Technology has created a global evolution in legal services. Technology is warily accepted by many law professors, but only for the purpose of achieving traditional educational objectives. But, what if educators viewed technology as a competency that students need to master in order to succeed in practice? From scanning documents to using case management tools, basic useful technology taught in law school curriculum can go a long way for law students.
Technology may be transforming legal practice, but that transformation has hardly changed the way law professors teach. Many are change-averse and use the methods that their own professors employed a generation before.
Another concern of law professors is that technology is unreliable. Most law professors love to communicate and connect with students, and they feel that the class is under their control. Technology introduces an unwelcome element of uncertainty and stress into their comfort zone. After all, nobody likes to have technology fail while in front of an audience.
Every lawyer needs to use a laptop or some other computer to work effectively. Students should be encouraged to always take class notes on a laptop, or a tablet, using Microsoft Word, Evernote, or Google Docs, because it’ll help in synthesizing those notes later in the term.
But, certain measures must be adopted by professors to enable a tech-friendly environment. Listening and seeing the successes of colleagues can demystify technology for reluctant professors. If faculty cannot teach with technology, then they will never teach students how to use technology in practice.
Some technologies that should be taught to law students in the law school is-
- E-Discovery- Responsive information is not in a file cabinet anymore, it is digital: on phones, websites, Facebook, e-mail, and voicemail messages, among many others. Law students should be aware of e-discovery tools and how to make efficient use of them to save their time.
- Presentation Skills- PowerPoint presentations hold key importance in legal parlance. Attorneys are expected to deliver a much better presentation to their listeners.
- Marketing/Web Design/Social Media- In this era of unbundled legal services, in which potential clients increasingly choose online self-help options, more than half of law firms do not have a website. Many others spend thousands on web development, but end up with a site that is not user-friendly.
- Hardware/Software/Mobile- Lawyers, especially those in solo or small environments, have to make numerous choices about technology. Lawyers and recent graduates have little or no law school training to call upon; they can hire consultants to make recommendations, or IT support firms to fix something if it breaks, but many simply do the best they can.
- Case Management Lawyers- Lawyers utilize a variety of tools to help manage client and case information. These systems can manage virtually all aspects of a practice, including sharing contacts and calendars; indexing, storing, and retrieving documents (including e-mail); tracking time, and billing clients.
- The possibility of incorporating technology skills into the law school curriculum has revealed a lack of technologically savvy law graduates. It is often believed that if you work for a law firm or other business, critical technology choices have already been made for you, including case management software, research databases, website design, and policies on client communication.
But sometimes, even larger organizations are uncertain about the use of technology especially when facing a dearth of tech-savvy lawyers. Technology proficiency is recognized as a competency for lawyers, they stand a better chance of getting hired by a decent law firm. Traditional ways of hiring will slowly be replaced by those law graduates who are familiar with technological tools used in law practice.
Graduates opting for regular legal practice in courts will also be benefitted by tech literacy by being able to provide better services to their clients. Technology will help in reducing costs as well. Veteran lawyers repel the use of technology, they believe that technology will make them lose personal connection with their clients.
Understanding of and facility with technology is one of those skills, including negotiation, communication, and fact investigation, that lawyers must be acquainted with. For lawyers, effective use of technology means new clients, stronger work product, and more efficient use of time; for law students, it means better job prospects and a smoother transition into practice. Technology is truly transforming the practice of law.
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