By Shundra Crumpton • May 29, 2018•Writers in Residence, Law School, Curriculum and Classroom Dynamics
UPDATE: I graduated from law school on May 11, 2018, so I am now Ms. Innovative Psychic, J.D.!
I cannot believe that three years of the Socratic method, curved grades, and outlines are finally behind me. I still remember my first day of law school. As commonly experienced by many beginning law students, but rarely uttered, my main concern at the time was whether I should wear a suit to my first class or jeans. Over the years, I went from dreading cold calling to wishing that the professor would call on me so that I could be “off the hook” for the next couple of weeks. I went from forcing myself to attend office hours, to drinking tea with professors in the faculty lounge.
As I reflect on my time in law school, I am thankful for the vast amount of knowledge I obtained, the friends I made, and for the opportunity to test my endurance and build strength. In the words of “Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . .”
Now, back to the overarching topic of my blog – legal innovations.
As typical of any psychic, I cannot harp on the past, instead I must look towards the future. Accordingly, it seems appropriate to predict the future relationship between law schools and legal innovations. I was lucky enough to attend a law school with a Law and Innovation program; however, such programs are few and far between. Currently, there are no American Bar Association (“ABA”) requirements for law schools to house such programs. This leads to my first prediction.
1) THE ABA WILL SOON REQUIRE LAW SCHOOLS TO OFFER LEGAL INNOVATION RELATED CLASSES.
It appears that the ABA is already moving in this direction, as evidenced by the requirement that law students take more experiential learning classes. The ABA wants law students to have more practice-ready skills. Learning how to use legal technology is surely a practical skill that future lawyers will need to know. Moreover, relying on the information technology team for basic legal tech will soon be deemed as a display of incompetence.
2) CLINICAL PROGRAMS WILL EMBRACE LEGAL TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION.
Last semester, I participated in a clinical program. As part of my clinical experience, I tried to implement tools and skills that I learned from a legal project management (“LPM”) class I took. For example, I identified stakeholders, mimicked my transaction plan off a project charter, used an application called Trello to delegate tasks and track progressions. Additionally, I created phases, sub-phases, and tasks for my projects. It would be great if law schools fully integrated legal project management into clinical work. For example, I propose having a LPM instructor attend one clinic class to give students a brief overview of LPM, programs to use, and any other helpful tips. It would also be interesting to have an entire clinic session that focuses on LPM techniques. The clinic group would communicate with clients via Slack, get rid of all paper documents, complete tasks using google documents, hold at least one online video chat a semester, and more. The clinic would target innovative clients that consent to experiment with a fully immersive LPM and innovation oriented structure.
3) LEGAL TECHNOLOGY AND ALTERNATIVE SERVICE PROVIDER EMPLOYERS WILL HAVE A HIGHER PRESENCE AT ON-CAMPUS INTERVIEWS.
An alternative service provider (“ASP”) employer came to my school a few months ago. One student asked why ASP’s never interviewed the students at my school. The ASP representative’s response was that he did not think the students would be interested in such positions. On one side, ASPs are probably not the first choice position for many law students, because the pay is low and the work is mundane. However, as discussed in a previous blog post ("If It ISn't Broke, Don't Fix It"), the legal field has changed since the financial crisis. Jobs are not as plentiful, so students cannot afford to be picky. Moreover, with phenomena such as the Netflix documentary on minimalism, many people of my generation are stepping away from the big bucks in hopes of finding peace in a simpler lifestyle.
As I transition from the role of law student to that of associate, I encourage current and future law students to advocate for curricula that include aspects of legal technology and innovation. I encourage employers to promote a preference for students with knowledge in such areas. Last but not least, I implore law schools to take heed.
*Link to "If It ISn't Broke, Don't Fix It"-- https://ms-jd.org/blog/article/if-it-isnt-broke-dont-fix-it