Brooklyn Law School, during the Summer 2017 semester, has taken a first step with its Externship Seminar – Tech Tools For Law Practice, in teaching technology to law students. As more and more states take note of ABA Standard RPC 1.1 Comment  and add state level rules which require that lawyers have basic technology competency, more law schools are responding and adding technology courses to their course offerings.
A session at CALI Con 2017, Teaching Law Practice Tech to Law Students – State of the Art, discussed three major themes aimed at teaching a new technology course. Michael Robak offered a walkthrough of the approval process for proposing a new technology course and provided tips for getting faculty and administrative officials onboard. A recent comment, Winning the Battle to Teach Legal Technology and Innovation at Law Schools by Christy Burke, states that many law schools are not yet convinced that this kind of practical non-theoretical education is their responsibility. However, she notes several examples, such as Stanford Law School’s Legal Design Lab, Vanderbilt Law School’s Technology in Legal Practice and Oklahoma University Law’s Digital Initiative, that offer a counterweight to that resistance.
Nichelle “Nikki” Perry discussed methods and options for choosing course content. Knowing where and how your students will practice can make a difference in class coverage. Stacey Rowland gave an overview of a recently taught course at the University of North Carolina discussing technology for new lawyers. This course covered topics such as Advanced Legal Research through Ravel and Bloomberg Law Litigation Analytics, using Word Styles as a foundation for document automation, asking students to construct a mock law firm website, litigation support services as well as hands on experience with CLIO and kCura’s Relativity.
In Brooklyn Law School’s Tech Tools for Law Practice seminar, the first assignment was to have the students complete a Legal Technology Assessment to determine how fluent they were with the basic technology tools of their trade: Word, Excel, and PDF. The website Procertas helped us to answer the question of what are the tech skills we should be teaching law students to better prepare them for working in the “real world?” See Tech Comes Naturally to ‘Digital Native’ Millennials? That’s A Myth by Darth Vaughn and Casey Flaherty which relates that testing of hundreds of law school students resulted in scores as low as 33 percent when asked to complete some simple Word tasks such as:
- Accept/Turn-off track changes
- Cut & Paste
- Replace text
- Format font and paragraph
- Fix footers
- Insert hyperlink
- Apply/Modify style
- Insert/Update cross-references
- Insert page break
- Insert non-breaking space
- Clean document properties
- Create comparison document (i.e., a redline)
Hopefully, as more law schools incorporate teaching law technology into the curriculum, those scores will improve.