Wednesday, October 28, 2020
Here is a guest post by Eric Voigt:
Ann Walsh Long has authored a new legal research book, A Short & Happy Guide to Advanced Legal Research. This book would be a great supplement for pretrial and litigation courses and would be helpful to students enrolled in law school clinics. Unlike other research texts, this book has one primary focus: civil litigation. And students and professors will enjoy the author’s tone and humor—which will keep the reader awake!
The author walks students through the research process for the pretrial stages of civil litigation. The chapters provide research scenarios to demonstrate how to find the necessary resources at each stage of the civil litigation process, including Phase I: Case Assessment and Development; Phase II: Discovery and Investigation; and Phase III: Pretrial Action.
The book covers these important resources and topics:
- Fee-based research platforms (e.g., Lexis+ and Westlaw) and low-cost alternatives (e.g., Fastcase and Casemaker).
- AI legal research tools, such as Fastcase’s Docket Alarm and Casetext’s CARA.
- Dangers of starting statutory research in a caselaw database.
- Sample pleadings, discovery materials, and motions and briefs.
- Practical resources, including Causes of Action, American Jurisprudence Trials, and PACER.
The book is ultra affordable. Print copies sell for only $22. And here is more good news: the ebook is FREE to students if your school subscribes to the West Academic Study Aids. The next time I teach pretrial practice, I will require A Short & Happy Guide to Advanced Legal Research.
Monday, October 19, 2020
"Transactional Conference of the Future of Legal Education and Practice of Law" - Deadline extended for submitting proposals
The deadline for submitting proposals has been extended to November 1, 2020. Click here to see previous post that provides all the details for submitting your proposals, the scope of the conference, and the call for papers.
The conference will be held on Zoom in February 2021.
I would like to thank Jim for asking me to be a part of this blog nine years ago. I appreciate having a forum to discuss the vitally important subject of legal education. I also owe a deep debt to our late colleague, Lou Sirico, for the encouragement he gave me over the years. Finally, I would like to thank our readers who made working on this blog worthwhile.
Jim mentioned the many positive changes that have occurred over the last ten years in legal education. However, we still have a long way to go. (here) Many law schools are still mainly using the traditional Socratic/case method approach, when better teaching methods exist. We are cheating our students if we don't use the best teaching approaches based on research by educational scholars.
I am especially concerned by how legal ethics is taught at most law schools. (here) At present, most law schools only teach the ethical rules, failing to develop the inner lawyer (professional identity). Professional identity is a lawyer’s personal legal morality, values, decision-making process, and self-consciousness in relation to the practices of the legal profession (legal culture). It provides the framework that lawyers use to make all their decisions. It is important that all law schools help their students develop their professional identities.
I hope that Jim and I are able to keep this blog going for many years to come. There is nothing more important to the legal profession than educating the next generation of lawyers.
Sunday, October 18, 2020
I started the Legal Skills Prof Blog back in the late summer/early fall of 2010 (the visitor counter was added on October 10, 2010, the date we've always used as the "official" start date but my recollection is that it started a bit earlier than that) because I thought at the time there was a need in the legal education blogosphere that wasn't being met elsewhere to create a forum for exchanging ideas and news about legal skills training in law school. At the time, law school enrollments had increased to historic levels while the job market had completely crashed due to the Great Recession of 2009-10. As a result, employers were demanding that law schools do a better job training students to be "practice ready" upon graduation because clients were no longer willing to underwrite the cost of that training as they'd done in the past (e.g., associates tagging along on depos or deal closings to learn by observation since it was routine to add their hours to the final bill).
Ten years later the country is facing an entirely different kind of crisis, this one health related, while the commitment by law schools to legal skills training and experiential education by now seems to be well-established and a firmly entrenched part of the curriculum. Off the top of my head, several innovations and developments come to mind including the many specialty practice-area certificate programs law schools have begun, the numerous incubator programs intended to teach law students how to actually run a law practice, programs like Law Without Walls, and the fact that magazines like National Jurist now rank law schools based on the practical skills training they provide.
It's an unfortunate reality of the blogosphere, however, that many blogs begin with the best of intentions yet don't last very long. That's because it's a real grind to maintain them and burn-out is real. As for myself, although I blogged nearly every day for the first 5 or so years, I struggled to keep up that pace when my other job responsibilities threatened to overwhelm me like the year I spent as a visiting prof at USAFA (i.e. an insane work load teaching 3 courses per semester, each having 10 mandatory graded events) or the period that just concluded when I was EIC of Perspectives: Teaching Legal Research and Writing). I guess more than anything, I'm probably proudest of my own persistence in keeping this blog going for the past 10 years, through the ups, downs and challenges life throws at us (including a cancer diagnosis and two spine surgeries). It's gratifying to actually create something and see it come alive even if it sometimes feels like a burden.
Of course, I can't think about this blog without also thinking about and missing my friend Lou Sirico who agreed to help me start it way-back when and who we tragically lost on December 26, 2018. I think of Lou and miss him everyday. Yet I'm also incredibly grateful that Scott Fruehwald joined us many years ago and has done an outstanding job keeping this blog going during the stretches when I couldn't. Thank you, Scott.
I don't know what the future holds or, frankly, how much gas I've got left in the tank. By now I've been teaching legal research and writing for almost 24 years and it definitely takes a physical and mental toll over time (both of which are exacerbated at the moment by the difficulty of teaching via Zoom during a pandemic as I've blogged about here before). But for now, I'm proud of what we've created, it's gratifying to see it last for 10 years, and I'm grateful for the friendships and support of Lou and Scott. I hope the Legal Skills Blog will be around for another 10 years though whether I'll make it that long remains to be seen. ;-)
In the meantime, Happy Birthday to us!
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Following up on Monday's story about the pandemic's impact on the ability of school children in vulnerable communities to get the technology they need to attend classes remotely, here's another article on Covid's impact on college students, especially those attending community colleges. In particular, low income college students are being hit especially hard due to the loss of jobs, a decrease in financial aid, and a lack of internet access and the devices needed to attend classes remotely (BTW, you can help by donating to students any laptops no longer being used here).
Some low-income students have dropped out, and there are growing concerns about hunger and homelessness.
Michelle Macario was struggling to follow online classes through the tiny screen of her smartphone. She had no laptop and no Wi-Fi at home, and the library where she normally studied at her community college in Los Angeles was closed. So two weeks into the coronavirus shutdown in the spring, she dropped all of her courses to avoid failing.
Things are not much better this semester. Ms. Macario, 18, who is majoring in psychology at Santa Monica College, left the crowded apartment in Los Angeles that she shared with her immigrant family from Guatemala and has been crashing with her sister and friends. But the Wi-Fi is unreliable, she is living too far away from her hospital internship, and she toils to tap out exams and homework on her phone.
“Between the internet, Covid and couch surfing, I haven’t been able to do a good semester,” Ms. Macario said.
Trapped between the financial hardships of the pandemic and the technological hurdles of online learning, the millions of low-income college students across America face mounting obstacles in their quests for higher education. Some have simply dropped out, as Ms. Macario did previously, while others are left scrambling to find housing and internet access amid campus closures and job losses.
“Every part of this pandemic is hitting low-income students hardest, and they were already in bad shape to begin with,” said Sara Goldrick-Rab, the founding director of the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University, which studies the economic challenges facing college students.
Some colleges and universities have increased financial aid to students in need, but others, facing their own financial challenges, have said they cannot afford to offer more. A federal stimulus package passed in March that provided $7 billion for student expenses such as food, housing and health care has largely been depleted, and Republicans have balked at passing further relief proposed by Democrats. President Trump pulled out of and then tried to restart negotiations for additional aid last week.
The impact on struggling students can be seen most clearly at the nation’s roughly 1,400 community colleges, where nearly half of students start seeking degrees. Enrollment there declined by 8 percent this fall, compared with a 2.5 percent drop in undergraduate enrollment over all, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center in Herndon, Va., which tracks college enrollment data.
The decline amounts to about half a million fewer community college students, said Martha Parham, a spokeswoman for the American Association of Community Colleges, an advocacy group in Washington. Unlike in previous economic recessions, when community colleges saw a surge in enrollment, the pandemic has had the opposite effect.
Most community college students work, Ms. Parham said, and many are parents. Home internet access and computers are sometimes unaffordable for them.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Rogelio A. Lasso, A Blueprint for Using Assessments to Achieve Learning Outcomes and Improve Students’ Learning
We have emphasized the importance of formative assessments as a key part of law student learning for many years on this blog. Professor Rogelio A Lasso has just written an excellent article on learning outcomes and formative assessment:
"For over a decade, there has been agreement among legal educators that assessments are a critical tool to improve students' learning. We are beginning to understand that the types of assessments we use have the greatest influence on how and what students learn. As a result of recent ABA accreditation requirements, there is now a scramble in law schools to adopt assessments that improve students' learning and bar passage rates as to satisfy these new requirements. Nevertheless, there remains no clear methodology to assist doctrinal faculty in creating an effective assessment program. After twenty-seven years of developing assessment programs that have improved students' learning and bar passage rates, this article is an attempt to provide faculty and administrators a blueprint for incorporating an effective assessment program."
I especially like Professor Lasso's advice to explain the learning process and the importance of assessments to students and to guide students' reading prior to class.
Monday, October 12, 2020
Though this article speaks to the potential impact at the grade school level due to a "stunning" worldwide demand for laptops (Japan alone is expected to order 7 million devices according to the NYT) and the resulting shortage, it has obvious implications for everyone's ability to get the educational technology they will need as the pandemic grinds on. In particular, though, the shortage is having a potentially "crippling" effect on rural areas, communities of color, and other vulnerable populations which will further exacerbate the existing "digital divide" for an entire generation of students.
You can help by donating old or disused laptops to schools in need (there are many such charitable organizations, operating both locally and on a worldwide scale, just Google it).
Read on courtesy of the New York Times:
A surge in worldwide demand by educators for low-cost laptops has created shipment delays and pitted desperate schools against one another. Districts with deep pockets often win out.
When the Guilford County Schools in North Carolina spent more than $27 million to buy 66,000 computers and tablets for students over the summer, the district ran into a problem: There was a shortage of cheap laptops, and the devices wouldn’t arrive until late October or November.
More than 4,000 students in the district had to start the school year without the computers they needed for remote learning.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Angie Henry, the district’s chief operations officer. “Kids are excited about school. They want to learn.”
Millions of children are encountering all sorts of inconveniences that come with digital instruction during the coronavirus pandemic. But many students are facing a more basic challenge: They don’t have computers and can’t attend classes held online.
A surge in worldwide demand by educators for low-cost laptops and Chromebooks — up to 41 percent higher than last year — has created monthslong shipment delays and pitted desperate schools against one another. Districts with deep pockets often win out, leaving poorer ones to give out printed assignments and wait until winter for new computers to arrive.
That has frustrated students around the country, especially in rural areas and communities of color, which also often lack high-speed internet access and are most likely to be on the losing end of the digital divide. In 2018, 10 million students didn’t have an adequate device at home, a study by education nonprofit Common Sense Media found. That gap, with much of the country still learning remotely, could now be crippling.
“The learning loss that’s taken place since March when they left, when schools closed, it’ll take years to catch up,” Ms. Henry said. “This could impact an entire generation of our students.”
Sellers are facing stunning demand from schools in countries from Germany to El Salvador, said Michael Boreham, an education technology analyst at the British company Futuresource Consulting. Japan alone is expected to order seven million devices.
Global computer shipments to schools were up 24 percent from 2019 in the second quarter, Mr. Boreham said, and were projected to hit that 41 percent jump in the third quarter, which just ended.
Chromebooks, web-based devices that run on software from Google and are made by an array of companies, are in particular demand because they cost less than regular laptops. That has put huge pressure on a supply chain that cobbles laptop parts from all over the world, usually assembling them in Asian factories, Mr. Boreham said.
While that supply chain has slowly geared up, the spike in demand is “so far over and above what has historically been the case,” said Stephen Baker, a consumer electronics analyst at the NPD Group. “The fact that we’ve been able to do that and there’s still more demand out there, it’s something you can’t plan for.”
Adding to the problem, many manufacturers are putting a priority on producing expensive electronics that net greater profits, like gaming hardware and higher-end computers for at-home employees, said Erez Pikar, the chief executive of Trox, a company that sells devices to school districts.
Before the year began, Trox predicted it would deliver 500,000 devices to school districts in the United States and Canada in 2020, Mr. Pikar said. Now, the total will be two million. But North American schools are still likely to end the year with a shortage of more than five million devices, he said. He added that he was not aware of any large-scale efforts to get refurbished or donated laptops to school districts.
. . . .
Continue reading here.
Saturday, October 10, 2020
As classroom teachers, we're well aware of the ways distractions and multitasking can undermine student learning. Our brains are engineered with extremely limited attentional capabilities owing to the fact that back in the caveman days, we didn't need the same ability to concentrate to survive on the African savanna that it takes today, for example, to pass an intro physics course, read Russian literature, or many of the other intellectual tasks of modern life (which is a reason they're so hard). Rather, our brains were designed to serve us well as the hunters and gatherers that we are. In fact, some studies have found that a distracted brain that today would be characterized as ADHD under the DSM actually made our ancestors better, more successful hunters back in the day. Indeed, our brains are more naturally inclined toward distraction than the ability to concentrate which is why giving students an internet enabled laptop during class and expecting them to stay on task amounts to wishful thinking.
Of course as teachers we have the same hard-wired limitations on our attentional abilities as do the students. And teaching via Zoom is stretching those attentional capabilities to the limit. That's because there are many more things competing for our limited attention span during a typical Zoom class compared to a traditional, in-person, face-to-face one. Among them, managing the screen share function, toggling between slides, checking the chat box, using the whiteboard, managing the break-out rooms, and scanning student faces to figure out whether they're getting it or not. And that's when the class is going well, never mind dealing with all the technical glitches and on the spot trouble-shooting we're now having to do in addition to teaching. At the same time, we're also trying to make each class "flow" as much as possible by minimizing the dead spots and awkward silences that occur when switching screens and toggling between slides.
All of this takes far more of our attentional bandwidth than in-person, face-to-face teaching in a physical classroom. As for me, I'm definitely more exhausted by the end of each two hour class and I'm hearing the same from nearly everyone I know who's teaching via Zoom this semester from high school to law school. Some have suggested that it's because we're all working much harder to read physical cues, facial expressions, and other body language from our students to discern meaning than we would during an in-person class.
Consequently, as professors teaching online during a pandemic, we need to be thinking more carefully about ways we can conserve our attentional bandwidth during class. It's important not just to prevent our own exhaustion and burn-out but we also want to remain sharp and fully engaged with our students and the lesson plan during class. As the old adage goes, to engage others, we need to be engaged ourselves.
Thus, it's even more important that we keep it as simple as possible to conserve that attentional bandwidth. Maybe that's what the new "classroom" mantra should be in the time of Covid; "keep it simple." For me that's meant working harder to plan each class lesson in a way that strips away the extraneous and gets the lesson plan down to the core, central points I need to make (which is also made necessary due to the fact that even the simplest lessons in my legal writing class seem to take longer to get across to students when teaching via Zoom because of the nature of this modality). Don't try to juggle too many slides or screen shares during class. That's required extra forethought on my part to plan lessons in a way that minimizes the number of slides I show while also trying to increase the impact of each slide or screen share. It also means reducing the amount of supplemental materials I show in class, like samples and exemplars, which itself requires more planning and forethought to maximize the impact of the ones that make the cut. I think this extra level of lesson planning is another reason why so many teachers are saying they feel exhausted after each Zoom session.
In sum, because of the many pedagogical challenges Zoom presents, it's extra important that we find ways to conserve our attentional bandwidth by simplifying class lessons. If the material doesn't lend itself to simplification (which may be the case with many law school courses), then we need to focus on our delivery of it. By coincidence, I had been scheduled last September (before getting waylaid by an injury) to speak at a teaching conference hosted by Sturm College of Law in Denver on "best practices" for online legal education. My talk involved summarizing some meta-studies on the effectiveness of online education (research on file with the author). One of the conclusions to be drawn from the research is that teaching online is more demanding than its in-class counterpart and therefore, arguably, those classes should be assigned to the most talented and dedicated teachers among us. Now in the time of Covid, each of us is striving to be better than we were before given the unique challenges of teaching by Zoom. That means minding the attentional gap for the benefit of both students and ourselves by keeping it simple.
Monday, October 5, 2020
"Syracuse University has much to be proud of, but not when it comes to support of free speech on campus—SU ranks among the weakest schools in this area, according to the 2020 College Free Speech Rankings released last week by RealClearEducation in partnership with The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and the research firm College Pulse. Syracuse ranked fifth from last of the 55 universities surveyed."
"The school scored only a 39 out of 100 in the survey’s “self-expression” category, meaning that only 39 of 100 student respondents said that they felt comfortable sharing their viewpoints. A majority of those Syracuse students—61 out of 100—said that they do NOT feel able to share their opinions."
Sunday, October 4, 2020
Call for proposals: "Transnational Conference on the Future of Legal Education, the Practice of Law, and the Judiciary"
The conference is sponsored by the Institute for Global Understanding of Rule of Law (IGUL) at Bahçeşehir Üniversitesi (Istanbul, Turkey - I've been there and it's a beautiful place!) in partnership with Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School and Mitchell Hamline School of Law. It will be held online via Zoom on February 9-10, 16-17, 2021 with a focus on the following topic: "Disruption in the Legal Sector: How Technology Can Enable Educators, Students, Lawyers, and Judges Around the Globe to Stabilize the Sector and Provide Access to Justice."
Proposals are due by midnight on October 15, 2020 and should be emailed as a Word or PDF document to the Conference Committee via Professor Kathleen Burch (John Marshall, Atlanta) at email@example.com. Below are further details about the conference, submitting a proposal, and the call for papers:
Proposal Submission Deadline: October 15, 2020
Notification of Proposal Acceptance: November 12, 2020
Draft of Article/Presentation Due: January 15, 2021
Final Article Due: March 1, 2021
The Institute for Global Understanding of Rule of Law at Bahçeşehir Üniversitesi (IGUL), in partnership with Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School and Mitchell Hamline School of Law, is hosting an international conference of legal educators, law students, lawyers, and judges. This conference is intended to bring together law students, law faculty, lawyers, and judges from around the world to discuss the future of legal education, the practice of law, and the judicial system. The Conference will be conducted virtually via Zoom.
Slightly more than a decade ago, Bahçeşehir Üniversitesi hosted the Law 2001: A Global Legal Odyssey conference which focused on “assuring quality legal education in the face of similarities, differences and rapid change.” Most recently IGUL hosted Legal Education and Lawyering in the Age of the “New Normal”’. Disruption in the Legal Sector is a continuation of the dialogue begun in 2001 and a deeper exploration of the “New Normal”. It is envisioned that Disruption in the Legal Sector will bring together law faculty and law students from around the globe to explore the best pedagogies, curricula, and technology for preparing lawyers to practice in both global and domestic legal markets; lawyers from around the globe to explore how technology is impacting the practice of law; and judges from around the globe to explore how technology is impacting court systems, judges and access to justice.
For several decades technology has been impacting the legal sector. The changes technology brought to the legal sector had been slow and methodical with individuals opting in to the use of technology. But, the impact of the global pandemic has changed the world we live in, including the legal sector from law school classroom to the courtroom. The global pandemic has forced the legal sector to embrace technologies that in the past would never have been considered, creating disruptions that are both positive and negative. This conference will explore those disruptions and the future they bring.
Topics for the conference may include, but are not confined to, the following:
● Instructional design: How to design courses (and classes) for synchronous instruction, both online and in-person, and asynchronous instruction. How or why to design hybrid courses that combine the best of synchronous and asynchronous instruction.
● How have judicial systems adapted to the global pandemic? What are best practices for conducting trials and other judicial proceedings during the pandemic? What longer-term impact will the COVID experience have on judicial systems?
● How is technology changing alternative dispute resolution? Mediation, arbitration, negotiation.
● Has the use of technology increased the access to justice in courts or through alternative dispute resolution mechanisms?
● How is technology changing the practice of law?
● Comparative efficacy: How should we be assessing the efficacy of technology-assisted teaching methods? What data do we have about comparative efficacy?
● How to develop community when legal education or the law firm has moved to an online platform.
● Best practices for engaging students in the online classroom.
● Teaching professionalism and ethics. Does online instruction pose special problems or entail specific disadvantages (or advantages) for effective inculcation of professional and ethical roles and rules? What is the role of netiquette in legal education?
● Does minimum competency to practice law include minimum skill levels in the use of technology? What technology must students have mastered or should students have been trained on prior to graduation? How should legal education incorporate technology training into the law school curriculum?
● How to teach skills courses, clinics, and other experiential courses online. What do we know about the effectiveness of online, versus in person, experiential instruction?
● Faculty Development: What is the responsibility of the law school to train its law faculty in the use of technology? What is the responsibility of law faculty to maintain a minimum competency in the use of technology?
● Technology and the underserved: What is the impact of the use of technology on training law students from underserved communities or who are non-traditional students, on training lawyers to serve underserved communities, and on the access to legal education and to justice? What is the impact of technology, and online teaching methodologies, on the creation of equitable and inclusive learning environments?
● What special problems or opportunities do online technologies present regarding individuals with disabilities, both in the educational setting (students and teachers) and in the practice context (lawyers and clients)?
● Admission to the Practice of Law: How should competency to practice be measured? Does a diploma privilege protect the public? Can a bar exam be administered remotely online? Do traditional bar exam practices impose inappropriate barriers on traditionally underrepresented groups?
● Security of systems: Best practices in the fight against hackers in legal education, legal practice, and judicial proceedings. Are current practices and technologies adequately protecting confidentiality and lawyer-client communications?
● What impact does the adoption of online technologies in court proceedings have on vulnerable and underrepresented groups?
● What new or different opportunities does the current disruption provide for building and sustaining communities of academics and scholars in the global setting?
● What impact has Artificial Intelligence had on the legal profession, the practice of law, and access to justice?
● What is the future of the foreign student studying law? What is the future of LLM programs designed to prepare foreign lawyers for admission to a state bar in the US? What is the future of foreign students who seek to earn their PhD at an institution outside of their home country?
● What is the future of teaching U.S. law courses in foreign institutions? And, the future of teaching foreign law in U.S. law schools?
The target audience for this conference includes: legal scholars, legal educators, lawyers, judges, the legal community, law students, others interested in legal education and the law, and the international legal community.
The conference will be held in English and Turkish with simultaneous translation.
Email proposals as a Word or PDF document to the Conference Committee via Professor Kathleen Burch at firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight on October 15, 2020.
Proposals must include:
1. Presenter(s) name, contact information, and university affiliation.
2. Title of the proposed presentation.
3. A brief (one or two paragraph) description of the presentation.
4. A short summary (3-5 sentences) of the presentation for the conference program.
5. A brief statement of the presenter’s expertise on the topic.
An individual may submit more than one proposal. Proposals can be for an individual presentation or a panel presentation. Individual proposals on similar topics may be combined into a panel.
All individuals who submit a proposal will be notified by November 12, 2020, if their proposal has been accepted.
Draft of Article/Presentation:
In order to insure that our moderators, commentators, and translators are prepared, all presenters are required to submit a draft of their article or a summary of their presentation no later than January 15, 2021.
Presenters will have an opportunity to publish their article in The John Marshall Law Journal. Articles must be finalized and submitted by midnight March 1, 2021.
Proposals not accepted for presentation at the Conference and responses to presenters may be considered for publication. Acceptance for publication of any paper, proposal, or response to a presenter is at the sole discretion of The John Marshall Law Journal, its Faculty Advisor, and the Conference Committee. Articles will be peer reviewed. Articles and Responses must be submitted by midnight March 1, 2021.
Thursday, October 1, 2020
LegalTech News: Law schools are not doing enough to provide students with the tech skills they'll need in practice
From LegalTech News:
Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are fast becoming the industry norm, and in this tech-enabled world, a new breed of lawyer is in demand.
A recent survey we ran at Luminance found that over 80% of senior lawyers viewed AI and machine learning as critical for the future success of their firm. And as leading organizations charge ahead in their AI adoption, the demand for a broader educational system which embraces new ways of working and underlines the importance of today’s technology is growing. There’s just one problem. Law schools are still not doing enough to prepare their graduates for the increased use of technology.
The good news for young lawyers entering the profession today is that adoption of AI means that late nights sifting through endless piles of documentation in search of a potential ‘smoking gun’ is becoming less of a required initiation to the world of law that it was when I started out. Instead, an AI-enabled document review can be completed in a fraction of the time and with greater confidence that you haven’t missed something, allowing lawyers to allocate more time to client relations, pitching, strategic thinking, and providing the valued advice that clients expect. After all, these are the tasks and activities that motivated us to become lawyers in the first place.
The need for practical knowledge and experience across legal technologies is all the more pertinent in the current climate of budget cuts, hiring freezes, workforce reductions and disruptions in normal working practices. Indeed, the pandemic has catalyzed firms’ technology adoption plans, as legal teams seek platforms that facilitate remote working and collaboration and allow for greater efficiency.
But in this increasingly digitalized legal world, a new breed of lawyer is in demand, and expectations are higher than ever. One recent study by management consultant Robert Half Legal found that more than 6 in 10 employers filling open positions said their hiring decisions are influenced by a candidate’s technical abilities. In a job landscape that is more competitive than ever, lawyers need to be ready to hit the ground running when they begin at a firm. But the legal education curriculum has been slow to adjust. In addition to statutes and case law, schools should be equally focused on equipping the students of today with the skills they will need for tomorrow, pairing a deep understanding of the law with practical, technical skills that will allow them to get to the crux of a review quicker, deliver higher-level legal advice and ultimately improve their work-life balance.
This isn’t to say that law schools need to radically overhaul their legal curriculum. Today’s advanced technology is so intuitive and easy-to-use that it operates as a seamless extension of the lawyers’ review process, making work more efficient and productive. This is not dissimilar to the way an accountant might rely on Microsoft Excel to analyze data, or how a mathematician might use a calculator to get an answer to a problem quicker.
Some law schools are absolutely pushing this agenda—just not enough of them. Positive examples include the University of Glasgow, which has introduced a practical legal technology course to provide their students with the opportunity to learn how they can apply AI to real legal matter and thus develop and advance these skills. Similarly in the U.S., Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law has worked to elevate technology within the classroom by establishing a TEaCH Law hub to help integrate tools into the teaching experience.
Educating young lawyers on how to best utilize these tools is fundamental in ensuring that they are able to thrive in an era where technology meets human expertise, as well as forcing them to be more commercially minded and proactive in adding new clients and winning new business.
Continue reading here.