By Sara Anne Hook, M.B.A., J.D. - Legal Informatics: Helping to Build a T-Shaped Law Firm

15 Oct 2014 2:07 PM | Chere Estrin (Administrator)

In The T-Shaped Lawyer, Nelson and Simek make a persuasive argument that in the case of lawyers, the “T” should stand for technology.1 Other visionaries within the legal profession indicate that one of the areas within law that is likely to have future career opportunities, especially in an increasingly competitive job market, is law + tech - in other words, someone with both the legal knowledge and the technology skills to render legal services more creatively, efficiently and cost-effectively.  Authors have suggested a variety of options for providing these technology skills.  A number of organizations offer seminars, webinars and certification examinations that address the needs of the T-shaped lawyer, including the Organization of Legal Professionals (OLP) with its focus on electronic discovery, legal project management and litigation support, and others have proposed and developed new courses within the law school curriculum.2-3  As indicated in the Comment 8 to Rule 1.1 in the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, “a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology…” 4  Perhaps it would be even better to think in terms of the T-Shaped Law Firm, so that the potential to use robust technology to deliver legal services is emphasized as a core competency at all levels within the organization. 

In anticipation of the need for lawyers and others working in the legal arena to have more background in technology, the School of Informatics and Computing at IUPUI began introducing courses in the emerging field of legal informatics back in 2005.4 The genesis of the program was a white paper written by Professor Sara Anne Hook, the program director, in 2004 on her vision for legal informatics.   Legal informatics has been described as the study of the application of information technologies to the field of law and the use of these technologies by legal professionals. Therefore, the focus of the legal informatics program is on the effective use of cutting-edge technology in the study and practice of law as well as related issues, such as security and privacy.  By 2010, five online courses were in place and the legal informatics certificate was officially approved in 2012.  The certificate can be earned as either part of a student’s degree or as a free-standing certificate and can be completed in less than a year.  Although the courses can be taken for graduate credit, offering the certificate at the undergraduate level not only means lower tuition, but also that courses are open to everyone irrespective of whether they already have another degree.  The director of the legal informatics program is a lawyer and all of the courses are taught by faculty with law degrees based on their areas of expertise. An advisory committee composed of lawyers and other professionals with a wide variety of skills and interests in law and technology is available to provide guidance to the legal informatics program, especially in the development of new courses to meet the changing needs of the legal world.    

Online courses in the legal informatics program currently include:

  • Electronic Discovery
  • Foundations in Legal Informatics
  • Litigation Support Systems and Courtroom Presentations
  • Legal and Social Informatics of Security
  • Technology and the Law

A course that is tentatively titled “Advanced Legal Informatics” is under development.  Other related online courses offered by the School of Informatics and Computing, IUPUI, include a course on competitive intelligence, a course on computer and information ethics and a course on the legal and business issues in starting a new company.   

As a way to provide career opportunities and flexibility for students, the legal informatics certificate is envisioned as one of several joint program opportunities with the Robert H. McKinney School of Law’s newly approved Master of Jurisprudence (MJ) degree.5-6 This will be one of many potential degree collaborations between the School of Informatics and Computing, IUPUI, and the McKinney School of Law as they begin to combine their faculty expertise and curricular strengths into programs that will meet the needs of lawyers and other legal personnel in the 21st century. 

 

  1. Sharon D. Nelson and John W. Simek.  The T-Shaped Lawyer:  Does the “T” Stand for Technology? Sensei Enterprises, Inc., June 16, 2014, http://www.senseient.com/news-press-articles?category=Articles, accessed 9/25/14.
  2. Organization of Legal Professionals, http://www.theolp.org/, accessed 9/25/14.
  3. Stephanie Kimbro.  Course Correction:  Teaching Tomorrow’s Lawyers Legal Technology Skills.  Peer to Peer, Vol. 30, Issue 2, Summer 2014, p. 56-59.
  4. Comment on Rule 1.1, ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, http://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/publications/model_rules_of_professional_conduct/rule_1_1_competence/comment_on_rule_1_1.html, accessed 9/26/14.
  5. Legal Informatics Certificate, School of Informatics and Computing, IUPUI, http://soic.iupui.edu/undergraduate/minors-certificates/legal-informatics/, accessed 9/25/14.
  6. Master of Jurisprudence, Robert H. McKinney School of Law, Indiana University, http://mckinneylaw.iu.edu/degrees/mj/index.html, accessed 9/25/14.
  7. For information about the MJ program, please contact Professor Deborah B. McGregor, http://mckinneylaw.iu.edu/faculty-staff/profile.cfm?Id=20, accessed 9/26/14. 
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