OK, We Get Technology Competence, But How Do We Get Technologically Competent?

The past week brought news of two more initiatives that should further promote technology competence among legal professionals.

Robert Ambrogi
December 18, 2017

By now, you’ve probably heard of the duty of technology competence. As more and more states adopt it, more and more articles get written about it, and more and more CLEs get presented about it. But the focus of all this is largely on the nature and scope of the duty. One aspect we hear little about is how lawyers can get and remain technologically competent.


There are no easy answers to that question. Florida has taken the most dramatic step, not only mandating tech competence but also mandating technology training. The first and only state to do this, Florida requires that lawyers complete three hours of CLE every three years in approved technology programs.


Another option for law firms and legal departments seeking to promote technology competence is the Legal Technology Assessment developed by Casey Flaherty and his company Procertas. The LTA assesses legal professionals’ proficiency with the basic technology tools they use every day — Word, Excel, and PDF — and provides training on tasks in which they are deficient.


Now, there is further progress. The past week brought news of two more initiatives that should further promote technology competence among legal professionals. One is online training for lawyers in legal innovation and technology, the other an index tracking how well law schools are preparing students to deliver legal services in the 21st Century.


Certificate in Legal Technology


The training program, unveiled last week by Suffolk University Law School in Boston, is a series of six online courses designed to teach lawyers and other legal professionals how to deliver their services more effectively and efficiently. Those who complete all six courses will earn Suffolk’s legal innovation and technology certificate.

The six courses will cover:

  • Legal Operations, taught by Lucy Bassli, assistant general counsel for legal operations and contracting at Microsoft.
  • Process Improvement & Legal Project Management, taught by Catherine Alman MacDonagh, founder and CEO of the Legal Lean Sigma Institute.
  • 21st Century Legal Profession, taught by Jordan Furlong, legal market analyst and forecaster.
  • Design Thinking for Legal Professionals, taught by Robert Taylor, vice president and senior corporate counsel at Liberty Mutual Insurance.
  • The Business of Delivering Legal Services, with the instructor to be determined.
  • Legal Technology Toolkit, taught by Erika Rickard, associate director of field research at the Access to Justice Lab at Harvard Law School.


The first two courses are slated to begin next summer, with another two released in the fall semester and the final two in the spring semester. Enrollment is open now.


The director of the program, Suffolk Professor Gabriel Teninbaum, who also directs Suffolk’s Institute on Legal Innovation and Technology, told me that he and Suffolk Law Dean Andrew Perlman were inspired to start the program by the many practitioners who approached them asking where they could learn the types of skills Suffolk is teaching law students.

Each course will run for 10 to 12 weeks and require about two to five hours of student time per week. Participants may take all six courses to earn a certificate or take individual courses. The cost will be roughly $3,000 per course, with a discount for signing up for all six, Teninbaum said.


Law School Innovation Index


In August, Daniel W. Linna Jr., director of The Center for Legal Services Innovation at Michigan State University College of Law, introduced the Legal Services Innovation Index, a project to track Innovation and tech adoption at law firms.


Now, Linna and his research team have added the Law School Innovation Index, with the goal of measuring how well law schools are preparing students to deliver legal services in the 21st Century.


Last week’s “prototype” launch highlights 38 law school programs. It is based primarily on Linna’s and his research team’s knowledge of the market, rather than exhaustive research. But Linna’s plan is eventually to add all 200-plus U.S. law schools.


“In this prototype, we begin with the premise that law schools must teach students about legal-service delivery innovation and technology,” the website explains. “We distinguish between the study of legal-service delivery innovation and technology (i.e., innovation and technology applied to improve legal-service delivery), on the one hand, and the study of law where it intersects with technology (i.e., law applied to technology, what we call ‘law and [technology]’ courses), on the other hand.”


The index finds that Chicago-Kent College of Law and Michigan State University College of Law are at the top of the list for innovation. Among other top-ranking law schools are Stanford Law SchoolUniversity of Miami School of LawNorthwestern Pritzker School of LawVermont Law SchoolHarvard Law SchoolGeorgetown Law, and Suffolk University Law School.


“We should be teaching lawyers about the business of law, process management, how to use data, and how to be entrepreneurial,” Linna told me. “We want to give law schools a roadmap for how to do this.”

About The Author

Robert J. Ambrogi’s career has taken him straight to the intersection of law, journalism and technology. A lawyer, journalist and ADR professional, Bob is known internationally for his expertise in the Internet and legal technology. Bob is the only person ever to hold the top editorial positions ...

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