media.
However, the main focus of the course addresses the law students' use of social media themselves. This is where the teaching challenges arise. Most of my law students already have profiles on the main social media applications: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and a few play with Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and others. In most cases they have had these accounts since undergrad and have not yet addressed what they will do with their profiles on these sites once they pass the bar and become legal professionals.
For my course, we dive into the practical set-up for each of the main social media applications. We start with the privacy and security settings and then build out their profiles in a professional manner. There is a small assignment in each application so that I can see that they have learned how to navigate it. In many cases they are taking existing profiles and refining them as befits a professional. The feedback I have received from students is that these exercises are valuable to them not only for their future professional work, but for interviews and the job hunt while they are in school. Most of my students in this course are 3Ls.
The trick with teaching social media to law students is that it is a personal choice the students have to make about finding the right balance between their personal lives, their friends and family and hobbies, and their soon-to-be professional lives. I give them my own choices in the use of social media as an example and teach them how to use the settings in each application to build up walls between their two worlds.
Some students dive straight into the idea of sharing their thoughts on the law and their work with the world. Other students flat out refuse to join Facebook for the course, but will have a professional online presence on LinkedIn. For personal reasons, including sometimes domestic violence concerns or for religious reasons, students will not want to join these public applications and want to try to remain anonymous online and protect their privacy. Those students still have to complete an assignment to show me they understand the use of privacy settings on the social media applications. Whether they use it or not, their clients may. And many of them do not realize that some branded networks, such as Avvo, may create online profiles for them after they pass the bar whether they want them or not. I think they need to understand how these applications work regardless with hands-on experience - to protect themselves and their clients. When we cover the material related to the use of social media as evidence, it also makes a lot more sense if they've explored the applications first.
This is one of my favorite courses to teach to law students because of the challenge of keeping up with the changes in social media and because of the way it lets me work with students to help them find a balance between their personal online interactions and their professional careers. It is not the most academic course in terms of case law to work through, but we do have fascinating discussions about ethics and what eprofessionalism means to them.
Friday, August 8, 2014
Law schools must address the intersection of information technology and law practice, and provide law students with a basic understanding of how to assess the risks and benefits of technological advances. Law students need to be prepared to take on different roles once they pass the bar that expand beyond the once-expected, traditional first year associate in a law firm position. These new roles might include legal knowledge engineer, legal technologist, legal hybrid, legal process analyst, legal project manager, ODR practitioner, legal management consultant, and high risk manager.
I co-authored an article with Ron Dolin entitled Course Correction: Teaching Tomorrow’s Lawyers Legal Tech Skills for the summer edition of the ILTA Peer to Peer Magazine. Ron developed the syllabus for and taught the first course on legal informatics at Stanford Law School. Several of his students from that course have gone on to find innovative paths in the legal industry, including Margaret Hagan, his co-founder in the Program for Legal Tech and Design. In our article we summarize the key issues that law schools need to address when designing a curriculum that prepares new lawyers to use technology in a changed legal marketplace.
The following is a list of basic technology skills that we compiled based on our teaching and consulting experience (both of us advise and work with law firms and legal tech startups) that would benefit most law school curricula:
1. How to design the information architecture of a law practice, including for example, understanding data structures, law firm metrics, and how ethics rules apply to the use of technology;
2. Basics of cloud-based practice management systems, including the use of multiple applications and technologies, and their associated interoperability;
3. Selection of technology vendors, products and services, including review of service level agreements and understanding how the selection may affect compliance with the rules of professional conduct or ethics opinions;
4. Secure client portal technology and the basics of online delivery of legal services and unbundling practices;
5. Collaboration technologies that allow for legal teams to communicate remotely, such as virtual deal rooms, client intranets, and other tools developed for the growing field of ODR;
6. Use of technology for client development, including online marketing tools, collaborating with branded networks, online lead generation, creating and maintaining firm websites and blogs, use of social media, and the ethical issues and best practices around these;
7. Payment systems for online billing and collection of fees;
8. Technology that speeds up the processing of standardized legal work, such as document automation and assembly tools and expert systems; and finally
9. Evaluative methodologies to compare features, efficiency, and quality of the tools.
We were one short of a "top ten" list. Feel free to suggest a tenth skills that you might expect to see in a law school curricula and how that skill might be integrated into existing courses or offered as a separate course, elective, or supplemental certificate program.