Thursday, July 13, 2017

FutureLaw Workshop - Call for Papers

Conference Announcement and Call for Papers
2017 Junior Scholars #FutureLaw Workshop 2.0 at Duquesne

The conference is organized by Seth Oranburg, Assistant Professor, Duquesne University School of Law. Funding is provided in part by the Federalist Society. All papers are selected based on scholarly merit, with an emphasis on scholarly impact, topical relevance, and viewpoint diversity.

September 7-8, 2017

By invitation only

OVERVIEW: The conference aims to foster legal and economic research on “FutureLaw” (as defined below) topics particularly by junior and emerging scholars by bringing together a diverse group of academics early in their career focusing on cutting-edge issues.

TOPICS: The conference organizers encourage the submission of papers about all aspects of FutureLaw, which includes open-data policy, machine learning, computational law, legal informatics, smart contracts, crypto-currency, block-chain technology, big data, algorithmic research, LegalTech, FinTech, MedTech, eCommerce, eGovernment, electronic discovery, computers & the law, teaching innovations, and related subjects. FutureLaw is an inter-disciplinary field with cross-opportunities in crowd science, behavioral economics, computer science, mathematics, statistics, learning theory, and related fields. Papers may be theoretical, archival or experimental in nature. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

- Innovation in legal instruments (e.g., new securities, new corporate forms, new litigation procedures, etc.)

- Innovation in legal technology (e.g., new law firm governance, legal automatic, democratizing access to legal services, legal chatbots, etc.)
- Innovation in legal teaching (e.g., new classroom techniques, distance learning studies, experiential learning, transactional clinics, etc.)

Papers regarding the effect of these innovations (e.g., diversity, inclusion, equity, equality, fairness, return on investment, productivity, security, etc.)

DUAL SUBMISSION PROCESS: For the 2017 conference, the FutureLaw Workshop and the Duquesne Law Review (DLR) announce a new, non-exclusive, combined submission process. At your discretion, a paper submitted to the 2017 FutureLaw Workshop 2.0 may also be considered for publication by DLR free of charge. The rules for this dual submission process are as follows:

(1) You must apply online at Submitted papers will be considered for publication by the DLR free of charge. A reply to your submission in acceptance to the Workshop or invitation to publish in the DLR is your option, not your obligation.

(2) If you do not wish to be considered by the DLR while submitting for the FutureLaw Workshop, please indicate this in the comments field provided.

(3) Papers submitted for dual consideration must not already be accepted by another journal.

(4) While under consideration as a dual submission for the 2017 FutureLaw Workshop and invitation by the DLR, a paper may be submitted to another journal (or JAR).

PAPER SUBMISSION PROCEDURE: Please send a PDF version of your working paper, by August 4, 2017 at

The FutureLaw Workshop may reimburse presenters and discussants reasonable travel expenses and accommodations. Please let us know if your academic institution does not provide you with travel and accommodation expenses.

CONFERENCE ATTENDANCE: Attendance is free and by invitation only. Academics interested in receiving an invitation to attend but who do not wish to submit a paper may apply online as “observers” at

July 13, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 17, 2016

Technology, the Practice of Law & Professional Ethics

Back in 2012, the ABA adopted a new model rule for professional ethics that requires lawyers to be up to date on technology.  In particular, the ABA’s House of Delegates amended Comment 8 to Model Rule 1.1, which pertains to competence, to read as follows:

Maintaining Competence

To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject. (Emphasis added, text in italics represent amendments.)

Twenty-one states have now adopted the new rule,  

What does this mean for the education of lawyers?  Do lawyers know enough about the risks and benefits of technology?  Are lawyers using technology to make their work more effective and efficient for clients?  Do we know enough about the security risks to client data in our systems? And how can lawyers keep abreast of new developments so that they are in compliance with the new ethics rules?

I'd be interested in your thoughts.  Add comments below.

Bob Ambrosio continues to keep us up to date on technology and legal practice.  Thanks, Bob.

June 17, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Crafting Tech Solutions for Legal Aid

Interesting ABA article that illustrates the value of attracting those with STEM backgrounds to law school,

June 7, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Leveraging Technology for the Academy & Profession

As readers of this blog know all too well, the world of legal practice is changing.   We regularly hear about new technologies that have the potential to remake long-term approaches to practicing law.  From data analytics to self-help materials, lawyering and access to information about the law is undergoing tremendous change.

The AALS Clinical Section’s Technology Committee is gathering signatures to petition the AALS to create a new Section that would address these issues.  The new section would bring together academics and staff from throughout the academy who share a common interest in the advancing scholarship and teaching about role that technology is playing and will continue to play in legal education and the practice of law. We believe that it is important that members of the legal academy become familiar with and take a lead in driving the changes being made and affordances provided by technological innovations in the delivery of legal services.  We envision that our members will teach in diverse subject areas, and will include academics (doctrinal, clinical, legal writing), librarians, and administrators, among others.  

Technology and the practice of law:  The Leveraging Technology Section will provide space for legal academics to consider and shape how evolving technologies are impacting and could impact law and legal systems.  It will encourage law professors to engage in cutting edge research and scholarship that can help to craft the new normal and create a space to share that scholarship with the broader community.  The Section hopes to address how law school faculty can understand the rapid and profound technological change that could well remake law practice and how they can be at the forefront of framing a “new normal” for legal practice and lawyering.  The section will also help law professors access materials that will assist them in preparing law students using emerging technologies in the practice of law.

Technology and legal education: Many schools are currently in the process of strategic planning and thinking about the future of legal education, including developing learning outcomes and assessment methods, considering educational technology options, and considering the sequence and structure of the entire curriculum.  This Section will consider the role that educational technologies may play in the future of legal education.  The Section will (1) lead a conversation about whether educational technologies that have been developed and used successfully in legal education may be able to scale to other law school classes; (2) introduce law professors to new educational technologies being developed for use in other areas of education so as to inspire this group of educational leaders to be at the forefront of change as it relates to technology and the legal academy, and (3) introduce law professors to pedagogies used to expose students to emerging technologies that are being used in the practice of law.

We are seeking signatures of those in the academy who support the creation of this new section. If you are interested in joining the section as a founding member, please add your name to the list, available here. (AALS requires that we obtain at least 50 signatures from full time faculty members and/or professional staff from at least 25 different schools).

Valena Beety (West Virginia)

Warren Binford (Willamette)

Michael Bloom (Michigan)

Larry Bridgesmith (Vanderbilt)

Alyson Carrel (Northwestern)

Jenny Brooke Condon (Seton Hall)

Ron Lazednik (Fordham)

John O. McGinnis (Northwestern)

Michele Pistone (Villanova) Chair

Jeff Ward (Duke)

Leah Wortham (Catholic)


May 24, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

USNWR and Law Schools: Engines of Anxiety

A new book, Engines of Anxiety: Academic Ranking, Reputation and Accountability, may be of interest to many in the legal academy.  Written by two sociologists, Wendy Nelson Espeland of Northwestern University and Michael Sauder of the University of Iowa, it looks at the role that US News and World Reports (USNWR) rankings has had on law schools and the students they accept.

Despite many changes in the market for legal education and legal services, over the last several years law schools have continued to focus their attention and energies on maintaining their existing status within this legacy model used to rank and compare law schools.  While the researchers heard a lot of bashing of the UNSWR law school rankings during interviews of law school administrators, they also find that most schools make decisions based on how they will impact their own place in the rankings.  

The authors conducted interviews with law school admissions directors and faculty members who serve on admissions committees and the concluded that there is an overwhelming focus on Law School Admission Test scores.  In fact, they found that LSAT scores are given more weight than any other factor in making admission decisions, sometimes regardless of whether other factors indicate that an applicant would be excel as student or lawyer or not.

April 28, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 28, 2016

Disrupting Law School

Many people are talking about how law schools are in crisis. But few are talking about how to plan proactively in reaction to the crisis. Michael Horn and I attempt to set out a way forward for law schools in our new whitepaper, Disrupting Law School: How disruptive technologies will revolutionize the legal world. 

As we explain in the paper, there are a number of forces impacting law schools now, including disruption in the marketplace and changes in licensing models for legal services. Technological changes are behind many of these forces.  

Among other trends set out in the paper, we believe it is only a matter of time before scalable online competition enters the legal education space. This new competition will pose a threat to traditional place-based law schools.  The paper sets out some concrete steps law schools can take to best position themselves for the future.

I would love to hear your take on the market forces impacting the provision of legal services and law schools.  Leave your comments below.


March 28, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Dennis Greene has Died

We note with sadness the death of Dennis Greene, a professor at the University of Dayton School of Law and a treasured member of the Law and Technology community.  Dennis was a true polymath - combining a distinguished career in the legal academy with a wide range of other interests.  Perhaps most notably, Dennis was a founding member of the retro-rock group Sha-Na-Na, and performed at the legendary Woodstock Festival.  He will be badly missed. See  

September 8, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What's in a Category?

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?

August 19, 2015 in Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Legal Hacktivist Bootcamp: A Hackathon Course Debrief

HacktivistWhat is a hackathon?  A hackathon is an event, typically lasting a couple of days, in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming.  It seems a strange companion to lawyers and law schools, however, law school and legal practitioner involvement in hackathons is on the rise.  Hackathons have become a way to look for new and innovative methods of legal services delivery with the possible side effect of creating disruptions to the legal industry.  The ABA, practitioners and law schools have held weekend hackathons focused on blending law and technology to alleviate legal access problems.  As a group we acknowledge that there is a role for technology to play in the resolution of this thorny problem.  One of the accidental outcomes of a good hackathon is a deeper understanding of the law and the legal process issues in question.  With this thought in mind, VLS decided to offer a course based around the principles of a legal hackathon.

In early June, Vermont Law School challenged students enrolled in Hacktivist Boot Camp to think about the practice of law differently – to think of law as a combination of lawyer, legal knowledge engineer, designer, developer, and entrepreneur would.  Students in the course prototyped a legal mobile application and pitched the completed prototype to a panel of judges and a broader audience.  The students were thrilled with the outcomes, the judges were impressed with what the students developed in eleven days and, as the faculty member teaching the course, I was excited by the performance of students on legal learning outcomes.

Hacktivist2Originally the course was designed to combine the efforts of computer science undergraduates and law students, offering graduate level credit for the undergraduates and J.D. credit for the law students.  The course was intended to have a completed mobile application as one of the outcomes.  While we had several inquiries from computer science undergraduates, a combination of logistical challenges and financial aid difficulties made attending impossible for those interested. 

With a lack of computer science undergraduates, the programming aspects of the course were dropped and the course refocused on designing and building a functional prototype with legal content and the accompanying scoping and project management challenges.  Additionally, the goal of teaching students to split tasks between lawyers and technologists and overcome their inherent communication barriers was no longer possible.  The new course focus created an emphasis on teaching law students to create rapid prototypes – in seven days with little technical support.  By happy accident, the circumstance became an opportunity to pilot this concept with law students and gauge their reactions to the heightened technical aspects of the course.  The results of the pilot were surprising.  The law students rose to the challenge with enthusiasm and the advanced functionality of their prototypes surprised them.  The process of learning the prototyping software through the implementation of legal logic enhanced legal learning outcomes.

The two week summer course met Monday through Thursday morning for three hours.  The eight days were split into three main sections.  In the first section students learned how to interview stakeholders, develop a project scope and define a project charter.  On campus program directors whose programs would benefit from a legal access mobile app visited the class and described their app ideas.  The students heard from potential stakeholders about a Veteran’s benefits app, an Immigrant’s benefits app, an app to educate consumer about the impacts of their solar energy purchase and an app to help farmers generate a lease agreement.  Students also worked together to identify areas where technology could have a positive impact on legal access, presented their app ideas to the class and located an outside stakeholder to support their ideas.  Two student ideas, Text a Lawyer and Pocket Lawyer:  DUI Edition, were shared with the class.  From legal, design and development perspectives, the class analyzed the scope of the projects and selected three apps that had reasonable scope and were of interest to the students involved.  They selected Text a Lawyer, Pocket LawyerDUI Edition and the Agricultural Lease app. 

Hacktivist3The second section of the course began on the third day.  Students were asked to install and learn the rapid prototyping tool Axure.  At the same time, the teams were responsible for researching the law related to their application, meeting with their stakeholders, testing designs with their stakeholders and creating logic flowcharts of the law for use in their app.  On the eighth day their initial prototype was due and they demonstrated it for their stakeholders.  With ongoing feedback from their stakeholders, students spent the next two days learning about iterative development, controlling scope creep and managing a project with stakeholder involvement.  At the end of day nine, they had a finalized prototype.

The final section of the course involved creating a presentation that explained how their legal application functioned, how the app would be used and other details that were important to their application.  During this period, students crafted flowcharts and slides to support their presentation.  They also created a judging sheet specific to their application in order to gain specific feedback of interest to them.  Judging took place at the end of the day on day eleven.  The judges were faculty members, lawyers and leaders in the legaltech industry.  Judges were presented with a standard judging sheet and a sheet specific to each app.  The panel of judges was active and student found themselves defending their application and their legal, design and engineering decisions during presentations. 

Students completed the course with a working prototype of their application that they could use in their portfolio.  In follow-up conversations, students consistently expressed surprise at the depth of legal knowledge necessary to engineer the prototype.  They learned every possibility in the area of law that their app addressed and the importance of managing the scope and development cycle of a project.  While students reported that learning Axure was a challenge, they claimed creating the prototype raised their legal reasoning skills to a new level and deepened their thinking about the law in their area. 

The success of a new course should be measured in the accomplishment of student outcomes.  This course, as offered without computer science students, had the following student goals:

  • Learn to work directly with legal stakeholders
  • Learn to produce legal design documents
  • Identify areas where technology would have a positive impact on legal access
  • Learn legal concepts with sufficient depth to create comprehensive flowcharts of a specific area of law
  • Gain the capacity to translating legal, legislative or policy processes into software
  • Analyze legal logic and identify the required components of laws and policies
  • Learn to positively collaborate with stakeholders and other interested parties
  • Learn to manage product development in a team environment
  • Produce a portfolio ready application or prototype
  • Gain experience pitching a product

Even with the time limitations, the goals for the pilot course were met.  Students were empowered in the use of technology and the application of the law.  They created apps for the public good.  VLS plans to offer this course again next summer and as a full-term course during the school year with the added challenge of learning the technology necessary to build an application.  

July 23, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Nice Modria Shout Out in AP Story

There is a nice shout-out for Modria and the future of technology and dispute resolution in an Associated Press story released today. It available at:  

July 12, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

ICAIL 2015: Erudition and Old Questions

This year’s meeting of ICAIL (the International Conference on Artificial Intelligence & Law) is off to a good start. There is a productive mix of the deeply knowledgeable old guard of law and AI, together with new faces (myself included) bringing fresh energy and insights. The venue, at the University of San Diego, is lovely, and the organizing work of Kate Atkinson, Ted Sichelman, Anne Gardner and many others is paying off in many ways.  The speakers are presenting carefully framed and executed projects.  Nice, very smart people have made me feel welcome. Why do I feel something is missing?

The emphasis of the majority of the papers is on using AI to help illuminate law as we now practice and administer it.  There are thoughtful presentations on using advanced techniques to analyze legal opinions, both for their logical content and for the data on arguments and holdings which they contain. The science looks excellent; the goal is essentially limited.  In the typology I’ve previously developed, the conversation here is relentlessly linked to legaltech 1.0 and 2.0.  The frame for the application of AI is the current system of law, including traditional dispute resolution structures, judicial opinions, and natural language legislation and regulation. With the impatience of a newcomer, I want more.

While using clever tools to create better searches within the existing paradigm is useful as a current exercise, I long for the folks here to help me think beyond what law is today and into what law can be with the help of AI. Clay Shirky (not at the conference), in his cautionary essay Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags, declares:

“…I want to convince you that a lot of what we think we know about categorization is wrong. In particular, I want to convince you that many of the ways we're attempting to apply categorization to the electronic world are actually a bad fit, because we've adopted habits of mind that are left over from earlier strategies.”

There is a lot of intelligence here at ICAIL seeking fancier boxes for sorting the earlier strategies of existing jurisprudence.

I contrast my reaction here with the energy I feel at events like those organized by CodeX at Stanford – there, we hear from people who are breaking off chunks of the field and simply building it.  The presentations made in the CodeX context don’t always aspire to the intellectual rigor I see here, and many probably couldn’t get published in ICAIL’s scholarly journal, but a vision of the future burns more brightly, and the impact on legal practice is palpable.  Putting that energy and the ICAIL erudition together would be a worthwhile next step in the evolution of legal technology.


June 9, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Disruption and Legal Education - Clayton Christensen Institute's Michelle Weise to Address AALS Clinical Conference

(this is cross-posted on Best Practices in Legal Education blog)

As legal education faces new challenges in preparing students for law practice and rethinking the lawyer’s role in society, this year’s AALS Clinical Conference, “Leading the New Normal: Clinical Education at the Forefront of Change,” will focus on the central questions: What is the New Normal? How Should Clinicians Respond to the New Normal? What is the Future of the New Normal?

I am excited to introduce Michele Weise, a Senior Research Fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation (CCI), as the speaker for the third theme.  A former Fulbright Scholar and graduate of Harvard and Stanford, Michelle Weise served as the Vice President of Academic Affairs for Fidelis Education, a professor at Skidmore College, and an instructor at Stanford.

In 2014, Ms. Weise co-authored a book with Clayton Christensen, titled Hire Education: Mastery, Modularization, and the Workforce Revolution, about how online competency-based education will revolutionize the workforce and disrupt higher education. Ms. Weise’s commentaries and research have been featured in a number of publications such as The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Boston Globe, Inside HigherEd, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and USA Today

The Clay Christensen Institute, ranked in the Thinkers 50 in 2013, is the world’s leading think tank on disruptive innovation. “Disruptive innovation” takes a problem, applies a different set of values to solve the problem, and creates a new market that ultimately overtakes an existing market. Recently, CCI has studied how changes in technology or business models impact industries such as education and health care.

Michele Weise is one of the three main speakers at the conference.  In her talk, Ms. Weise will help the audience to understand the theory of disruption and how it relates not only to our own role as clinical professors, but also to outside changes impacting legal education. We see clinical education itself as a form of “disruptive innovation” within the legal academy. Our values and methods now stand ready to overtake and profoundly transform legal education, creating a “new normal.” At the same time, we face the prospect that other innovations (in technology and in law practice) will disrupt us, our schools and legal education as a whole. As part of a focus on the “new normal,” we see a strong need to assess how onrushing innovations in technology and practice will transform our clinics and our schools. I believe that, as a speaker, Michelle Weise offers an important opportunity and perspective for the clinical community and by extension, the legal academy.

Speaking personally, as a student of the CCI’s theories for the last few years, I have found it very helpful to have a broader framework in which to analyze what is happening in legal education. Indeed, my recent article, No Path But One, is grounded in the theories of the CCI, as is another piece on which I am currently working. Others in the legal academy are also applying the CCI’s disruption theory ideas to legal education. See

At this critical time in legal education, I think it is important for the legal academy to understand the “why” behind the changes that are happening around us. Ms. Weise will help us as we begin to understand why higher education is changing and provoke us all to think about how we can prepare for the coming years.

The AALS conference will take place in Rancho Mirage, CA from May 3-7, 2015. Registration for the conference can be found here.

I hope to see you there!

April 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Busy Week in Legal Technology Coming Up

Coming on the heels of last week’s ABA TECHSHOW 2015 (see this coming week also has a lot going on around legal technology and related practice reform.  On Monday and Tuesday, UMKC School of Law and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation are hosting a conference on Law Schools, Technology & Access to Law and Justice.  This is a follow up on a very successful session held last summer.  See On Thursday, Stanford’s CodeX Center is presenting its annual FutureLaw Conference, where a significant mass of the legal technology scholarly world will assemble and mingle.  See Over next weekend, May 2-4, also at Stanford is the ABA co-sponsored National Summit on Innovation in Legal Services, where technology-based solutions, and the rule reforms necessary to support them, will be front and center.  See

With these events and the conversations growing out of them in mind, I contributed the following to Huffington Post (available at


While the U.S. legal system has many virtues, it also has glaring flaws. One of its chief failures is access: Most of us in America simply can't afford the help of a lawyer that is so often necessary for navigating the complex landscape of the law. This underrepresentation is particularly true in matters like family law, immigration, home foreclosure or social benefits, where there is no outside pot of money that a contingency lawyer can set her sights on. Statistics vary, but in the sizable majority of such cases in state after state, people hoping for a just result come into court unrepresented, without the expert help they may need to get that justice. Many others don't bother to come to court at all. Similar gaps show up in non-litigation processes, like small business formation, social benefit disputes, and estate planning.

Commissions, reformers and critics have wrung their hands over this reality for decades, but the problem has only gotten worse, notwithstanding worthy efforts like Legal Aid. It is time to be honest with ourselves. This crisis of representation is not an aberration. It is a structural feature of the system of lawyer professionalism we have built, and it will not go away until we build a different way to deliver the benefits of law to people in need of them.

Lawyer professionalism, as we currently know it, is not a terrible thing in itself. We set high qualifications of education, admission and conduct for attorneys, and wrap their role in the status and responsibility-laden package we call a lawyer. We then give the people in that package a monopoly on providing legal services, and back that monopoly up with a set of restrictions on investment, geography, and advertising. This arrangement was an advance in its day, serving as a reform to the less structured, and rather rough-and-tumble versions of the bar that went before it. That day, however, dawned in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, and its sun is setting. The plain fact that needs to be acknowledged is that the economics of this arrangement have always left the less affluent behind, and we need to fix this failure.

Fortuitously, advances in technology, scale and business process science are helping us to develop alternatives modes for delivering the benefits of law more broadly. In the commercial arena, online services like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer are the Uber and Lyft of the legal world. Non-profits and governments are also providing technology-based solutions. But these alternatives are butting up against the regulatory structures of traditional professionalism.

What needs to change? The basic rules of the current system of legal practice are determined on a state-by-state basis. Every state has based its approach, with some individual variation, on the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. The American Bar Association promulgated the original version in 1983. Although the Model Rules have been tweaked in various ways over the years, some core, restrictive principles on questions such as outside investment, cross-border representation, and unauthorized legal practice, have remained in place and enshrine the traditions of professionalism in ways that limit most of the innovations that could help solve our problem.

The existing rules and the model of professionalism which they support need to evolve. The concerns over quality and honesty which inspired the rules should not be jettisoned. Rather, those concerns should continue to animate the new strictures, but they need to do it in the context of 21st Century possibilities, including the connectivity, scale and automation that technology can provide.

The transition to the new will sometimes be messy, with experimentation in the individual states running simultaneously with the centralized considerations of the ABA. In fact, some states may well get ahead of the ABA. The power to set the rules resides in the states themselves, and the courts that oversee those rules know better than anyone that the current system often fails the majority of our citizens. Furthermore, as it dawns on the lawyers of an open-minded state that they could actually prosper from embracing change ahead of the rest, we will see some interesting jumps forward. Some mess may need to be tolerated as the new emerges from the old.

Innovation is difficult and carries risks; but the cost of failing to innovate around access to legal services is simply too great a price for our system of justice to sustain.


April 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

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 [email protected] 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, [email protected], or Alex Scherr, [email protected].


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)