“I went to law school because I hated math.” I’ve heard that sentiment, in one form or another, quite a lot over the years. Unfortunately for those who feel that way, the days when math and computer skills were not prerequisites for a law degree may be short lived. Bringing this issue to light in a recent federal appeals opinion, Judge Richard Posner wrote, “Innumerable are the lawyers who explain that they picked law over a technical field because they have a math block. But it’s increasingly concerning, because of the extraordinary rate of scientific and other technological advances that figure increasingly in litigation.”
As I have written about previously, the ethical rule requiring competency by lawyers has had explicit language added to the comment section stating that in order to be competent, lawyers have to keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.
And there is a small, but growing, group of educators and law schools out there embracing the importance of adjusting their curriculum to accommodate the advances that are being made in technology and their relevance to law. In fact, according to one of the pioneers in promoting technology in law, IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law’s Professor and Director of Chicago-Kent’s Access to Justice and Technology, Ron Staudt, “law schools can no longer afford to ignore how technology can reshape their business.” Chicago Lawyer recently recognized Staudt for his revolutionary ideas in the area of technology, particularly his belief that a tech-focused course that he started at Chicago-Kent be taught nationwide. A version of his class that uses software, called A2J Author®, that he developed to systematically solve basic legal problems will be offered this fall at six law schools.
Staudt is not the only educator advocating change in law school curriculum and espousing that law meld with technology. Noted expert on the legal profession, Professor William Henderson from Indiana University Mauer School of Law states that future attorneys must be competent in the areas of collaborative skills, effective communication skills, project management, systems engineering, and knowledge management and design in order to be effective in today’s economy. Still others note that law schools would be well served by teaching more of the hard skills, such as computer programming and coding to keep abreast of current technology.
Richard Granat on his eLawyering Blog has commended the following schools for their leadership and innovation in combining lawyering and technology. The Commission posts his list here to add our commendation to these schools:
- Brigham Young’s J. Reuben Clark Law School: teaching document automation and how to build these types of systems
- IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law: Center for Justice and Technology, as led by the above-mentioned Professor Ron Staudt.
- Columbia University School of Law: Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic, which instructs in technology-based systems for assisting in the delivery of legal services, new skills in knowledge management, electronic fact gathering and presentation.
- Georgetown Law School: sponsoring the Iron Tech Lawyer Competition and offering a seminar on “Technology, Innovation and Legal Practice” that allows students to develop applications that solve legal practice problems either by increasing access to legal systems or by making legal practice more efficient.
- Maurer School of Law at Indiana University: courses on Legal Project Management and the Law Firm as a Business Organization
- Michigan State Law’s ReInvent Law Laboratory: offering courses on e-discovery, quantitative methods for lawyers, professional ethics and technology and entrepreneurship in the law.
- New York Law School: Certificate Program in the Mastery of Law Practice Technology
- Northern Kentucky University Chase College of Law: W. Bruce Lunsford Academy for Law, Business + Technology, a technology-driven, skills-based curriculum for students to acquire the fundamental skills necessary to make them more productive in the work place.
- University of Miami Law School: LawWithoutWalls, a collaborative academic model that proposes to create projects that will help to solve current problems, issues or inefficiencies in legal education and practice through innovation and change.
- Stanford Law School Center: CodeX – The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics, where the law school joins forces with the university’s engineering and computer science departments to design technologies for a better legal system.
- Suffolk Law School: Institute for Law Practice Technology and Innovation, advancing courses such as “Lawyering in an Age of Smart Machines, which teaches law students programming skills.
- University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law: offering a Computer-Assisted Litigation course, where the aim is to expose their students to software programs that will assist in all phases of pretrial litigation and enhance advocacy and presentation skills.
- Vermont Law School: a new Technology of Law Curriculum and a course on “Digital Drafting”, where students are introduced to digital approaches to contracts, business organizations and dispute resolution.
Congratulations to these institutions for leading students who may have run screaming from AP Calculus to the realization that math and technology will give them a leg up in the future practice of law.