are we considering the impact of legal tech and innovation on other areas of legal education?

By guest blogger Alyson Carrel.

A recent post on the ADR Prof Blog, Indisputably, asked the question: How does the rise of new legal technology and innovation programs impact the future of ADR programs in legal ed? The post seemed to pit one program against the other after Georgia State University Law School announced it had pulled funding for a new ADR faculty position to prioritize resources in legal technology.  

As a member of the ADR community, I was concerned to hear that a school pulled funding from an ADR position. As the assistant dean for law and technology initiatives at Northwestern,  I was glad to see another school recognize the changes in our practice that legal technology and innovation are driving. More schools need to open their eyes to this changing landscape and realize that learning how to “think like a lawyer” is insufficient for today’s legal market. New skills related to technology, data, and artificial intelligence are required to meet clients’ demands to provide better, faster, and cheaper services.

And while I implore law schools to recognize the importance of technology and innovation, I don’t think it should be at the expense of skills often taught in ADR courses. We can’t mistake the growing importance of learning about technology and data analytics with a shrinking importance of learning problem-solving skills. They go hand in hand.

Advocates in the legal technology and innovation space are not arguing for lawyers to become computer scientists, they are arguing for lawyers to become better problem-solvers by understanding and utilizing all the tools available to them, including technology. This was one of the reasons I gravitated towards the legal tech (and innovation) space. It is the focus on creativity and problem-solving, as well as its appreciation of the interdisciplinary nature inherent in good lawyering, that attracted me. Technology is just one of the many tools available when designing a solution.

The rise of innovation and legal technology in the delivery of legal services should be driving a more holistic understanding of lawyering and legal education. I’d like to think we can shift the conversation from an “or” stance to an “and” stance, and remind administrators why ADR programs, and more broadly lawyering and problem-solving modules, are as important to our students today as ever, maybe even more so. 

legal ed + technology

Photo by Andras Vas on Unsplash

We deprive ourselves and our students of the important (necessary?) contributions technology makes — both to the educational process and to the content of what we teach in law school — if our primary conversations around technology in the law school environment concern whether students can use laptops in class (or not).

My point: we are completely missing the point. And the opportunity.

Legal education in the 21st century demands technology — in how we teach, and what we teach.

-CM

the care and feeding of law students: part 1 (of many)

Most people go to law school with the intention of practicing law. This most often means getting a job in a law firm, government agency, or other organization that requires the skills and training (and ultimately the licensure) that law school provides.

So why don’t we treat law students like the professionals they are? Law school is a professional school. We are training professionals.

For the most part, traditional legal pedagogy imparts few “soft” professional skills. A few courses may here and there, and of course, clinics generally do. But access to these opportunities is very limited.

Many law students exit law school with NO experience working in a collaborative way. Few have been exposed to best practices in professionalism. Most are treated like . . . students. Not as professionals. The difference is distinct.

We’re not training students. We are training lawyers. How do we do this? It should include at least some exposure to professional skills and the opportunity to practice them, beyond an ethics course.

(Not that I think most ethics courses impart professional skills, but I expect someone to point to ethics in the curriculum and say, “But we do!” No. We do not.)

We can keep the Socratic method. AND we can do more, and do better, to prepare students for the real world of lawyering*.

*Or whatever they go do, because the skills we teach in law school transect roles and industries.

-CM