Marlene (@gebauerm) and Greg (@glambert) talk with the University of Oklahoma School of Law’s Director of Technology Innovation, Kenton Brice. Kenton discusses how OU is leveraging the advances in technology to expand upon the university’s commitment to not only teach students how to think like a lawyer, but to also have a grasp of some of the skills needed to practice law efficiently.

Continue Reading Podcast Episode 9 – Getting Law Students Familiar with Legal Tech

While some law schools in the US
are closing
, in Canada, a prospective new one received
preliminary approval in late December 2017  by The Federation of Law Societies of Canada, Canadian Common Law
Program Approval Committee on its application to create a new law school.  This is the
next step in the school’s bid to establish a law school. What is interesting
and unique about this school, is that they are not exclusively focused on the
letter of the law nor traditional legal studies as with other law schools. Instead
they are taking a more progressive applied, approach to the discipline as has become a hallmark
of the Ryerson University brand.  

In describing its program,
Ryerson proposes to create a “different kind of law school that trains lawyers differently”. It
emphasizes a program that has an “innovation-focused approach”that will equip graduates with
real-world skills and competencies required to meet the present and future needs of consumers of
legal services.

The courses that students will be
required (my emphasis not theirs) to take include:

  • The Business of
    Lawyering
  • Legal Innovation
  • Social
    Innovation and the Law
  • Access to
    Justice Solutions

The courses will be taught by
professors of course, but also include an element of practical experience and
working with mentors from within the program itself. Courses are described in the application as:

“the course-based component is
divided between a morning session in traditional lecture format, and an afternoon session
where students will be separated into seven-member “student law firms” where they will engage
in practice-based assignments. The afternoon sessions will be overseen by mentors.”

Also contemplated are three one
week workshops in each of the three years of law school, I’ve pulled the descriptions here from the application documents:

  • Ryerson Law
    School Bootcamp:
    focuses
    on career planning, networking, mentoring, leadership
    and personal development [Mandatory 1L]
  • Technology
    Innovation Bootcamp:
    focuses
    on the current edge of legal technology,including
    data analytics, artificial intelligence, and quantitative legal prediction,
    etc. [Mandatory 2L
  • Financial
    Bootcamp:
    focuses
    on accounting, taxation and financial analysis [Optional 3L]
  • Coding Bootcamp:
    introduces
    students to HTML, cascading style sheet computing and Python, while requiring them to
    apply data analytics to devise a solution to a specific legal problem. [Optional 3L]
  • Emotional
    Quotient/Cultural Quotient (EQ/CQ) Bootcamp:
    includes an implementation project that aligns with recent
    shifts in thinking about the core competencies required of licensees in Ontario. [Optional
    3L]
The school’s proposed curriculum is
exciting and refreshing while also scary. It points to a very deliberate shift
in what practising law can and should be about in the future – a future that can start with mandatory shifts in education in the next couple of years if not sooner. We have certainly been
talking about this impending “future of the legal profession” for long enough. 

Last week on 3 Geeks, Greg
blogged about the importance of Professional
Development
for library and research staff, in firms. I think learning
some of the non-legal skills Ryerson wants to introduce in law school, can and
should be sought out by lawyers, not just admin staff in firms.   Lawyers
and not just the student kind, need to be thinking about the business of law
and the practice of law right from school and otherwise.  Lawyers and law students, along with law firm administrators need to
attend the very conferences Greg suggests are important to learn about everything
law school doesn’t teach or is just beginning to teach as mandatory. 

While legal industry commentators are making predictions this month on the state of the legal industry in
2018, I would like to do something different, and make a wish for the industry
instead.   I wish that 2018 be the year
of the business-of-law tipping point. I wish for the coming year to be the one
where we finally “get it” , where clients push firms of all sizes to act like
businesses, where lawyers of all practices, years of call and diverse of
backgrounds begin the slow but necessary step of getting trained on new ways of
thinking about practising law with a robust business acumen either from formal
education, continuing education/professional development or industry conferences.  I wish that
Ryerson’s law school (if it gets final approval), and other similar mandatory and elective
courses at all law schools is just the beginning of what’s to come for
the future of the profession and that 2018 ushers in a new wave of legal professionals who have the skills and abilities to integrate legal know-how with
business, technology, and access to justice  – with a smile. 

Best wishes for a successful 2018!
Image [cc] Ana C.

It seems that Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. is not a fan of law reviews. Back in 2011, Roberts joked that he found law reviews irrelevant, and found no need to know why there was any influence on 18th century Bulgaria by philosopher Immanuel Kant. In fact he went further and said “I would have to think very hard” in order to recall any recent law review articles he read, or found useful.

Ouch.

Let’s admit it, most of us outside the ivy covered walls of Academia rarely rush to the library to grab the latest law review before our peers in order to have a competitive advantage. To be fair, however, law reviews are kind of like archives. Most of the time, you never need anything from the archives, but when that need arises, you sure are glad it is there. Whether law reviews are relevant, or useful, or readable is beside the point here. What is interesting is that Roberts’ comment was actually about a real law review article, written by George Washington University Law Professor Orin Kerr. And, as any good writer will attest, always take advantage of the opportunity to turn one piece of writing into two pieces of writing.

Kerr is publishing an answer to Roberts’ comments in an upcoming law review article in The Green Bag. I’m actually looking forward to reading that one from this unconventional law review. One side note for The Green Bag…  please update that awful looking website. Just because your law review was created in 1997, doesn’t mean your website needs to look like it was created that same year.

Sorry. Got off topic.

Kerr got the idea of writing the response to Roberts when he was named a scholar-in-residence at the Law Library of Congress in 2012. In an interview to the National Law Journal (h/t to Rich Leiter), Kerr mentioned that the staff at the Library of Congress was amazing, stating that “They can find anything.” That without the help of the Library research staff, specifically Peter Roudik, the article couldn’t have been written. Then came the quote that I’m printing out, framing, and hanging on my office wall:

“The lesson of the article is that you can do anything with an amazing research librarian.”

As happy as I am to see this quote, I have to really as Orin Kerr one thing, “you’re just now figuring that out??” I bet there are some folks back at George Washington that would love to introduce you to the research librarians at the law library. Helping you find the obscure text from 1859 is something that many of us do on a regular basis. In addition, we can probably get it to you overnight (or within hours), without costing you a fortune. Law Librarians, and Researchers have connections, and those connections have connections. I hope for Kerr’s sake that he’s located the law library researchers back at GW when he got back from the Library of Congress.

So let this be a lesson to all of the Professors out there writing the next great Law Review Article. Go find the law library and introduce yourself to the research staff. Tell them what you’re working on, and make them a part of the team. They probably won’t be able to make your article any more appealing to Chief Justice Roberts, but they will definitely help you thoroughly research the topic.

Norse Elephant
Image [cc] kaiban

President Obama made an off-the-cuff remark last week when he was quoted in The Washington Post, “that law schools would probably be wise to think about being two years instead of three years.” Apparently he knew this would cause some controversy, but he took solace in the fact that he doesn’t have to run for a third term and can make controversal statements like this.

Now, remember that the President is on his “College Affordability Bus Tour” so the topic is focused on the overal cost of school, not the actual numbers of lawyers that our 200+ law schools are pumping out into the industry these days. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun/conversation on the comment and what the overall outcome would be of removing the 3L class out of law schools and just releasing fresh faced 2L’s out into the world.

Therefore, this week’s Elephant Post question is simply:

What Could Possibly Go Wrong With Reducing Law School To A Two-Year Program?

Here are the rules for answering the EP:

  • Fill out the form below, or email me (xlambert at gmail dot com) with your answer
  • You can give us your real name or stay anonymous
  • I’ll put out the answers on Friday
  • See what others have answered

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Dan and Emily
Image [cc] Sharyn Morrow

Jane: Dan, I’ve been going over some of the statistics from the Simkovic/McIntyre study, and have to say that most law students will be far better off by attending law school than they would by not obtaining the degree.

Dan: Jane, I see you’ve been playing music with your old college band, The Intelligentsia, and found that bag of weed your old boyfriend stashed in his guitar. A student would You’d be better off heading to Las Vegas and putting the $150K on Black. Wait a minute, isn’t your old boyfriend a Law School Professor now?

Jane: Well… yes, but he doesn’t play guitar any longer.

Dan: Jane, maybe he should take it back up, as it looks like his day job might be on shaky ground. However, it is nice of you to attempt to help him maintain his cushy lifestyle at the expense of some kid paying off student loans for the next 35 years.

Jane: Dan, as usual, you do not see past the bottom of your vodka tonic glass you have stashed under your desk. An advanced education opens up many opportunities for graduates that simply are not there for those without the advanced degree. The study shows that most students will be hundreds of thousands of dollars ahead over the lifespan of their careers. A little investment now will pay off over time.

Dan: Jane, I actually agree with you…

Jane: gasp…

Dan: Slow your roll there babe, I agree with you – to a point. And that point is when the advanced degree is a law degree. We pump out far too many lawyers as it is. The fact that we have 200 law schools in this country, most of them a far cry from the top tier schools, shows that we are throwing far too many students at a career that is shrinking every year. If they want an advanced degree, pick something useful like Computer Science or Engineering. The only thing that would help the legal profession would be if a third of law schools shut their doors today.

Jane: Dan, the study shows that law school graduates get a salary bump, on average, of $32,000 – $53,000 a year. Statistics alone would encourage a student with a History degree to think seriously about obtaining a law degree.

Dan: Okay Jane. Let me ask you this: Would you encourage your nephew to go to law school?

Jane: Yes.

Dan: Okay. In your typical, “nothing could every possibly go wrong mentality”, would you encourage him to do so on student loans?

Jane: Under the right circumstances, yes.

Dan: My guess is that the right cirumstances equates to “he qualified for any student loans.” Would you be so quick if you knew that he probably wouldn’t get into a top tier school, and he wouldn’t graduate in the top 10% of his class?

Jane: Well, I would encourage him to work hard and study to get in that top 10%.

Dan: Jane, you’re pretty big on statistics when it comes to the study, but you seem to be pretty ignorant of math when it comes to the reality that most students will rack up the same, or more, debt as those that finish in the top 10% of top tier schools. Add to that, the fact that most kids like your nephew would end up graduating from third and fourth tier schools, and would be lucky to land a job requiring a law degree and bar passage. More likely, your nephew would land on your doorstep looking for a place to live because your Sister told him to go live with the stupid Aunt that talked him into going to law school.

Jane: Dan, my nephew is smart, capable, and he will make it.

Dan: Well, he better hope so. Your career as a journalist probably won’t last until he graduates law school. Better hope that your next job at Amazon or with the Red Sox comes with some benefits.

Image [cc] Salem State Library

Maybe I’m reading a bit much into this announcement from the Dorraine Zief Law Library at the University of San Francisco, but, the fact that Westlaw has decided to allow graduating law students access to their law school Westlaw IDs through the end of November seems to be a sign that even the folks up in Eagan, MN know it’s a tough market for law grads.

Graduates that go to extend their passwords by May 30th can have access to Westlaw classic and WestlawNext through their student logon. According to the USF post:

Graduates who extend their password will receive access to WestlawNext and Westlaw Classic through November 2013 instead of just through July.  The exact number of monthly access hours is not available, but is at least 40 hours per month.

Graduating students who have already extended their access don’t have to do anything further to get the extension through November.  There’s a link to the extension site in an  e-mail sent to graduating students.  Students may also click the “Need Westlaw this Summer?” ad on lawschool.westlaw.com.

I’m glad that Thomson Reuters decided to allow grads to keep access to this very expensive resource to help keep their research skills fresh as they are hunting for work. Of course, I’m wonder who will be the first grad to put on his or her resume that “if you hire me, I’ll have 40 hours of free Westlaw searching I can bring with me”?? Please, don’t be that person!!
 
Image [cc] Indiaedu.com

There are a couple of trends that I’ve seen when talking with other law librarians about e-books. First, legal publishing vendors don’t seem to have a plan on what to do about e-books. Second, law librarians don’t seem to know what to do about e-books, either. My suggestions to the law librarian community has been to start figuring it out, quickly, or we are going to be stuck with whatever the vendors eventually come up with. Of course, even that could still be years away.

It seems that no one want to be the first to jump into the fray and define exactly how we want to organize, sell and collect e-book collections. Add to this the fact that there is very little demand by our attorneys to have e-books readily available in the law firm’s collection. To modify what my good friend Toby says, “find out what’s keeping your attorneys up at night… and it isn’t e-books.” That’s good news for the law librarian world, but it is a temporary stay at most. Eventually, new lawyers, and lawyers that get more familiar with their mobile and tablet devices will figure out the advantages of having an e-book library at the ready. However, if law librarians wait that long to prepare, then we fall into reactionary mode. If we start now, we can be better prepared for that tipping point.

So, back to the title of this post. The vendors could actually start the ball rolling on this demand piece of the e-book equation. Just like with online research, get the students hooked on the idea early, and then they will drive demand when they make it to the firms. I’ve ranted before that in the age of the iPad, why in the world should a 1L lug around a 50 lbs. backpack full of books? It makes very little sense, and it shows the lack of forward thinking by the legal publishers. My suggestion to the legal publishers is that you should look at the law book industry as your gateway to the e-book collection of the future. Work out the arrangements with the law schools so that they benefit by moving away from traditional print course books to an e-book model.

I’m sure there are a thousand reasons that the legal publisher could think of on why this wouldn’t work. However, that is hanging on to a dying publication model. The longer the traditional legal publisher waits to jump in this new model, the more likely a young, fresh, start-up will jump in there and fill the void. If that happens, then the cost of entry into that market skyrockets for the traditional legal textbook publishers (and, they’ll eventually acquire the startups at a premium price.)

The over-simplistic idea here is this: Placing e-books in law students’ hands now will result in selling e-book collections to these lawyers (and their firms) later. It’s coming, so either get in front and drive it, or stand back and wait for the chaos of customers telling you what to do.

Now, back to the law librarians. E-books are coming, make no mistake about it. I’ve laid out one possible scenario, but there are many others that you can imagine. Now, get in front of this shift in customer demand, or sit back and wait for the chaos of the lawyers and the vendors telling you what to do.

1L’s are getting younger and younger.
Actually, these are my daughters
on their way to the first day
of school today!

I had a very pleasant conversation with a fresh-faced first year law student this morning as we waited for a bus that finally showed up 20 minutes late. Being 18 years removed from my 1L experience, it was interesting to listen to the excitement in her voice as she talked about the very familiar topics of orientation, picking up books at the bookstore, how nice the law librarians were at the school, how nervous she was getting called on to brief a case the first day of class, trying to interpret old English cases on contracts, and having 3Ls scaring the bejesus out of you. It suddenly hit me about five minutes into our conversation, that we could have been having this very same conversation when I was a 1L in 1994. 

Now, granted, this is a sample of one student, but she can’t be too much outside of the norm of most students these days. First of all, the backpack she was carrying was about the same size she was. It’s 2012… sure, we don’t have those flying cars like Back to the Future promised us, but why in the world are law students still lugging around 30 lbs of books to class? The publishers of casebooks should be ashamed of themselves that they have not worked out the details with law schools to do away with physical casebooks. 
I know that there is a technique to training law students to “think like lawyers,” but you’d think that by now the professors would be somewhat tired of teaching the Socratic Method. Sure, it’s what they know… but it’s like a rock band playing the same set of songs, year after year. You know they just have to be bored out of their minds. Could any law professor that teaches first year contracts law really get excited after they’ve taught 10-20 years of the same method?? I guess they are law professors… maybe they do.

The one thing that did stand out in the conversation was her answer when I asked if 1Ls were nervous about entering law school during a time when everyone in the world is saying “DON’T GO TO LAW SCHOOL.” What surprised me was the fact that she didn’t even blink when she talked about how genuinely excited she was to go to law school and how optimistic she was on her chances of entering the profession of practicing law… all this despite the fact that no one in her family was a lawyer. Now, maybe she was blissfully ignorant of the market, or she just felt that she was going to beat the odds. Here’s hoping to the latter!

Image [cc] estudioquimbya

Last weeks’s post from Toby on “The First Time I Saw a Computer Practice Law” jogged my mind of my recent trip to Georgetown Law School and talking to Roger Skalbeck about assigning his class called “Technology, Innovation and Law Practice.” The major assignment for the class was to create an application that could be used in the practice of law. At the end of the course, there was a competition called “The Iron Tech Lawyer” where the students displayed their creations to a panel of judges and explained how the technology worked to assist (or replace) the lawyer in making practical decisions in the practice of law.

I’ve embedded the video of the Nightly Business Report’s coverage of the competition, and as you watch it, you might notice a couple of the same things that I did:

  1. The technology is available now to replace some of the functions that we have thought only lawyers could do properly.
  2. Watch the excitement on the faces of the students. They are not thinking of technology of killing off the practice of law, but rather enhancing it and making it available to the masses.
  3. The law professor did notice that the technology may lead to a reduction in overall work for lawyers, but that the trade off is that lawyers can make up for this by servicing the legal needs of those that might not have been able to get access before.
Whenever someone talks about tech replacing lawyers, the initial reaction of the establishment, especially bar associations, is to circle the wagons and fight against it. Watching how a few law students could come up with practical applications for the practice of law for a classroom project should put everyone on notice that this is the wave of the future, and fight it though you might, it will eventually become a reality. Better to start facing it now and begin understanding ways of using it to supplement the practice of law, or one day the wave of new technology will simply drown those that think they can fight to keep it from changing the way they practice law.

One of the listservs I joined early in my law library career was Teknoids (way back in 1997 or 1998.) Although it is made up primarily of techies in law school libraries and IT departments, I still love the conversations that go on. The conversation on what was titled “Everybody’s Favorite Topic…” was on what law schools will do since Westlaw is no longer going to support free printing for students, but will leave the printers for the law schools as a gift, just in case they want to pick up the tab for students printing out cases. Paul Birch from the University of Richmond School of Law (at the request of my fellow AALL member, Joyce Janto) started the conversation by asking if others would share their up-to-date printing policies. Judging by the title of the email, however, it seemed that Paul knew the conversation would take on a life of its own… and it did. I especially like the idea that John Mayer throws out (half-joking/half-serious) about moving off print completely and just giving students a Kindle to send their print to via PDF and email.

You can read through the whole conversation here, but I thought I’d post a few highlights that were interesting to me:

  • Cyndi Johnson: Since I’m sure Lexis will follow suit and pull their printers too, I’m going to start discussions with the relevant parties (SBA, the Dean, etc) about our options. Our students pay a technology fee which gives them 600-pages of printing per semester with all clinic, research assistant, journals, and moot court jobs waived. Anything above that is paid at $.05/page. We are pretty firm about not crediting Westlaw/Lexis jobs that were printed on their printers unless the printers are down. I’ve talked to the faculty teaching legal research and they stress not printing every page when doing research but it happens.
  • John Mayer: 600 free pages valued at $.05 per page = $30. Times three years of law school = $90. Ergo, buy everyone a Kindle (http://cca.li/bd) when they arrive and send all print jobs to PDF and email it to their Kindle.
  • David Dickens:
  • Gary Moore: We give the students 2400 pages for an entire academic year and a number of their texts are already available on e-reader. I still have some students telling me it’s not enough pages. It’s not dead. It fact it may be undead. The print zombie and right out of a George Romero movie, it’s going to take some time before you can kill them all.
  • John Mayer: 2400 x $.05 x 3 years = $360 – you could buy them a Kindle Fire (or almost an Ipad!) Make them sign a contract that if you give them the ereader, they won’t print or charge the ereader people who print 10 cents a page.  Use the invisible hand of economics!
  • Tom Bruce: That’s a Dada-ist art thing, right? Ceci n’est pas un pipe?
  • Ken Hirsh: Wouldn’t it be more apropos for someone to bludgeon you with an Epson FX-80? Although the trail of discarded perforated paper edge would give the CSI team quite a head start.
  • Jonathan Ezor: *cue Roger Daltrey scream*
  • Gary Moore: [trying (and succeeding) to bring the conversation back from pop-culture references] If no longer allow free pages and you charge for printing, then they will ask what is the tech fee for then, which, of course,  it is for other things like labs and exam software (both heavily used by students).  Some will respond “I already use my own laptop to print and don’t use the lab”. …
    If you go completely print free, then there are other issues, like what material is allowed in an exam (that also means the exam software companies need to catch up) and lot of other administrative issues.  It also means that all materials will be e-reader accessible.  It also means do we require students to own a laptop/tablet (we don’t have a requirement now, though 95% of our students take exams on computer). …
    We, meaning IT directors, can spearhead the charge to go print free and use e-readers, or not allow “free printing” any more, but it requires a major commitment from everyone at a school (faculty, admin and students) and a full support structure, if you go the way of a required standard tablet.   Also, everyone must be willing to deal with the repercussions and be committed to not revert back.
  • Ken Hirsh: I’m not advocating going print-free.  I am saying Westlaw’s (or more accurately, TR’s) action is not a valid reason to increase either the amount of free printing or tech fees.  Students don’t want to pay more in tuition or fees.  Don’t make them.  Let them use market behavior to decide what to print.
  • Gary Moore: But John is right that the use of Kindle Fires/IPads are on the rise and a lot of the texts are available for those.  We have to seriously rethink how students access their material and actually support that use, because that is the way to go.
    However, there are a lot of things that go along with that commitment.
  • Phil Bohl: 
    MONEY?
    Our students do not pay a technology fee. … Our biggest obstacle in pushing out our printers and adopting the digital copiers has been on the cost recovery side.
    Since we own and manage the printers and the print management system we can set any price and apply any subsidy, no real dollars are involved until students use up their initial print credit.  Then they pay for every page by purchasing a block of print credit; minimum of $10.
    With the copiers [maintained by Cannon], it’s all real money and to provide a print credit to each student would require transferring funds from our account to the university’s central IT budget.  …  So about three years ago we started raising our prices and lowering the print credit amount each year to make it possible for us to eventually phase out the subsidy for student printing.
    REDUCE DEMAND?
    [W]e redoubled our efforts to make students aware of the millions of pages they were consuming.  Following a modest campaign,  print volume dropped significantly …
    With such a huge reduction in student printing, this may be less painful that we first thought. At the same time, over the past five years we have seen our library copier volume go down to nearly nothing.  I’d wager that initially part of that volume was shifted to the printers but not all of it.  With more materials born digital or digitally accessible, copiers are nearly anachronistic for most of what goes on in our library.  We have also added a KIC station which has further reduced copier volume — and adds to our list of popular services.
    All that said, I think we can (in time) gingerly transition both the lexis and westlaw print volume onto our digital copiers with students paying the freight.  I’ll really miss the paper.
  • Ben Chapman: We tried and failed to phase out our $35 per year print subsidy last year. I’m hoping that we can have better luck doing that this year. Obviously, the change in Westlaw’s print policies doesn’t help at all. Here’s one of the things that I’ve been thinking about: what if we provided them with better tools to read, write, and organize the buckets of material that they get, along with tools that help faculty distribute electronic materials with less pain. I’m wondering if we can use that to justify a reduction or elimination of the print subsidy. So, maybe the discussion is not really about student printing – maybe it’s more about what are we doing to smooth the transition to a paperless law school:
  1. We need ways to make epub, PDF, and other etexts easier to distribute to students. Emory has a great ereserves system that helps with that currently; unfortunately, I hear that it’s old and no longer developed and they may retire it. That will mean that more ematerials will wind on up Blackboard, which never seems to be the students’ first choice.
  2. We have purchased a subscription to FileOpen http://www.fileopen.com/, which helps manage PDF DRM. While we are not generally fans of DRM, it’s helpful in situations where students need access to particular resources for a particular period of time (moot court briefs, for example). As a side-effect of the DRM, we can prevent (stop your snickering, Tom Ryan) most casual printing and copying.
  3. We’ve put in two DLSG KIC scanners (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UO68IT1QIE) to encourage people to make electronic copies of things.
  4. I’m considering funding the purchase of tools like Scrivener (http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php) to help students organize digital materials more easily. We do not yet provide Microsoft Office for free to students, although there is talk of that.
  5. The University (as part of a new Internet2 initiative) is pursuing the idea of Box.net integration with 50GB per account.
  6. The University is investing in Blackboard and the 9.1 update is coming in May.
  7. We preach the gospel of Evernote and Dropbox regularly.
The conversation is still going on, and is interesting to follow, not just from the view of law school IT, but also to think about how these students are taught about the different print alternatives that are out there, and what type of experiences they will be coming to the law firms once they graduate.