Interview About Law Schools and LegalTech
[I’m continuing my efforts to clear my backlog of stuck blog post drafts. I completed this interview for a foreign magazine last year, but it never published the interview and may not be in business any more….]:
Please tell us about yourself and your University
I am a law professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, located in California in the heart of the Silicon Valley. The law school is well-known for its technology law program. For the past several years, the law school has been ranked the #4 intellectual property program in the United States.
My area of expertise is Internet Law. I started practicing Internet Law in 1994 and teaching an Internet Law course in 1996. Since 2005, I have blogged on the topic at the Technology & Marketing Law Blog (http://blog.ericgoldman.org). Although I pay attention to many subtopics of Internet Law, my top passion always has been the laws regulating user-generated content. A more recent interest of mine has been the law of emojis.
At the law school, in addition to my normal professor duties, I hold several administrative roles, including Associate Dean for Research, co-director of the High Tech Law Institute, supervisor of the Privacy Law Certificate, and assistant director of the Tech Edge JD program.
What are your thoughts on legal technology?
Legal technology is crucial to the practice of law! Many lawyers are required by their ethics rules to maintain technological competence, and lawyers can significantly disadvantage their clients when the technology fails or they don’t use it properly. In contrast, some lawyers use their legal tech expertise as a competitive differentiator, delivering superior results or lower costs for clients relative to their peers.
Does your University offer courses on law and technology?
Overall, our law school focuses more on the law of technology than on the technology of law. With respect to the law of technology, the law school offers dozens of courses, including standard courses in intellectual property, Internet law, and technology licensing, and more unusual offerings like a course on how businesspeople, engineers, and lawyers can better communicate with each other when they work together in technology environments. In addition, the law school has student organizations focused on intellectual property, Internet law, privacy law, artificial intelligence, videogames, blockchain/cryptocurrencies, and more. Also, many students get externships and internships with local technology companies, ranging from startups still in stealth mode to giants such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Intel, eBay, PayPal, and many others.
In light of technological advancements, do you think law schools are preparing students and young lawyers for emerging opportunities in the profession? If yes, how are law schools making such preparations?
Law schools can always do more on this front, but law school can only do so much. Legal tech is evolving so rapidly that it’s hard to teach students—who may be 2-3 years away from their first jobs as lawyers—the technological solutions they will need over the course of their long careers. Also, legal tech needs can vary widely by practice area, and students don’t always know what practice area they are heading towards (or may change their minds). Furthermore, anything the law school does teach students about legal tech will soon become out-of-date. As a result, it’s not realistic to expect law schools to be the best, or even the primary, place for students to learn about legal tech.
I do want to mention a program Santa Clara Law rolled out a few years ago to better prepare students for a technology law career. It’s called the “Tech Edge JD” program, and it requires students to complete a series of milestones that reflect the kinds of experiences that junior technology lawyers are expected to have. To help students complete these milestones, the law school assigns each student a faculty/staff advisor and two practitioner mentors. It also has a special orientation just for program students. The program has been very successful at recruiting students dedicated to a technology law career, helping them build the skills and experiences they need for their long-term professional success, and getting the students hired into their preferred jobs.
What do you think law schools can do to improve awareness on emerging opportunities in the profession?
Law schools often don’t showcase careers in legal tech. First, students are often not exposed to alumni or practitioners in the field. Second, law schools often emphasize jobs that require a law degree and downplay “JD-advantage” jobs. Programs like the “Tech Edge JD” are a step towards opening students up to JD-advantage jobs, including jobs in legal tech, but definitely more can be done.
What are your thoughts on e-learning for lawyers?
As I mentioned, U.S. lawyers are likely to have a duty of technological competence, so I’m in all favor of it! With the ability to attend sessions from their desktops via videoconference, it’s never been easier to access an incredible diversity of online trainings and events.