The New Normal

How this duo is trying to ReInvent law school

Posted May 9, 2013 1:30 PM CDT
By Daniel Martin Katz and Renee Newman Knake

Editor’s note: Last week Paul Lippe noted several programs shaking up the traditional legal ed model. Here, two professors share details about one of those programs.

Greetings from ReInvent Law, our law laboratory devoted to technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship at Michigan State University College of Law. You read that right. We are law professors with a laboratory where we teach technology, analytics, innovation, and entrepreneurship in legal services. We are law professors devoted to training lawyers for the law jobs of the 21st century. And yes, math will be on the exam. This is the New Normal in legal education.

The legal services and products industry is undergoing a significant transition. For many current and future legal jobs, understanding the law is a necessary but no longer sufficient condition for success. We believe that part of the solution to the crisis currently facing the law profession and legal education involves principles of technology, legal analytics, design thinking, and the advent of new, process-driven delivery models.

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Dan Katz

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Renee Knake

Entrepreneurship is one cross-cutting and core component that is often missing in legal education. At most institutions, {law + entrepreneurship} involves law students advising would-be entrepreneurs. While we support such efforts, this conception largely misses significant, emerging opportunities that are being created in the legal market. To this end, we are interested in training lawyers to be entrepreneurs, not merely to advise them. This training is useful for a variety of future pursuits, whether to better understand clients or to embark on one’s own entrepreneurial endeavor. Along with traditional legal training, entrepreneurship pedagogy also can help inspire students to curate new markets for legal services and thereby help fill the vast access-to-justice gap. Many appropriately bemoan the reality that millions in this country go without needed legal representation, but few actually craft scalable solutions to help tackle the problem. Clinics are simply not sufficient. The answer is better regulatory and business models with technology and analytics as core components.

We do not purport to have solved all of the issues in legal education, but we are working thoughtfully and quickly to offer students the additional skills that employers have told us would make a difference in their respective hiring decisions. Most law students are not fully practice-ready at the moment of graduation. However, anyone can make meaningful contributions when they walk in the door, especially those trained in skills relevant to the growing use of technology and data analytics in legal services. To that end, we have launched a set of courses designed to equip a new crop of law students to add value immediately. These courses include: e-discovery, entrepreneurial lawyering, lawyer regulation and ethics in a technology-driven world, legal information engineering, quantitative methods for lawyers, and virtual law practice. Additional courses planned include topics such as project management, legal analytics, economics of the legal market, design thinking for lawyers, and artificial intelligence and law.

We also fill the gap left by continuing legal education for practicing attorneys through our 21st Century Law Practice Summer Program in London, an intensive two-week study of new markets and delivery models and the technology-infused law jobs of the future. This program is open to practicing attorneys, graduate students in law, and JD students. Three classes are offered: a one-week course on legal information engineering (an introduction to legal technology, analytics, and design); a one-week course on the United Kingdom’s Legal Services Act (the legislation that recently liberalized the UK law market, inspiring dozens of new alternative businesses structures for legal services); and a two-week course on new models and markets for legal services. The program culminates in ReInvent Law London, a unique networking opportunity bringing together thought leaders in law, technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship from North America, Europe, and beyond.

As Ray Bayley of Novus Law recently told our students at MSU Law: “Legal is an industry with huge disintermediation opportunities.”

Innovators in the American legal services market are not waiting for regulators to liberalize rules on law practice that stifle innovation, such as the ban on non-lawyer ownership of law firms. The success of these innovators likely means that we will see more opportunities for lawyer-entrepreneurs jumping in to offer affordable, accessible, user-friendly legal services at all levels of the market.

Law educators, for the most part, have done an inadequate job responding to the changes in the legal marketplace. While there are a handful of exceptions, some still believe that “nothing has really changed” or are “waiting for things to get back to normal.” As readers of this column well know, however, that wait is already over. We are living the New Normal. And the New Normal requires that law graduates be equipped with more than legal expertise when they enter law practice. The bottom line is that legal educators need to pick up shovels and get to work.

The New Normal for legal education demands that law professors do more than teach and publish in their specialty niches. We launched ReInvent Law one year ago as untenured law professors. We did so because while we had championed in our teaching and scholarship the need for reform of law practice regulations and the importance of technology and data analytics for law, we realized that none of this matters if we are not willing to roll up our sleeves and actually build the things we write and teach about. In the past few months, our law lab has immersed students in beta-testing of emerging online legal services products, researching untapped law markets, and developing new tools for enhanced delivery of legal services. We have taken our motto of law+technology+design+delivery literally around the world, organizing free and open events in Silicon Valley, Dubai and London bringing together hundreds of individuals interested in building new models and reaching new markets in legal services. Our ReInvent Law Channel shares the wealth of knowledge gathered from dozens of thought leaders speaking at these events.

Welcome to the future of legal education (already in progress). Roll up your sleeves, grab a shovel, and join us!


Daniel Martin Katz, an assistant professor at Michigan State University College of Law, is the co-founder and co-director of the ReInvent Law Laboratory. His wide variety of academic interests include legal informatics, entrepreneurship, quantitative modeling of litigation and jurisprudence, legal complexity, lawyer regulation, positive legal theory, and the overall impact of information technology, analytics and automation on the market for legal services. For more about his work, check out this blog, Computational Legal Studies.

Renee Newman Knake, an associate professor at Michigan State University College of Law, is the co-founder and co-director of the ReInvent Law Laboratory. Her scholarly interests include innovation in the distribution of legal services, the First Amendment, regulation of lawyers in the U.S. and the U.K., and the portrayal of lawyers in literature and media. Most recently she has turned her energies to consider ways that law, technology, and social media can democratize the delivery of legal services and enhance the practice of law.

Editor’s note: The New Normal is an ongoing discussion between Paul Lippe, the CEO of Legal OnRamp, Patrick Lamb, founding member of Valorem Law Group and their guests. New Normal contributors spend a lot of time thinking, writing and speaking about the changes occurring in the delivery of legal services. You’re invited to join their discussion.

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