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Gray Rule
March 2018 | VOLUME 19, NUMBER 2
Gray Rule
Suffolk Law School: Leading Transformation of Legal Education
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»Skill Fade: The Ethics of Lawyer Dependence on Algorithms and Technology
»Using Expected Value Calculations and Big Data to Guide Decision-Making
»Fending Off Incursions by the Big Four into the Legal Industry
»The Opportunity for "Back Office AI" in Law Firms
»Suffolk Law School: Leading Transformation of Legal Education
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Suffolk Law School: Leading Transformation of Legal EducationBy Jean O'Grady, Sr. Director of Research, Information & Knowledge Management Services, DLA Piper LLP US, Washington, DC, with Andrew Perlman, Dean of Suffolk University Law School, and Gabriel Teninbaum, Director of the Institute on Law Practice Technology & Innovation
In response to the changing legal marketplace, Suffolk University Law School is one of the law schools actively transforming the way lawyers are educated. It is preparing its students for the emerging legal technology roles described by legal futurist Richard Susskind. In this interview by Jean O'Grady, Dean Andrew Perlman and Professor Gabriel Teninbaum discuss the changes they have made and what they expect to see more in the future.

JEAN: Dean, you have played an important role in ABA initiatives impacting the transformation of the legal profession. Do you have any special insights from your role as chief reporter of the American Bar Association's Commission on Ethics 20/20 and vice chair of the ABA Commission on the Future of Legal Services?

ANDREW: The overarching lesson from both experiences is that technology, innovation, and globalization are driving tremendous changes to the way legal services are delivered. These changes hold the promise of helping the public gain better, faster, and cheaper access to legal information and services.

Does the ABA need to create more incentives for law schools to change so that students are ready to be 21st century lawyers?

ANDREW: Law schools already have all of the incentives they need to prepare students for success in the 21st century and a number of law schools are updating their curricula based on the rapidly changing marketplace.

As the Chair of the Governing Council of the ABA's new Center for Innovation, what issues is the Center be looking at?

ANDREW: The American Bar Association Center for Innovation's mission is to catalyze innovations through people, process and technology in order to improve the effectiveness, accessibility and affordability of legal information and services. Initiatives include pilot projects demonstrating how legal information and services can be delivered in new ways and a fellows program that gives junior and more experienced legal professionals the support they need to advance impactful innovations.

Some schools offer legal technology classes in order to demonstrate innovation, but Suffolk Law has gone much further. Why isn't this transformation happening faster in all law schools?

GABRIEL: It's hard for me to speak to the decision-making at other schools, but the mindset at Suffolk Law is focused on ensuring graduates are ready to be successful in the long run. That means helping them think meaningfully about incorporating new tools and approaches to their work. We also want to help them adopt a mindset that thrives in a changing world. We have a tradition at Suffolk Law of making our graduates practice-ready. Because of that, we have a faculty in place who are supportive of this worldview and are prepared to dig in and teach in cutting-edge areas.

Suffolk's Institute on Law Innovation and Technology and Legal Innovation Technology Concentration are regarded as leading initiatives in the transformation of legal education. Are there parts of the law school curriculum that haven't yet been sufficiently transformed?

GABRIEL: Law school curricula should change to meet the needs of the community the students will serve when they graduate. We've recognized that there's a need to train a new type of graduate to meet these needs. Innovation is a process, and we plan to always be in that process.

Are there any new programs or new tech-oriented classes on the horizon?

GABRIEL: We've just launched the Suffolk Law Legal Innovation & Technology Certificate, which is an online program aimed at legal professionals who want to stand out in their organizations. One of the most common questions we're asked when we speak to law firms and law departments about our work is, "how can we learn this too?" We think this program is the answer. Students are enrolling now, and classes will start May 2018.

ANDREW: We've also launched a Legal Innovation & Technology Lab (LIT Lab). The LIT Lab is essentially a new kind of clinical program. The "client" is an organization, such as a legal aid office, that wants to make more efficient use of limited resources. LIT Lab students review the organization's processes and help it develop and implement cost-saving solutions.

Is Suffolk Law trying to enroll a different kind of student than it was ten years ago?

GABRIEL: We're always interested in enrolling students who want to use their legal education to make an impact. What it requires to "make an impact" will look different in the future. As a result, we've drawn a slightly different crowd: people who are also interested in delivering terrific impactful solutions in a new way. Our interest in educating difference-makers remains intact.

What experience prior to law school would help a student excel at Suffolk?

GABRIEL: In terms of the legal innovation & technology program, the obvious answer probably would be a background in computer science, engineering, or the like but our program is really designed to help any law student with the desire to succeed in the legal innovation and technology space.

Do you require all faculty to embrace innovation?

ANDREW: We don't require faculty to embrace any particular approach or method. We want our faculty to prepare our students for professional success, and there are many different ways to that end. A diversity of styles and approaches is actually the best way to find out what is effective and what's not.

Do you believe that Suffolk is changing the law school market?

ANDREW: I don't know if we are changing the market, but we are on the leading edge of it. A number of law schools have begun to offer legal innovation and technology courses and curricula since we started, and it is terrific to see.

Have you begun to incorporate data science skills, critical analysis of algorithms, and AI in classes?

GABRIEL: Absolutely. We offer several courses that cover these topics. One, Coding the Law, is being taught by former data scientist David Colarusso, who joined as a clinical fellow directing our new Legal Innovation & Technology Lab. We've even gone so far as introducing a hands-on exercise in expert system design, a branch of AI, as part of orientation, so that all of our students are exposed to it.

Suffolk appears to have embraced Richard Susskind's definition of new lawyer roles, such as legal knowledge engineers, legal technologists, legal process analysts, legal project managers, and legal risk managers. Are students beginning school expecting to be on the partnership track but later shift their interest to legal innovation? Or are they arriving with the intention of going into legal tech?

GABRIEL: For years, we gave students Susskind's book Tomorrow's Lawyers right when they walked in the door. Reading it helped many shape their career plans in light of what we expect the future of legal work to look like. We've had graduates successfully get hired in the sorts of roles Susskind describes—jobs like Legal Solutions Architect, and SCRUM Master. We've also had graduates use their legal-tech training to enter traditional legal jobs with a skillset that will let them be more efficient and effective. The more people learn about what we're doing, the more students arrive with an interest in legal tech.

Do law firms bear part of the blame for lack of innovation in legal education because they are not changing their recruiting criteria? They are not demanding that law schools produce lawyers with both legal analysis and technical skills. Or are you already seeing a shift in the skills firms are looking for when firms recruit associates?

ANDREW: There is plenty of blame to go around in terms of the slow pace of change. That said, if more employers demand that graduates have new knowledge and skills, I am confident that more and more law schools will adapt to those demands. In general, recruiting is still fairly conventional but there are interesting new jobs within law firms that did not exist a few years ago, like legal project manager and legal solutions architect. Those professionals are being recruited in different ways.

Have ALM 200 firms started recruiting your students specifically for their legal tech expertise?

GABRIEL: Yes, and we welcome it. For example, we've had a long relationship with the De Novo Group at Davis Wright & Tremaine. They share our vision of legal work, which includes leveraging process improvement and new technologies. We also have relationships with major in-house law departments, including those at Liberty Mutual Insurance and General Electric, which have hired our students specifically to work on legal innovation.

How do you think law schools should address the ethics of relying on algorithms in practice?

GABRIEL: We teach our students about both the benefits and drawbacks of various technologies. Inappropriate reliance on algorithms is certainly a theme we weave into more than one course, and there's a constant reminder that technology is there to serve people; and that when it can result in injustices, we have to be vigilant about how it's used.

In early 2018, Judicata released a study where they used their Clerk product to "grade" law firm briefs. That appears to be a technology that could have some great teaching applications. Do you think lawyers are also going to be competing with machines?

GABRIEL: In a sense, that's nothing new: anyone who worked in the era before online legal research or eDiscovery can attest to the changing balance of workload between people and machines. I'd predict that, over time, machines will become competitive in areas that were previously believed to be human-only tasks. We think that, with the right training, people can become skilled at harnessing this to do better work.

Have any students started projects which have become commercial products or adopted by Access to Justice Organizations?

GABRIEL: Our students have come up with dozens of projects that have become incorporated in the real world. For just a flavor, we keep a list of them on the course site for Coding the Law. Just this year, our students have created chatbots to determine if someone is eligible for appointed counsel or fee waivers; web-scraping bots that monitor legal information; and statistical/machine learning analyses. We expect more projects to come out of the LIT Lab mentioned earlier.

Dean, what technology that exists now do you most wish had been available when you were a law firm associate 20 years ago?

ANDREW: E-discovery and automated document assembly. I spent a lot of time as an associate reviewing documents page by page; e-discovery tools would have saved me a lot of time on tasks that were not "at the top of my license." And there were certain kinds of documents that I had to create frequently, such as interrogatories and document requests (or the responses to them). I would have loved a tool that allowed me to generate those requests and responses in a more automated way rather than copying and pasting language from old documents.

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