ABA Techshow

Law school tech classes may not bring job opportunities, but they do help teach practice skills

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Chicago-Kent College of Law students can learn about legal analytics. Students at Emory University School of Law in Atlanta have the opportunity to work in startup groups with MBA students, as well as graduate-level students from the Georgia Institute of Technology. And at the University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law, students taking a class about representing people who experienced domestic violence hear stories from “virtual victim” avatars to learn about the listening process.

All these offerings were discussed Thursday by an ABA Techshow 2020 panel titled “Innovation Foundation: Forward-Thinking Law School Curriculum,” at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Chicago.

Some panelists said lawyers will call them, and these lawyers are specifically looking for clerks or new lawyers who have technology skills.

“We are having judges say, ‘Hey, your students can bill time. I didn’t know they taught that in law school; keep doing it.’ So we are starting to see the skills needed, but it’s not necessarily showing up [as a job request] in the career services office yet,” said panelist Jennifer L. Wondracek, director of legal educational technology and a professor of practice at the University of North Texas at Dallas College of Law.

Follow along with the ABA Journal’s coverage of the ABA Techshow 2020 here.

Other speakers on the panel were Nicole N. Morris, a clinical professor Emory University School of Law, and Alexander Rabanal, a research fellow and associate director of the Law Lab at Chicago-Kent College of Law. The panel was introduced by Allan Mackenzie, who is the ABA Techshow 2020’s co-vice-chair and is a founding partner of Arizona’s Mackenzie Consulting.

Chicago-Kent has a technology certification program, and Rabanal said it provides a highlight for students to put on their resumés.

“But, more importantly, it gets students comfortable with these topics in a way that allows them to stand out in their interviews,” he said.

Morris, a patent lawyer, also directs the Technological Innovation: Generating Economic Results program at Emory, which brings together graduate students from Emory and the Georgia Institute of Technology to work on startup projects.

Sometimes the law students teach the students from other disciplines lessons, but they have some learning to do, as well, she said.

“My take on teams where you pair law students with an evening student is that, ‘This is your client.’ This is the person who is short on time, who really needs to get to the heart of the problem. So there are efficiency gains as part of the peer-to-peer learning.”

The class is also good for learning how to collaborate successfully in professional settings, according to Morris.

“There is this awakening—if someone is part of a somewhat-dysfunctional team, they have to be part of the solution. This is your chance to start learning how to build that muscle, because guess what: If you are on a litigation team, there will be the same difficult people, and you have to learn how to manage them,” she said.

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