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[berkman] Gene Koo on tech, law and legal ed

On one of the few beautiful days of the spring so far, Gene Koo is talking to a packed house at the Berkman Center. He’s talking about his research into how tech is affecting how lawyers practice and teach. He interviewed many people and surveyed 142 LexisNexis users with fewer than 7 years experience. [As always, I’m taking notes, missing stuff, getting things wrong, etc.]

Background trends: Legal practice and education are bifurcating. Megapractices are arising. Torrential amounts of data. The minimal amount of tech lawyers need is rising.

New skills: Data dieting, techno-social skills, neta-lawyering, and basic tech management.

Data dieting. Finding high-quality data, efficiently. Knowledge Management has a role here, reusing knowledge assets. But, when it’s easier to see the attachments at EDGAR than to hunt down what the lawyers in your own firm have written, the knowledge landscape has changed.

Techno-social. His survey showed that a good chunk of practicing lawyers are on 6 or more teams at any one time. And typically over half the people on a team are not in your office. There is, however, an attitude that collaborating “drags you down.”

Meta-lawyering. Developing systems of practice, e.g., scanning in docs, automating doc development, case management and evaluation. Meta-lawyering fomralizes tacit knowledge, requiring some wisdom about the patterns one needs to look for.

Basic tech skills. Small practices lag in their tech infrastructure. (The majority of lawyers are solo practitioneers or in small firms.)

So, who should be teaching? Very few are teaching practice skills. The schools generally don’t teach them, but the firms don’t either, especially the small and mid-size ones. Maybe this could be done by a network of law schools. E.g., Harvard has a good program on the practice of negotiations, wihle Brigham Young teaches the skill of interviewing and counseling.

How to learn? It’s easier to add courses, but harder to integrate practice into the existing legal curriculum. E.g., you could add practice in writing contracts to a course on contracts. Law schools, however, say they don’t want to become “trade schools.” Gene recommends thinking of the practical part as “labs.” Also, it could be taught through simulations.

Gene points to the possibility of taking FaceBook as a model of groupware for study groups. Perhaps clinical students could use — or develop — a case management system, or expert legal systems.

Q: Are there core skills that would be worth teaching to all lawyers?
A: The MacCrate report has a list, starting with knowing how to talk with clients.

Gene would like to set up a SecondLife space where law students could get property, a set of rules, and try to live together.

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2 Responses to “[berkman] Gene Koo on tech, law and legal ed”

  1. ‘Law schools, however, say they don’t want to become “trade schools.” ‘
    If they’re not trade schools, what are they?

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