I am happy to announce a new addition to Osgoode Hall Law School’s curriculum – a course in legal information technology. This course is one of several new courses that are aimed at preparing students for a rapidly changing legal marketplace.
In 2011, the American Bar Association made the following observation:
“Few law schools offer courses in which students learn about cutting-edge practice technologies, let alone how to develop them. Yet such technologies are increasingly central to effective practice, and more lawyers are finding careers in knowledge management and application development. Law schools are natural centers of research and education on those topics, and promising developments are afoot…. We expect that by 2016 such courses will be found in dozens of law schools.”
Inspired by the legal information technology course taught by Ron Dolin at Stanford University, the class is designed to give students hands-on experience with technologies aimed at augmenting and disrupting legal service delivery.
In the theoretical portion of the course, students will study the impact of technology on the practice of law. Subjects of interest include: (1) the ability of technology to facilitate access to justice; (2) the nature of legal reasoning, and; (3) the degree to which law is process-oriented, and hence subject to automation.
In the practical portion of the course, students will use a variety of products to generate documents, perform basic data mining and engage in online dispute resolution (“ODR”). These exercises will prepare students to use current applications, including e-discovery and practice management software.
Students will also learn the basics of IT-related skills relevant to working in the new legal job roles that are being created in legal tech. They will learn how to create storyboards, use cases, requirements documents, gantt charts, entity-relationship diagrams and other important artefacts. The major deliverable is a course project that requires the use of these skills.
The course was initially proposed by current Osgoode adjunct professor James Williams, who works as a senior software engineer for Google. Joining him for the 2015 offering of the course are two new adjuncts: (1) Monica Goyal, a lawyer and former electrical engineer who is active in the legal tech space, and who sits on the Canadian Bar Association’s ‘legal futures initiative’, and; (2) Darin Thompson, a lawyer for the BC Ministry of Justice who is an expert in online dispute resolution.
We believe that technology does not exist in a vacuum. Complex software systems are inherently socio-technical, and involve people, processes and surrounding contexts (e.g., organizational, legal). Technology is not a silver bullet for improving legal service delivery; nor can it be implemented without considering a wide variety of social, cultural and organizational concerns.
Nevertheless, we believe that technology is one of the major drivers of sustained and lasting change in the nature of legal service delivery. The odds that law will somehow remain immune to technological change look diminishingly small, given the impacts that technology is already having on other conservative and heavily-regulated fields such as medicine.
No technical background is required to take the course. The curriculum has been carefully tailored to be accessible to students from all disciplines.