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The Future of Legal

Introducing Tech to the Law Classroom

Photo: Courtesy of Mikael Kristenson

Rémy Bonnaffé, LL.M.

Co-Founder and Co-President, Columbia Law School Legal Technology Association

Legal education in the United States and around the world is rapidly changing to embrace the recent evolutions in the area of legal technology. The reason for this evolution is perfectly phrased in recent report published by BCG and the Bucerius Law School: “In the future, the business of law will require fewer … junior lawyers and more legal technicians. Accordingly, law schools may need to offer courses on legal tech.”

Open enrollment ​​​​​​​

One of the pioneers of such new offerings is Stanford, in particular its Center for Legal Informatics known as CodeX. Other schools have increased their offerings on legal technology, too. Georgetown Law, for example, offers a course “Computer Programming for Lawyers.” Harvard offers a class on “Law 2.0: Technology’s Impact on the Practice of Law.” Meanwhile, Cornell Law School recently launched a new LL.M. program on “Law Technology and Entrepreneurship.”

The proliferation of course offerings on legal technology results in an important choice law schools have to make. On the one hand, law schools may provide future lawyers with the tools in order to create technologies themselves. This seems to be the approach of Georgetown Law with its programming class. On the other hand, law schools may rather want to focus on teaching law students the core principles of certain technologies, without necessarily teaching those students to effectively use those technologies themselves.

A possible approach

The latter approach was taken by the Columbia Law School, which this year offered for the first time a one-week intensive class on “Data and Predictive Coding for Lawyers.” The aim of the class was not for law students to be able to create machine learning models themselves, but rather to understand the technology underlying machine learning. The goal is to make law students literate on machine learning in order to spot automation opportunities and translate such needs to computer programmers.

What all of these initiatives have in common is clear. With an increasing amount of studies predicting the automation of certain aspects of the legal services market, being equipped with a thorough understanding of legal technology creates a valuable opportunity for law students to enter legal practice and become leaders in their respective fields.

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