At Villanova University law school, nonlawyers are learning to provide low-cost legal representation to migrants in an online certification program that takes advantage of a little-known federal immigration regulation.
A collaborative innovation lab run jointly by the law school at the University of Arizona and the business school at the University of Utah is developing systems to expose inequalities in the justice system and create new strategies for legal empowerment.
And at the law school at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), students are offered courses in law school technology and the law of technology to help them work more efficiently when they enter the practice of law.
These three initiatives were cited as examples of innovation in legal education during a Dec. 7 webinar, The Role of Legal Education, Clinics and Legal Labs. The session, sponsored by three American Bar Association entities and two national organizations, marked the fourth session since June of the Redesigning Legal Speaker Series.
“Lawyers are using technology to be more efficient and to service their clients in more equitable ways,” said April Dawson, associate dean of Technology and Innovation at the NCCU School of Law. She noted that the schools that are making “great strides … are creating centers, creating institutions,” often with strong outside funding.
Dawson advocated for law schools to connect more with bar groups and others pushing change. “We need to look at what is actually happening on the ground,” she said, adding that academics can’t “get wrapped up in our ivory towers.”
The growing acceptance of technology is one of the key drivers of change in the legal profession and its regulatory landscape, which has for decades put up barriers to nonlawyers. Utah and Arizona, for example, have recently enacted sweeping changes to how legal services can be delivered and who can provide them. Nationally, at least 10 other states are exploring or implementing regulatory change that would generally allow nonlawyers to provide some legal services.
Another panelist, Anna Carpenter, who directs the Clinical Programs at the University of Utah law school, called professors who push for change “faculty unicorns.” She urged more faculty to drive “groundbreaking efforts;” and observed “an innovative dean who gets it” is critical for innovation to thrive.
- The Role of Legal Education, Clinics and Legal Labs: Video and transcript
- Redesigning Legal Speaker Series
- Sponsors of the series:
- Immigration Studies: VIISTA (Villanova University)
- Innovation 4Justice (Universities of Arizona and Utah)
- ABA Journal stories on innovation in the legal profession