The ABA Center for Innovation shared its mission and launched its website last evening at the Chicago Legal Innovation meetup at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP. “We must try new things,” said Geoffrey Burkhart, the Center’s Deputy Director.
The access to justice “crisis” has been known for decades; it is no longer news, Burkhart said. It is well known that public defenders are stretched very thin and far too many lack access to civil legal services. Burkhart voiced concern that we’ve become numb to the word “crisis.” He urged lawyers to take action and “try new things.” On the present course, Burkhart said, “lawyers are squandering a gift.”
Burkhart discussed the Center’s mission and encouraged law students and legal-services professionals to apply for the Center’s fellowships before the January 31st application deadline. He also led the audience to the Center’s website, which was launched on Twitter shortly before the program. The website includes substantial information about the Center’s founding, introduces resources, identifies innovators, and through its framework provides a roadmap for future initiatives, programming, and information dissemination.
Law schools will play a critical role as the Center fosters innovation across the legal profession. Beyond hiring innovative law school graduates for fellowships, expect the ABA to continue to press for curricular reform. The Center’s operating principles include “enabl[ing] the profession, including . . . law schools …, to be creative, daring and powerful forces for change.” Curricular reform is a key component of the ABA’s Report on the Future of Legal Services, including recommendation 7.2:
Law schools and bar associations, including the ABA, should offer more continuing legal education and other opportunities for lawyers to study entrepreneurship, innovation, the business and economics of law practice, and other relevant disciplines.
The Report notes that “[m]any law schools are now educating law students about innovation in legal services delivery,” including courses “on e-discovery, outcome prediction, legal project management, process improvement, virtual lawyering, and document automation.” (Report, p. 25.) The Report says this is consistent with the ABA Task Force on Legal Education recommendation that “law schools should offer more technology training, experiential learning, and the development of practice-related competencies.” (Id.)
The Center’s website identifies ten law school innovators “that have caught [its] attention.”
- Georgetown University Law School – Georgetown Iron Tech Lawyer
- Harvard Law School – Center on the Legal Profession
- Harvard University – The Law Lab
- IIT Chicago Kent School of Law – Center for Access to Justice & Technology
- IIT Chicago Kent School of Law – The Law Lab
- Michigan State University College of Law – LegalRnD – The Center for Legal Services Innovation
- Northeastern University School of Law – NuLawLab
- Stanford Law School – CodeX The Stanford Center for Legal Informatics
- Suffolk University Law School – Institute on Law Practice Technology & Innovation
- University of Miami School of Law – Law Without Walls
“Law school innovation occurs both in the curricular activities of the school as well as in the practice related projects and programs they pursue,” the Center’s website says.
Law schools should offer more technology training, experiential learning, and the development of practice-related competencies. – ABA Task Force on Legal Education
It’s an honor for LegalRnD at MSU Law to be included in this list of innovators. In prior posts, I’ve discussed LegalRnD’s foundational legal-service delivery disciplines, including lean-systems thinking, project management, quantitative analysis, and technology. In addition to its legal innovation and technology curriculum, LegalRnD coordinates numerous co-curricular activities on and off campus, works with academics in other disciplines at MSU, and partners with many organizations and legal practitioners. In the future, I plan to write more about the LegalRnD curriculum, co-curricular events and training, research, field projects, and industry collaboration. I hope to foster industry-wide dialogue about improving legal-service delivery, from legal aid and consumer legal services to legal departments and law firms.
Law schools, like the legal profession, face many challenges. But these challenges present many opportunities. To paraphrase Burkhart, let’s not squander these opportunities.
UPDATE (January 28, 2017): The Center added the tenth law school innovator, Georgetown, to its list after the the release of this post.