U.S. legal tech education: MSU College of Law Thinks Smart

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMore interesting tech news out of the U.S. legal education system this week, as this time Michigan State University (MSU) College of Law incorporates ThinkSmart’s automation platform (TAP) into a course for law students taught at LegalRnD.
LegalRnD is the centre for legal services innovation at the college. Starting this autumn, students will receive hands-on experience using TAP to automate legal processes as part of the litigation course.
Dan Linna, director at LegalRnD and professor of law in residence at MSU Law, worked closely with Amani Smathers, a legal solutions architect at Davis Wright Tremaine (DWT) and MSU Law graduate, to develop the process automation project for the litigation course.
Smathers was already familiar with TAP through her role at DWT and her knowledge of its use by the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC).
The students will partner with CLOC members in designing and implementing relevant workflows.
The development follows a growing call for law students to have a deep understanding of technology, which in October 2015 saw Cornell Law School launch a Master of Laws degree in law, technology and entrepreneurship.
Elsewhere, at Chicago-Kent College of Law, Professor Ronald Staudt, director of the Center for Access to Justice & Technology, has for around six years taught the Justice and Technology Practicum, which offers Chicago-Kent students an opportunity to gain experience with document assembly and automation tools. Students partner with an organisation that has identified a need to automate a document and use HotDocs templates to build a solution.
Speaking to Legal IT Insider towards the end of 2015, Professor Staudt said: “We think that the opportunities for people with more qualitative skills and the ability to navigate the technology space will be richer and there will be more opportunities. Clients are increasingly working in those spaces and it is extraordinarily valuable to understand the client’s business.”
Chicago-Kent partners with Georgetown Law Center, where Professor Tanina Rostain, co-director for the Center for the Study of the Legal Profession has since 2012 run a 13-week course called Technology, Innovation and Legal Practice, in which student teams, collaborating with legal service providers, build apps that expand access to justice.
The legal tools that students build incorporate Neota Logic automation applications and are used by organisations from civil rights movements to direct providers of legal services to the US Government. Examples include an app for social workers who look after the elderly, enabling them to easily put people in their care in touch with the right legal services.
Professor Rostain said: “Some students go into law firm practice but become very good translators between the IT department and lawyers.”