Essential tech skills for the new lawyer

This week I’ve been focusing on coming up with a solution to some of the technical missteps some schools make when they integrate technology within legal education. While they are able to teach/integrate technology used in practice such as e-filing and other trial based courtroom tech, they are not able to as my last lightning round article discussed create lawyers that are “information handler[s]”.

Earlier this month an article hosted on the ABA (American Bar Associations) Student Blog, detailed the essential tech skills all new lawyers should have.  The article describes the lack of skills current practicing attorneys have via an assessment test, Casey Flaherty, corporate counsel to Kia Motors, conducted on the various law firms Kia works with to conduct business. The goal was to audit the firms to test their ability to do basic skills that would help reduce billable hours and created a requirement that those working with Kia should have these skills or they wouldn’t get the job.

Sample tasks include (a) formatting a motion in Word, (b) preparing motion exhibits in PDF, and (c) creating an arbitration exhibit index in Excel. The specific tasks, however, are of little importance as they are designed to test general skills. The foregoing examples could just as easily be (a) formatting a contract in Word, (b) Bates stamping a document production of PDFs, or (c) isolating pertinent performance data in Excel—or, really, any of the other myriad, routine, low-value-added tasks that lawyers regularly complete on their computers (or should). – Casey Flaherty

Not surprisingly the results were not a good and most failed tasks, especially timed ones. So, how do we fix this?

The article does go into detail about some of the basics students especially, 1Ls-first year law students, should have and master. In thinking about my own project, I did notice that technology is largely used once students are at the tail end of their school careers, which for many may be to late especially if they don’t take more practical classes or clinics.

My new goal, rather than just thinking about the future of legal education, will now be to try and create a digital literacy curriculum by which students can use to gain these skills, most of which are already available for free online, similar to the now $200 assessment and trainer marketed by Mr. Flathery. I hope to tie in other things that will be pertinent to their entire professional development starting from day one and promoting it as a requirement for the 1L year.

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