The Future of Legal Practice and Technology for Law Professors

One of my pet peeves is when people throw around the word “technology” as a catch all to mean anything that can or will involve a computer. A common pattern is “In X number of years, this task will be replaced by TECHNOLOGY.” The speakers very rarely get into specifics as to when technology they mean. Personally, I like to amuse myself by replacing “technology” in these statements with “magic fairies.” Actually, I think fairies are more likely to exist than some technology that is universally adopted and solves myriad problems.

If you’re like me, you probably feel like the legal sphere is undergoing a period of rapid change. If not actual change, then at least theoretical change that will hopefully trickle down to Joe and Jane Average Lawyer. This is caused by both changes in available technology and outside pressures, like changing client needs and the access to justice crisis.

The last time I felt like the world was shifting under my feet was in 2007-2008 during the rise of Web 2.0. That, of course, was a technology based revolution. New tools made it easy for someone with little to no technology skills to contribute content on the web and connect with each other. This is why we saw the rise of things like Facebook, blogs and twitter.

Back in the late aughts, I participated in a few group learning experiences that could be considered proto-MOOCs. They were all based on list posted on the now extinct 43 Things social network. It listed 23 things in Web 2.0 that were – not essential – but really good to know in order to be conversant in 21st Century web technology.

It has occurred to me of late that this would be a good time to revive the concept with an emphasis on changes in the legal world. After all, we can hardly be expected to teach technology or incorporate modern practice trends into our courses if we ourselves don’t understand them. And, quite understandably, it is hard to know where to begin if you did want to dip your toe in the pool.

And then some jerk says “everyone needs learn to code!” and anyone with any common sense runs the opposite way as fast as possible.

I decided to take my 23 Things experiences and frequent future of law conference attendances and apply them to modern legal technology and practice issues. If one were to want to self-educate, especially if one were an academic, these are the topics and skills I think you should know. Please let me know in the comments if you think there should be additions. And if someone wants to run with the idea and do an 8-10 week 23 Things course, you have my permission to use any or all of this as a starting framework.

Skills – Things you should be able to use and/or do.

  1. Social Media (Examples listed below. No need to have an account on all of these)
    1. Facebook
    2. Twitter
    3. Blogs
    4. Snap Chat
    5. Instagram
  2. Content Management System
    1. Wikis
    2. Blogging software like WordPress
  3. Word Processing
    1. Style Sheets
    2. Creating Footnotes
    3. Small caps
    4. Creating PDFs
    5. Alternatives to WordPerfect
  4. Presentation Technology
    1. Slide design
    2. Locating images with appropriate, non-infringing IP. (I like using Compfight.)
  5. Document Management and Version Control (Related: The Cloud)
  6. Collaborative Editing Tools
  7. Course Management Systems

Concepts – Things you should understand what they are, what they do and/or a rough idea of how they do it. For an added bonus, find a legal company or scholar that specializes in each of these.

  1. “The Cloud”
  2. Git Hub
  3. Expert System
  4. Practice Management Software
  5. eDiscovery
  6. Document Assembly
  7. Search Engines
    1. What are algorithms?
    2. What are search engine options besides Google?
  8. Unbundling legal services
  9. Virtual Law Offices
  10. Mobile Technology
    1. What is an app?
    2. Apple vs. Android
  11. Open Source Technology
  12. Legal Process Management
  13. LTTTs
  14. APIs
  15. Tagging, Hashtags and Folksonomies (See Twitter)
  16. Open Access
    1. Online vs. Open
    2. Open Educational Materials
    3. Creative Commons




  1. Excellent kick-off on this subject. I would add “and how their use may relate to the Rules of Professional Conduct.”

  2. It is with great relief that I find I can tick off most of the boxes on Sarah’s checklist. Perhaps I am not the hopeless geezer I think I am.

    I would add one more under the “concepts” list. That would be supply chain management. A decade ago most GCs dealt with law firms, and that’s about it. Now they have a mix of outside providers that they can divide their money between, including law firms, LPOs, various other kinds of alternative providers, contract lawyer and other staffing agencies, and technology providers. They are acting as legal supply chain managers. Maybe this falls under “unbundling legal services” but seen from the buyer’s point of view, not the seller’s.