New Skills, New Learning:legal Education and the Promise of Technology

Over at the Berkman Centre for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School in partnership with LexisNexis, at the Harvard Law School a major study by Gene Koo on what law students aren’t prepared for.From a US perspective, not much has changed since the MacCrate Report on Legal Education and Professional Development
Much of the study won’t exactly be news to the readers of Slaw.
Let’s start with the provocation at the outset:

A large majority of lawyers perceive critical gaps between what they are taught in law schools and the skills they need in the workplace, and appropriate technologies are not being used to help close this gap.

Executive Summary
• More than 75 percent of lawyers surveyed said they lacked critical practice skills after completing their law school education.
• Today’s workplace demands skills that the traditional law school curriculum does not cover.
• Many attorneys work in complex teams distributed across multiple offices: nearly 80 percent of lawyers surveyed belong to one or more work teams, with 19 percent participating in more than five teams. Yet only 12 percent of law students report working in groups on class projects.
• Smaller firms can stay competitive with larger firms through more nimble deployment of technology tools and by exploiting the exploding amount of data openly available on the Web.
Attorneys at these firms need tech-related skills to realize these opportunities.
• Legal educators seriously under-utilize new technologies, even in those settings, such as clinical legal education, that are the most practice-oriented. Research also suggests a breakdown in post-school workplace training, with smaller firms particularly unable to afford formal professional development.
• Neither law schools nor most workplaces provide new attorneys with a structured transition between school and practice. Only 36 percent of lawyers surveyed report a dedicated training experience during their first year of employment.
• Clients are increasingly unwilling to pay for training of associates, e.g. prohibiting firms from billing for young attorneys’ attendance at client-facing meetings. New lawyers’ involvement in such meetings has long been an important apprenticeship activity.
Finally, advances in computing and networking offer potential solutions to shortcomings in skills training at law schools.
• Utilizing authentic practice technologies to support law school clinical programs exposes law students to the practical tools they need to succeed in future practice.
• Learning through computer simulation mirrors the technology-based foundation of most legal practice settings today and enables participants to experience non-linear decision making closest to real-world casework.

So the $10,000 question – what do we do to bridge the gap? Or is Canada different, because of articling students / stagiares, and the Bar Ad course?

Gene Koo’s own postings. And some American blog contributions to the debate:
Ron Friedmann
Bob Ambrogi
Genie Tyburski
Sabrina Pacifici

Trainee Lawyer


  1. There’s something in the air. The Lawyers Weekly, today, has an article on the issue of what Canadian law schools are doing to prepare law students for the practice of law at

    I mentioned Koo at but your report has better artwork and it’s not buried in the comments.