Friday, August 8, 2014
Law schools must address the intersection of information technology and law practice, and provide law students with a basic understanding of how to assess the risks and benefits of technological advances. Law students need to be prepared to take on different roles once they pass the bar that expand beyond the once-expected, traditional first year associate in a law firm position. These new roles might include legal knowledge engineer, legal technologist, legal hybrid, legal process analyst, legal project manager, ODR practitioner, legal management consultant, and high risk manager.
I co-authored an article with Ron Dolin entitled Course Correction: Teaching Tomorrow’s Lawyers Legal Tech Skills for the summer edition of the ILTA Peer to Peer Magazine. Ron developed the syllabus for and taught the first course on legal informatics at Stanford Law School. Several of his students from that course have gone on to find innovative paths in the legal industry, including Margaret Hagan, his co-founder in the Program for Legal Tech and Design. In our article we summarize the key issues that law schools need to address when designing a curriculum that prepares new lawyers to use technology in a changed legal marketplace.
The following is a list of basic technology skills that we compiled based on our teaching and consulting experience (both of us advise and work with law firms and legal tech startups) that would benefit most law school curricula:
1. How to design the information architecture of a law practice, including for example, understanding data structures, law firm metrics, and how ethics rules apply to the use of technology;
2. Basics of cloud-based practice management systems, including the use of multiple applications and technologies, and their associated interoperability;
3. Selection of technology vendors, products and services, including review of service level agreements and understanding how the selection may affect compliance with the rules of professional conduct or ethics opinions;
4. Secure client portal technology and the basics of online delivery of legal services and unbundling practices;
5. Collaboration technologies that allow for legal teams to communicate remotely, such as virtual deal rooms, client intranets, and other tools developed for the growing field of ODR;
6. Use of technology for client development, including online marketing tools, collaborating with branded networks, online lead generation, creating and maintaining firm websites and blogs, use of social media, and the ethical issues and best practices around these;
7. Payment systems for online billing and collection of fees;
8. Technology that speeds up the processing of standardized legal work, such as document automation and assembly tools and expert systems; and finally
9. Evaluative methodologies to compare features, efficiency, and quality of the tools.
We were one short of a "top ten" list. Feel free to suggest a tenth skills that you might expect to see in a law school curricula and how that skill might be integrated into existing courses or offered as a separate course, elective, or supplemental certificate program.