Saturday, July 13, 2019
UConn School of Law develops new course to teach students how to use technology to solve legal problems
The course, called Technology and Law Practice (and taught as a seminar), was introduced this past spring to teach students how to use technology in a hands-on, practical way to solve real-life legal problems. During its inaugural offering, students developed technological solutions to help low income clients of the Connecticut Legal Rights Project as well as the school's own Animal Law Clinic. The online newspaper UConn Today has more details:
Professor Jessica de Perio Wittman, who taught the class this past spring, designed it to be a hands-on, practical experience. Over the course of the semester, one team of four students built an automated interview process for creating advanced health care directives on behalf of the Connecticut Legal Rights Project, which will offer the service to its low-income clients. Another team of three students digitized the files of the Animal Law Clinic and adapted a computerized case management system to track the clinic’s animal abuse cases.
The students working on the health care directives faced the challenge of converting a 27-page paper questionnaire into an engaging interactive experience. The group, none of whom had programming experience, used cloud-based software called A2J to devise a one-hour process that generates a print-ready directive on end-of-life medical care.
In addition to mastering the software, they also had to ensure that the questions were understandable to people without legal training. “One of our biggest challenges with this was making sure all the questions were at a fifth-grade reading level,” said Ramy Esmail ’20 JD. “Stuff like that you don’t necessarily think of.”
Kathy Flaherty, the director of the Connecticut Legal Rights Project, said what the students were able to do was remarkable. “This will serve a need of our clients that we just hadn’t been able to adequately meet, with the size of our staff,” she said.
Along with the technology, the students gained valuable practice working as a team. Jonathan Donovan ’20 JD said law school classes are usually very individually focused, and collaboration among students is not generally emphasized.
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