To measure the quality of law schools, rankings often look at things like test scores, student debt profiles, career and salary statistics. While all of these are useful, a new development suggests another crucial component to add to an aspiring lawyer’s search for schools: technology.
The measures above are used in current rankings because they offer a snapshot of whether law schools are producing graduates with skillsets needed to thrive in their careers. But many increasingly believe these refer to traditional skillsets, which may not be enough to become a leading 21st century lawyer.
As we stand on the cusp of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, law schools with a firm grasp of the potential of tech will truly give students an edge over competition.
According to the 2019 Future Ready Lawyer Survey from Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory, 53 percent of lawyers indicate their organization’s technology investment will increase over the next three years. The independently conducted survey of 700 lawyers from Europe and the US also found that both regions agree that the two greatest areas of change in how firms and law departments deliver service will be related to greater use of technology and greater specialization. Deep knowledge in legal technology will thus be key to being competitive and practice-ready in an industry that will soon be forced to rapidly transform.
In the US, there’s a law school that specializes in this subject: Suffolk Law School.
It’s known as National Jurist’s best law school for legal technology for daring to be different. It pioneered a concentration that helps students learn how to deliver legal services more effectively using technology and innovation. It set up the Institute on Legal Innovation and Technology in 2013 to oversee programs, projects and new courses with a student-centered approach in using technology to deliver law-related services in innovative ways.
The Legal Innovation & Technology (LIT Lab) is part of the Institute, an experiential program that allows students to work as part of a consultancy and research and development (R&D) shop focused on legal tech and data science work.
David Colarusso, Director of the school’s LIT Lab, said: “Our projects have ranged from the creation of expert systems/guided interviews (chatbots) to the training of algorithms to replicate existing human decisions…We worked with a personal injury law firm to train an algorithm to help them figure out if would-be clients were a good fit for the firm based on historic data.”
Other examples include an access to justice game, selected as one of the most powerful, game-changing projects at the World Justice Project in The Hague, and an app for judges and lawyers that helps juveniles avoid jail time (Nicole Siino, the student creator was named an ABA Next Gen Fellow).
Courses taught at Suffolk Law are also breaking new ground. The Legal Innovation & Technology (LIT) Concentration has helped many students prepare for new kinds of legal roles. Recent graduates have landed jobs that didn’t exist 10 years ago, with titles like Legal Innovation Advisor, Legal Solutions Architect, Legal Project Manager and NextGen Fellow.
Gerald Glover III JD ’15, former student of Suffolk Law’s Legal Innovation & Technology (LIT) Concentration, can attest to this. Today, the legal solutions architect contributes to his firm Davis Wright Tremaine in a novel but significant way. Rather than representing clients, his efforts “are geared toward creating innovative business solutions to problems that often involve numerous stakeholders and departments.” His work falls under the areas of project management, process improvement, data visualization, and alternative staffing resources, he said.
Other notable alumni include Scott Gerwin JD’06, senior counsel at Google – the legal mind behind Stadia, Google’s cloud-based streaming video game service, and Brian Kuhn JD’07, Partner, Co-Founder and Global Leader of IBM’s legal cognitive intelligence platform, the Watson Legal Practice.
Suffolk Law also pioneered the LL.M. in Global Law and Technology back in 2003. This specialized degree was one of the first programs in the U.S. to combine additional specializations within an LL.M. degree in up-and-coming fields, such as Intellectual Property and Information Technology; Biotechnology and Health Law, or International Law and Business.
Suffolk Law’s forward-thinking education strategy meshes well with Boston’s role as a global hub in the innovation economy. According to an annual survey of the tech industry conducted by management consultancy KPMG, Boston is the ninth-likeliest city globally to become the “leading technology innovation hub outside of Silicon Valley over the next four years.”
Statistics show that Suffolk Law is an invaluable asset to the city. Thirty percent of the patent law partners in the largest firms in Massachusetts are Suffolk Law graduates.
National Jurist Associate Editor, Tyler Roberts, called Suffolk Law “one of the most innovative forces in legal education.” It may be cliché to say a school “produces practice-ready lawyers,” writes Roberts, “but the folks at Suffolk University Law School are redefining what that term means in the 21st century.”