Law schools are in trouble. There are a lot of reasons why this is true, many having to do with wrenching change in the practice of law itself. There is certainly no easy fix for what ails law schools, but we do know that nothing will get better without changing the way young lawyers are taught.
Part of the problem may be an image problem. Many law schools like to imagine they need to teach law students the way John Houseman did in The Paper Chase, teaching students to think the same, and allowing little room for independent thinking. But there are some law schools that are changing the way they operate.
The American Bar Association’s eLawyering Task Force is putting together a list of the top law schools teaching legal practice technology. The initial list of 12 schools highlights notable examples of technology innovation in law schools. “We include within this category courses that train law students in document automation, legal expert systems, and other course work that has an impact on the nature, productivity and profitability of law firms,” says Richard Granat, co-chair of the eLawyering Task Force of the ABA’s Law Practice Management Section.
The school must have a full-time faculty member dedicated to coordinating and teaching a law practice technology program. Among the 12 schools and their dedicated programs:
• Chicago Kent Law School’s Center for Access to Justice & Technology, led by professor Ronald Staudt.
• Maurer School of Law at Indiana University’s Center on the Global Legal Profession, headed by professor William D. Henderson.
• University of Miami Law School’s Law WithWithoutWalls Project, headed by faculty members Michael Bossone and Michele DeStefano.
• Michigan State Law School’s ReInvent Law, led by professors Daniel Martin Katz and Renee Newman Knake.
Sadly, this kind of training is almost absent from the law firm environment. Law.com reports that law firms do not effectively train their staff in technology. According to the article, Kia Motors audited the technology skills of nine law firms bidding for its business and not one could pass the rudimentary tech test. Given that kind of failure, we predict that law school graduates who leave law school with an understanding of litigation technology have a huge advantage in the current environment.
Filling a Void
As Malcolm Gladwell explained in Outliers, many of the the most powerful and successful corporate lawyers in New York City have almost the exact same biography. But he also showed that the most successful lawyers and law firms of the past decades became successful because an opportunity opened up to them at the right point in their career.
In the 1970’s, upstart and insurgent law firms could make a lot of money in M & A activity that old-school, white shoe law firms disdained. If there is one area of law practice that is open to hungry young lawyers today, it is in technology-related matters.
Tech savvy lawyers are still a distinct minority. But we would like to help law schools teach students how to use technology to transform their practices. Nextpoint will provide our technology platform at a deeply discounted or pro bono basis for any school looking to provide students with real-world, hands on eDiscovery training.
Our services include a complete, cloud-accessible eDiscovery review platform, and evidence management and presentation for trial. We have the same standing offer for law firms offering gratis legal help for pro bono clients.