[teknoids] Can legal tech skills help?

Wilhelmina Randtke randtke at gmail.com
Fri Aug 28 07:58:49 EDT 2015

I think that for people working in law school IT, it's better to think
about just plain old IT resources you can provide, and not technology
specific to law practice.  I have the idea that the majority of law school
IT is from an academic hiring pool without legal training and the essential
background is in classroom technology.  Web development is a good area to
focus on, because basic knowledge there is an easy ubiquitous skill across
technology fields, but most law students have no idea where to start.  It's
useful as a student, because the student can put a resume and writing
samples on a URL and have a professional presence that isn't LinkedIn.
It's useful for solo and small firm practice, because a website is pretty
much a necessity for appearing legitimate.  Most wouldn't even know how to
purchase and own a domain.  And, if you look at Craigslist postings for
people selling this, most are not very skilled, and some are unethical,
holding ownership of the domain to keep lock-in, requiring payment for
simple content update, etc.  I'd done a workshop in making a website, and
the majority of students who attended that came to my office later to ask
questions later.  Just seeing that any modern website should allow the user
to log in and make simple edits to wording, and how a domain registration
works and can point at any hosting service, including stuff on wordpress.com
or other full service low end CMS with tech completely hidden, can help
them later to purchase services for web development. The concerns are the
same as for grad students in general, and then, if they go into solo
practice, the same as for small business owners.

Knowing well how to use MS Office and manipulate PDFs is also an excellent
time saving skill that many lawyers and new grads don't have, and that
doesn't require legal training to teach.

Technologies specific to law practice might be something to focus on,
depending on the level of support you give to clinics.  The needs for a law
clinic will be similar to a small firm. So, if law school IT is deeply
involved in support to the clinic, then that's where you have the
background knowledge to share.  That said, law firms and in house positions
have a tremendous variety of resources each uses.  It's more important to
focus on goals, like ticklers, and time tracking, and version control in
documents, than to try and capture a specific technology tool.  Computer
literacy and understanding the concept will let the person pick up specific
software later with an employer.  Someone who has practiced law before will
more likely know why each of those goals is important and be able to
prioritize and show the importance.  I think that's probably going to come
from the JD side of law school, and not the technology office, and this is
based on my observation that law school IT is much less likely to have
legal training or practice experience than other departments.  Really,
clinical professors are probably best skilled to do this instruction,
because they have had to grapple with practice management issues this week
in a very hands on way.

I attached the syllabus for a course in Law Practice Management Technology,
which I would have taught this summer at St. Mary's had I not left.  It is
for a four day intensive course.  The only thing that is really innovative
about it is that a big chunk of the grade was on the student tracking time
spent on assignments, and isn't that true to life.  The curriculum
committee was amenable to the topic because of the new experiential
learning requirement from the ABA, and that may be a good opportunity if
your skills and knowledge match the students' needs, although that window
will close as courses are approved at your school.  Technology topics also
tend not to be doctrinal, so are acceptable for the not-law-faculty to
teach.  I know many people on this list have taught, and if people speak
up, then maybe we can share curriculum (and, btw, list archives are
available online; from looking at old posts, attachments will go through on
list, but will not be archived).

-Wilhelmina Randtke

On Thu, Aug 27, 2015 at 11:01 AM, Edmunds, Doug <edmunds at unc.edu> wrote:

> This article paints a grim picture for the students we’re helping prepare
> for legal careers. How can we, as IT professionals working in law schools,
> help our students differentiate themselves in a very tough job market? One
> way, I would argue, is by lobbying for, helping faculty create and, where
> possible, teaching or co-teaching more law practice technology courses.
> http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/25/opinion/too-many-law-students-too-few-legal-jobs.html
> --
> Doug Edmunds
> UNC School of Law
> Assistant Dean for IT & Adjunct Instructor
> http://www.linkedin.com/in/dougedmunds
> http://twitter.com/doug_edmunds
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