Suffolk University Law School has launched a new Legal Technology and Innovation concentration, creating one of the first formal programs in the country to equip JD students with the skills and knowledge they need to compete more effectively in a rapidly evolving legal marketplace.
The concentration—which is similar to a major—will prepare students for 21st century legal employment with specialized courses on important legal innovations and technologies, such as automated document assembly, legal project management (LPM), knowledge management and virtual lawyering.
Adapting to change
“Technology is causing dramatic upheaval in the legal industry,” said Suffolk Law Professor Andrew Perlman, director of Suffolk Law’s Institute on Law Practice Technology and Innovation. “The new concentration is designed to help students adapt to those seismic changes so that they can more effectively compete in the new legal marketplace.”
In addition to taking courses in LPM, automated document assembly and 21st century lawyering, all students must complete a three-credit internship at a company or law firm that employs innovative approaches in the delivery of legal and law-related services. Students also must attend six hours of seminars and programs by leading experts in the field and complete four electives, many of which will be offered jointly with Suffolk’s Sawyer Business School.
“We have to get students thinking about how to deliver legal services more efficiently and how to create new niches in the legal industry,” Perlman said. “Law schools typically do not offer this kind of instruction, but legal education needs to respond to new realities.”
Giving students an edge
Perlman believes that the new concentration will help students to succeed in both traditional and non-traditional legal employment.
“New law-related jobs are emerging in which having a JD is a distinct advantage, such as jobs at companies and firms that engage in project management, e-discovery and automated document assembly.” said Perlman. “We're trying to give students an edge when seeking these kinds of positions as well as more traditional jobs.”
The new concentration will begin enrolling students immediately. Suffolk Law also offers concentrations in Business Law and Financial Services, Health and Biomedical Law, Intellectual Property, International Law, Labor and Employment Law, and Trial and Appellate Advocacy.
In its brief existence, Suffolk’s Institute on Law Practice Technology and Innovation has:
- Sponsored programs
- Created a mobile web app that enables lawyers to find Massachusetts legal resources more easily
- Applied for – and won – an opportunity to use Google Glass in the classroom
- Partnered with a corporate counsel at Kia Motors America on a legal technology audit designed to test the technological competence of outside counsel
Earlier this year, the ABA’s eLawyering Task Force ranked Suffolk Law one of the top 13 schools for law practice technology.
Perlman emphasized that these accomplishments reflect the Law School’s deep commitment to an increasingly important area of study and education. He said that Suffolk Law School Dean Camille Nelson has been “very forward thinking on these issues” and that the Law School’s initiatives “would not have been possible without her leadership.” Perlman also praised his colleagues for their embrace of the new developments, noting that the Law School’s faculty approved the new concentration unanimously.