HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. — The Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University recently kicked off its first “Legal Tech Boot Camp” event for law school students, faculty and alumni — a day-long educational and networking experience that sharply focused on technology advancements within the legal industry and underscored the importance of lawyers amid all this innovation.
Throughout the day, students heard from a variety of speakers who discussed not only the evolution of legal technology, but also — and more importantly for law students — the opportunities available for tech-savvy students entering the job market. Indeed, students walked away with a deeper understanding of how the integration of artificial intelligence, machine learning and other research tools within law firms are assisting lawyers throughout their careers. On the same note, presenters also discussed skills that students can polish today to prepare for the continued digitization of the legal industry in the future.
Are You Fluent in Tech?
As technology continues to influence the legal market, the delivery of legal services provided by law firms continues to evolve, said Jennifer Gundlach, clinical professor of law at Hofstra.
Gundlach explained that tech innovation — whether it’s improving a product over time or developing a product that disrupts the market — is impacting how and when lawyers do their work, Gundlach states. Today, tasks that typically take more than 40% of an attorney’s time can be automated or outsourced through tech advancements including artificial intelligence-based problem solving, improved and faster processing power, as well as big data and expanded web-based search tools. The students that understand and utilize this dynamic will hold a clear advantage throughout their legal careers.
It’s imperative then that the teaching of these skills begins in law schools, to better prepare students to become tech-ready first-year associates and the fresh, original thinkers that the legal industry will continue to need.
Today, tasks that typically take more than 40% of an attorney’s time can be automated or outsourced through tech advancements including artificial intelligence-based problem solving, improved and faster processing power, as well as big data and expanded web-based search tools. The students that understand and utilize this dynamic will hold a clear advantage throughout their legal careers.
Mick Atton, VP and chief architect at Thomson Reuters, agreed, as he discussed blockchain technology and its implications within the practice of law. Atton’s presentation dove into how law firms are beginning to take advantage of blockchain technology to better manage business processes and transactions. Incoming attorneys with the knowledge and skill to think through applications of advanced technology, such as blockchain, will be valuable to these innovative firms.
Anna Steele, director of Just-Tech, also explained that more efficient processes also open doors for the overall justice system by cutting down on administrative tasks and providing opportunities for attorneys to take on more pro bono work, as well as focus on legal solutions that enable more accessibility to the public.
Practice-Ready Starts in the Classroom
The crucial value of being exposed to tech-savvy legal solutions during law school was echoed by Vern Walker, professor of law and director of the Research Laboratory for Law, Logic and Technology at Hofstra. Walker discussed how machine learning can improve legal processes, especially through applied cognitive computing and artificial intelligence, but he noted that the thinking behind this technology, starts in the classroom.
While that’s very true, Gundlach also said students shouldn’t lose sight of the risks associated with technology innovation. While some legal tasks can be automated, when humans are eliminated from the equation, law firms lose the spontaneous, creative brainwork applied to the law. “Artificial intelligence is only as good as the humans that feed the data and write the code,” Gundlach said.
During the final session, all the panelists, including Dead of Hofstra Law Judge Gail Prudenti, wrapped up the day conversing about what students should be doing today to be prepared for the future. While the answers spanned from understanding the abilities and limitations of technology to the basic ability to perform e-discovery and file, there was a general agreement that technology adaption should start in the classroom.
“It’s up to schools to get students ready to practice,” Prudenti said. “That obligation includes the use of technology in the classroom and in law firms.”