Hip Law Profs Helping Shape NextGen Lawyers

Last week was ABA Techshow, which is regularly one of the year’s best technology-for-lawyers events. It’s a cool show with practitioners, vendors, media, bloggers and other thought leaders, with several practical (and fun) seminars and presentations.

About a week before the show, while we were prepping to attend, I spotted another contribution to the recent flood of Debbie Downer articles about law school: It Is Now Completely Clear To Everyone That Law School Is For Suckers. Yuck.

While there’s certainly some truth in the recent volume of critique, it’s also evident that it’s become sort of hip these days to dump on law school – there are too many, the curriculum is too dated, etc. It’s easy to find plenty of negative.

Time for some good news.

While doing some of my own CLE, I stumbled upon some of the work of Professor Daniel Martin Katz from Michigan State Law School. Professor Katz (who also writes for the very interesting Computational Legal Studies blog) is both working on some cutting edge research and also taking an active role in ensuring that tomorrow’s professionals are armed with the kind of statistical and data analysis skills that are routinely utilized in other disciplines. It’s the kind of forward-looking stuff that will help these students be better prepared to service increasingly demanding clients while also being in a strong position to themselves help shape the quality and efficiency of advocacy for the entire profession.

By way of example, academics have already built statistical models that have been demonstrated to forecast Supreme Court case outcomes more accurately than experts. (The model predicted 75% of the Court’s affirm/reverse results correctly, while the experts collectively got 59.1% right.)  This kind of approach to the law might make Professor Kingsfield a little jittery, but with the emergence of things like the UK Legal Service Act – and with Watson shaking his (her?) baby rattle at lawyers – it’s absolutely essential that we make sure law schools are adapting and prepare for the future. Quantitative modeling of litigation and other disputes, the rapid adoption of new practice-related technology, artificial intelligence – it’s all squarely on the roadmap for our profession, and closing in fast.

I met Professor Katz and a colleague of his, Professor Adam Candeub, at ABA Techshow. It was fun to speak with them and listen to some of their ideas about training the next generation of lawyers. It’s really encouraging. Equally fun was the chance to spend a little time with a few of their current students – who the Profs directed to the show – each curious, asking questions, trying out technology and engaging some of the vendors. Cultivating a genuine interest in technology while they’re law students is going to pay huge rewards later in their careers, not just for themselves, but for clients and colleagues as well.

Check out what these profs are up to; I think you’ll enjoy it. For a good intro-level CLE, check out Professor Katz’s presentation from LegalTech 2012, titled: “Can You Actually Make Quantitative Legal Predictions”, now available here.

(image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/susivinh/6958130375/)