When I began law school, I had no idea what I wanted to do with a JD. All I knew was that I was interested in the law and that it couldn’t hurt to have another degree. I walked onto campus committed to chasing whatever grabbed my attention. I expected Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Torts, or any other course to give me a pull in the direction I would go down. But my pull came unexpectedly.
My classes kept me preoccupied with legal doctrine and more reading than I care to recall. I was intrigued by my classwork, but I could never single out one as my primary interest. I kept running home and talking to my wife about stuff that I wasn’t required to learn about. It was the Digital Initiative Lunch-and-Learns that I would attend.
To me, it was a no-brainer to attend a free lunch and learn some useful skills. At the beginning that was just how I saw it. No need to bring food to school or pay for a meal, and maybe I learn how to save a few minutes when I had to write a brief. By the end of my first semester, those lunch-and-learns turned out to be far more significant.
I began to research emerging technologies in law practice. I started following dozens of legal innovation accounts on Twitter. I went to every possible Lunch-and-Learn that I could, even if I had brought my lunch that day. I could not get enough information about how technology and innovation could change the way that lawyers functioned.
Writing a brief? Here’s a tool to check your grammar and Blue Book citations. Researching cases to argue in court? Here is an artificial intelligence tool that shows you the most influential cases on the issue. Not very organized? Here is a tool to help you map out your days, projects, or notetaking.
To me, it just made sense to use these tools. After all, I am a first-generation law student with very little idea of how the law is “supposed” to be practiced. In short, you could say I was impressionable.
So, I took advantage of the programs that OU Law provided for me. As I mentioned before, I went to countless Digital Initiative lunch meetings. I became LTC4 certified thanks to the law school’s collaboration with the Legal Technologies Core Competencies Certification Coalition. I attended the 2019 ABA TECHSHOW in Chicago (a highlight of my first year) where I got to meet influential legal bloggers like Bob Ambrogi, Ivy Grey, and Kevin O’Keefe, along with the Lawyerist team. And now, I work on building our very own student-led Technology and Legal Innovation Society here at OU Law.
I am blown away just thinking about all of the opportunities that I have been able to seize in just one year. But the benefits of Technology and Innovation didn’t end with the spring semester. I was lucky enough to land a job that allowed me to practice my new skills and even work remotely. Then, at the end of the summer, my employer offered to keep me around to help manage online accounts, his website, and other tech-related tasks. All of these opportunities are a direct result of my pursuit of innovation.
I have barely started my 2L year and I have already practiced using tools that save time and streamline the processes of research, drafting documents, managing documents, and organizing firm information. To me, that practical application and being able to use technology as a way to improve my study habits is an invaluable experience.
My experience with legal technology and innovation has changed my approach to my work and study in several ways; I am more efficient. I am more organized. I like to think that I also keep my information more secure. I can collaborate with coworkers and peers from anywhere. In short, I can do any task better and faster than I could without these tools.
I still don’t know what kind of law I will practice in the future. I’m not even sure that I will actively practice law. If I do, I likely won’t practice for very long. What I do know is this: I will use technology and innovation to do my job better and more efficiently. I will not use my incompetence to justify billing my clients for hours of work that I could save (not to mention the fact that it would be unethical and likely get one disbarred if taken to an extreme degree). I will make any legal process as transparent and simple for future clients because hiring a lawyer is already intimidating enough.
I will drive the legal profession to be better, serve more people, and positively impact lives. And I will be able to do all of this thanks to legal technology and innovation.