The Maurice A. Deane School of Law announces the launch of a new capstone course taught by Professor Jennifer Gundlach, senior associate dean for experiential education. The goal of the course is to train students for jobs in the growing field of legal technology, an emerging career path in the legal profession.
The American Bar Association (ABA) recently named Hofstra Law to its list of the 10 top law schools “that offer significant attention to the technology of practice,” recognizing law schools that offer multiple courses or have dedicated centers — and actively involve faculty. In fact, Hofstra Law was an early adopter of incorporating technology into the study of law with the establishment in 2009 of its Law, Logic and Technology Research Laboratory, which creates a collaborative bridge between lawyers and coders.
The ABA also highlighted Hofstra Law’s efforts in teaching technology to tomorrow’s lawyers in the article “Law Schools 3.0” in the ABA’s Student Lawyer publication.
“Training our students in emerging legal technologies not only makes students more marketable, but also inspires them to innovate,” said Dean Eric Lane. “We want our students to be leaders in the changing legal marketplace, and the capstone offers them a unique skill set to make a difference.”
“The capstone course exposes Hofstra Law students to very recent job trends in the legal profession and encourages them to direct their thinking towards ways technology is disrupting the practice of law,” said Professor Gundlach. “In the capstone, we are using this technology to develop new ways for expanding access to justice.”
Students in the capstone course are working with Hofstra Law’s Access to Justice Incubator and law clinics, as well as Nassau/Suffolk Legal Services, to improve legal processes through app development. This includes digitizing and automating legal forms.
Using A2J Author — a Web-based legal software developed and supported through a partnership between Chicago-Kent College of Law and the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) — students are developing templates for online intake interviews on a range of legal issues. The program walks a prospective litigant through a set list of questions and then generates a logic tree to prescribe next steps. Students are specifically tasked with building new and improved “Do-It-Yourself” online forms for court users who don’t have a lawyer, as well as for legal services and pro bono attorneys and staff helping clients who cannot afford lawyers. If approved, Hofstra Law students’ forms will be hosted on the LawHelp Interactive website.
Anthony Noonan is a third-year Hofstra Law student taking the capstone course. “I’ve seen the tremendous impact that this technology can have for those who do not have the necessary funds to procure traditional legal aid,” he said. Noonan majored in physics as an undergraduate and is trained in a variety of programming languages. “I was aware that the type of technology that we are using existed, but I had never heard of it being used in the legal field,” he said.
In contrast, Michael Bernstein, another third-year student in the capstone course, has always been comfortable with computers but entered law school without extensive coding experience. “This course has opened the door to career pathways that I didn’t even know existed,” he said. “As a lawyer, implementing advances in technology will allow me to do things that lawyers even 10 years ago would not have thought possible, with the potential to push the limit of our capabilities as lawyers.”