Friday, February 1, 2019

How Can We Teach Law Students the Skills They Don’t Learn in Law School?

Last week I participated in the LawWithoutWalls kickoff in Segovia, Spain. LWOW, as it’s affectionately called, originated at the University of Miami and is the brainchild of Professor Michele DeStefano. Although I’ve served as a mentor since its inception, I’ve attached  LWOW’s summary of the program: 

Over the course of 16 weeks, each team co-creates a Project of Worth: a business case and practicable solution to a real problem sponsored by a corporate legal department, law company, or law firm. In the process, the program refines the skills of those involved, recharges the law market with innovations across business, law and technology, and revitalizes relationships with colleagues, clients, and future talent across the globe.  


Law and business students from 35 schools around the world work together virtually (other than the kickoff) and learn about branding, business plans, legal tech, and marketing from some of top minds in the world during weekly webinars. This year’s topics include:

  • Team A: Waste Not, Want Change: How can advances in technology further a reduction in food waste? (Sponsored by Accenture
  • Team B: Organizing Chaos: How can distributed ledger technology facilitate advances in identification management in the foster care system? (Sponsored by Accenture
  • Team C: Back to the Future: How can law firms best use past case outcome data for future initiatives? (Sponsored by Cozen O’Connor)
  • Team D: Justify Me: How can in-house really know that legal tech enhances their value while keeping business and the bank account in mind? (Sponsored by Eversheds Sutherland + Link Assets Services)
  • Team E: Rise of the Machines: How can the increasing use of drones be effectively regulated and how might technology be used to enforce regulation? (Sponsored by Elevate Services)
  • Team F: Tough Gig: How can technology be used to give gig workers a deeper understanding of their legal rights and responsibilities? (Sponsored by Legal Mosaic
  • Team G: Redesigning the Playing Field: How might we create a hiring process for law firm candidates that takes into account a more meaningful slate of indicators of capability and fit, and does not rely inequitably on a candidate's academic pedigree and/or professional or social network? (Sponsored by White & Case
  • Team H: Chains of Change: How can distributed ledger technology impact the way in which banks deal with their clients and how can it be used to improve the legal interactions between them? (Sponsored by HSBC
  • Team I: Are You Feeling Me: How can law firms, in house departments and technology providers collaborate for better business outcomes? (Sponsored by iManage)
  • Team J: Far is a Figure of Speech: How can we provide broader, more efficient access to legal services in rural communities? (Sponsored by LegalZoom)
  • Team K: Fasten Your Seatbelt: How can airlines protect consumer data from cyberattacks and other data security breaches? (Sponsored by LATAM)
  • Team L: Anti-tech Tool: How might in-house legal teams shift current processes to bypass the need to purchase a contract management system? (Sponsored by Leah Cooper Consulting)
  • Team M: Tech for Good: How might advancements in tech and AI be used to empower immigrant families in the United States? (Sponsored by Microsoft)
  • Team N: Navigating Uncharted Waters: What role can payment providers (like Visa) play in collaborating with new entrants (like fintech startups) to navigate regulations and drive industry transformation? (Sponsored by Pinsent Masons)
  • Team O: Making Your Voice Count: What role might Spotify play in broadening access to podcast creation and dissemination? (Sponsored by Spotify)
  • Team P: AI Transparency and Accountability: How can AI-based decisions for commercial purposes (e.g., recruiting or targeted advertising) be more transparent and less biased? (Sponsored by Pinsent Masons)

This year, as with last year, there are projects designed around blockchain. My team is sponsored by banking giant HSBC and is focusing on blockchain because its legal innovations team suggested it. Accenture is tackling the identity management issue and is looking to blockchain, as the United Nations has done. I’m excited to work on a blockchain project that will have practical application, but more broadly, I’m proud to be affiliated with a program that provides law and business students with the skills they need to tackle the problems that most law schools don’t address. Students develop a brand, logo, business plan, IT strategy, and some form of prototype for the solution. Major legal service providers and corporations develop the problems and require their lawyers to work directly wjth the students across time zones on resolving  the problems, providing an invaluable opportunity for the students and mentors alike. 


At the end of the sixteen weeks, the students and corporate teams present their projects of worth  in front of hundreds of lawyers, professors, business people, and other students who watch live in Miami or remotely. Venture capitalists, lawyers, academics, and business people judge the projects on viability, creativity, and originality after hearing the team pitches. Although I would like my team to win in April (my team, Spotify, won last year), I’m more interested in learning from the students, mentors and judges. Each year, I gain insight about the legal profession that helps me grow as a professor and a lawyer. 


On another note, as regular readers know, I’ve been focusing my recent research on blockchain use cases outside of the cryptocurrency arena. Two shameless plugs- if you’re in Miami on March 5th, the University of Miami is holding an evening conversation on blockchain and the law. If you’re lucky enough to be in Detroit in February, please visit Wayne State Law School in the 22nd. Joan Heminway and I will be on separate panels discussing legal issues related to blockchain. I’ll provide updates on the two blockchain conferences and on the Accenture and HSBC blockchain projects in the coming months.

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