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Should Legal Technology Be Studied In Law School?

Adam Bottner - DTI

This article originally appeared in Law Technology Today.

According to IDC’s Digital Universe study, the world’s data will double each year from now until 2020. This extensive growth is impacting every industry, its professions, and the way individuals are handling it. In the legal industry, there are technologies to streamline the discovery process in litigation. It’s essential that current and future litigators better understand how these technologies can help them attain the goal of Rule 1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures, i.e. to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.

Faced with the ever increasing volumes of data in litigation, using advanced technology to review the data has become a necessity rather than a luxury. Lawyers about to join the future workforce, who are lucky enough to have worked with these legal technologies, will be able to leverage their knowledge and training to enhance their careers. Dean Harold Krent at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law has been very supportive in promoting legal technology specific courses that can help better prepare students for more job opportunities in the current competitive market. As an adjunct professor teaching eDiscovery at Chicago-Kent, I’ve been very fortunate to be part of the movement to help law students be better prepared to use legal technology in the legal process.

The ABA Model Rules recognize that to maintain his or her requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology. So litigators need to better understand the process that will be used to cull, search, and produce data in discovery. As my co-instructor Cinthia Motley says, “There is no big or small e-discovery case anymore. Every case is an e-discovery case.” However, it’s hard to understand the technology without experiencing it first hand. Hands-on training was not always available in law schools. Now, through programs like the Relativity Academic Partner program, there are curricula which allow students to log into the same legal technology that is being used by global law firms, corporations, and service providers. By getting insight into how the software works and how they can use it to simplify the litigation process, students will be better prepared for their careers after graduation.

The use of advanced analytics is a fast-growing aspect of legal technology. Technology-assisted review (TAR) was recently approved in a judicial decision in the UK, following in the footsteps of several such decisions in the past few years in the US. This semester our students will have the opportunity to use the same analytics technology that is being used by 85 percent of Relativity accounts worldwide. This is an amazing opportunity for these students. Being able to understand how analytics can amplify the efforts of manual review to defensibly drive down the costs of a high data volume case is just one of many ways current students can differentiate themselves in a future career.

With experience in e-discovery, graduates aren’t limited to careers in a firm or corporate setting. They’ll have the opportunity to join a $10 billion industry—the world of e-discovery seeks technologists, project managers, litigation support professionals, even workflow specialists for an e-discovery software developer. If a graduate chooses to begin as an associate with aspirations to partner, her additional expertise in legal technology can help make her the go-to person in the firm. If future lawyers want to have more options in their careers and have more career choices, they should do everything they can to familiarize themselves with current and emerging legal technology.

The administration at Chicago-Kent was very supportive in the development of an e-discovery class, realizing that promoting the use of legal technology will better prepare their students for employment after graduation. The students agreed—in Spring 2015, our e-discovery class enrollment increased by 33 percent from 2014.

For too long, many attorneys viewed technology as an obstacle to doing their job. Our class at Chicago-Kent, and classes like it, is trying to change that mindset to help future lawyers understand that embracing legal technology creates opportunities.

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