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Thursday, August 29, 2013

ABA Journal: Law Prof Bets Future -- His and His Students' -- On Technology

Legal RebelsABA Journal, Tech Skills Are the Key to Law Students’ Future Employment, Says ‘13 Legal Rebel Dan Katz:

Law professor Daniel Martin Katz is betting the pot–his future and those of his students–on a radical model of legal training and job placement.

Katz's ReInvent Law Laboratory, which he co-founded and co-directs with fellow Michigan State University College of Law professor Renee Newman Knake, aims to prepare students and practicing lawyers for what the face of law will become as traditional delivery models stagnate and legal technology startups and alternative service providers continue to expand.

"The part [of the legal profession] that is actually growing–the Clearspires, the Axioms, legal process outsourcers and software companies–they need people with particular sets of skills who have domain expertise and can build software that works to solve legal problems," says Katz, an associate law professor with a tech and public policy background–an unusual combination in legal academia. "They need lawyers who know the law, understand software and technology, and [know] how to mesh the two."

Katz's familiarity and expertise with visual design, computer science and big data are missing from most law school faculties, says MSU Law dean Joan W. Howarth, who recruited Katz to be a change agent at her school. ...

[T]he ReInvent Law module includes a core curriculum of classes designed to teach students and practicing lawyers "hard skills" such as quantitative legal prediction (including technology that predicts whether a client has a case, the odds of winning it and which arguments should be used in support). The program also promotes the research and development of legal service models that are affordable, accessible and widely adopted through startup competitions and free daylong seminars designed to spark ideas and conversation among leading entrepreneurs and legal innovators. That crowd includes Katz's students, who are gaining the attention of legal employers–and getting hired. ...

"If we prove this [model] is successful, there will be a lot of copycats, but the problem is law school faculty don't have the tools; there are no tech skills or design training, no entrepreneurs," Katz says. "They don't have skin in the game. I'm in the club because I've got [capital in legal tech] companies and have pushed all my chips forward on this. That's my bet. We'll see where it lands."

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