Anticipating the demands of a changing legal profession
In a 2016 law review article, lawyer and entrepreneur Paul Lippe wrote the following: “Over the last generation, law and lawyers have fallen further behind other fields in their level of innovation, the use of new tools to improve productivity, and thoughtful design to respond to complexity. While some of this is inherent in the nature of law, much of it needs to change if lawyers hope to retain the respected role of their profession.”
One of the objectives of Fordham Law Forward, the School’s strategic plan, is to anticipate the demands of a changing legal profession. This means, in part, adapting the School’s curriculum to address emerging dimensions of legal practice. Fordham Law students must gain exposure to new technologies if they are to solve the complex legal problems they will face in an increasingly interconnected digital world.
More than simply asking of its users a basic knowledge of the latest gadget, technology changes the way lawyers think. It reorients our conception of legal problems, the types of questions we ask, and the information that we gather. In other words, technology does not simply usher in new tools; it heralds a new process of thought, a different system of analysis. Fordham Law is heeding the digital call—to ensure that our future legal leaders serve their clients with the full range of perspective and understanding that is available to them.
– Matthew Diller
As a first-year associate, Janet Freilich received a daunting and bewildering assignment: examining a mass of legal documents in preparation for a legal matter using software she had never heard of before. Years later, Freilich, now a Fordham Law professor, exposes her students to advanced technology in her Civil Procedure and Intellectual Property courses to ensure they avoid the knowledge gap she encountered early in her legal career.
Freilich has achieved this goal, in part by inviting Fordham Law Reference Librarian Jocelyn K. Sagherian to make presentations to her classes on software that will enhance their careers. For instance, Sagherian demonstrated to Freilich’s fall 2017 Civil Procedure students how predictive coding systems in electronic discovery help lawyers parse hundreds of thousands of documents quickly and efficiently. In Freilich’s spring 2018 IP course, after students designed their own trademark, Sagherian showed them how to search the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Electronic Search System for relevant words and images.
“Technology changes very quickly, so it can be hard to teach everybody every single technology skill they need to know in law school,” Freilich says. “However, students need to have some exposure to technology so that they can have a sense of what’s out there and know where they might go to learn.”
Sagherian’s e-discovery presentation is part of the Maloney Library’s multipronged approach to exposing students to advanced technology, according to Law Library Director Todd Melnick. This approach includes modules on e-discovery, legal analytics, cybersecurity, and case management; a Legal Practice Technology course the library offers in the spring; inviting representatives from legal tech vendors to speak at the Law School; and adding legal practice technology and training to Advanced Legal Research courses.
“We want to make sure students have a basic understanding of and competency in the use of new legal tech so that they can hit the ground running when they join law firms,” Melnick explains. “Compared with students who don’t have this introduction, Fordham students will have a head start when they enter practice.”
For Visiting International Professor Shlomit Yanisky-Ravid, ensuring this head start means taking her IP students to Tesla’s New York offices to view autonomous vehicles, observing a gallery exhibition of paintings created by artificial intelligence (AI), and sharing jazz she created using AI. In the upcoming fall semester, she plans to hold a moot court session of an IP dispute involving a work of art or invention created by AI and distributed by blockchain technology.
“If we really want to prepare law students for the future, we can’t just make them study cases from the past,” says
Yanisky-Ravid, senior fellow for the Center on Law and Information Policy’s AI-IP Research Project. “When my students work on a paper, I want them to be as innovative as the advanced technology tools themselves. I want them to feel like Fordham takes innovation on intellectual property and advanced technology one step further and that what they’re learning here is unique to this Law School.”
Alumni Brandon McKenzie ’14 and Ariana Tadler ’92 agree that Fordham Law students ought to prepare themselves for the increasing demand for technological skills within and beyond the legal profession.
“If you are a lawyer focused on technology, especially in web- or app-based industries, you need to understand current development frameworks,” says McKenzie, who is founder, chief operating officer, and head of product at MetroButler, a company that acts as a host logistics manager and concierge for clients who seek to rent out their homes.
“Every lawyer needs some level of familiarity with how data is created,” says Tadler, who, in addition to her role as managing partner at Milberg Tadler Phillips Grossman LLP, serves as founding principal at Meta-e Discovery LLC, a company that provides data hosting, management, and consultation.
McKenzie believes that law students interested in tech should develop basic literacy in agile development, block- chain, and data privacy, including the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard and Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, which went into effect May 25. He also recommends that law schools team up with business schools to better illuminate the intersections of law and technology. Tadler suggests that law students master Lexis and Westlaw, discovery platforms, and the entirety of Microsoft Office Suite. Tadler also insists that students teach themselves technology-based skills to best position themselves for recruitment.
McKenzie and Tadler agree that law schools should serve as technology training grounds. McKenzie cites Professor Joel Reidenberg’s course on internet law—particularly the lectures on net neutrality—as an important catalyst for his current work. Tadler explains that Judge Denny Chin’s legal writing course inspired her to learn tech-based research and presentation tools.
McKenzie and Tadler recommend that, among other courses, law schools should offer courses on e-discovery, cybersecurity, and data security.
“If law schools don’t start offering courses on technological literacy, people will get left behind,” says McKenzie.
“It’s a mistake for any modern law school not to have these courses,” says Tadler. “I want Fordham to be upfront on these issues.”