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Is Law School Becoming an Entrepreneurial Engine?

If you want a job, you’ll need to create your own.
That sounds like advice you’d hear in an employment seminar. These days, it seemingly applies to the law school curriculum, too. That was the gist of a recent feature in The New York Times, which examined the increasing emphasis on business acumen like marketing and attracting venture capital.
The popular image of law school as a safe haven for math-phobic liberal arts majors might no longer apply, according to Northwestern Law Dean Daniel B. Rodriguez. In fact, many programs are embracing technology and big data to help students get a leg up in their job searches.
Take Michigan State University, for example. Here, the school hosts an annual Entrepreneurial Lawyering Startup Competition, where students pitch startup ideas to faculty and potential investors. At this event, students present solutions ranging from immigration tax services to fill-in attorneys in court. The competition is one activity sponsored by the university’s Reinvent Law Laboratory, which is designed to train law students to create new ways of delivering legal services. “What we’re trying to do is educate lawyers for the future,” says Joan Howarth, dean of Michigan State Law, “not the past.”
According to the New York Times, Michigan State is looking beyond the parameters of the law school curriculum—and even experiential education:
“Michigan State professors don’t just teach torts, contracts, and the intricacies of constitutional law. They also delve into software and services that sift through thousands of cases to help predict whether a client’s case might be successful or what arguments could be most effective. They introduce their students to programs that search through mountains of depositions and filings, automating tasks like the dreary ‘document review’ that was once the baptism of fire and boredom for young associates.”
And Michigan State isn’t alone in arming a new generation of legal entrepreneurs with tech savvy and a desire to change the practice of law. At the University of Colorado Law School, students can participate in a four-week Tech Lawyer Accelerator summer boot camp, which gives students hands-on business and legal experience with tech companies like Adobe and NetApp. And Northwestern Law is drawing upon faculty members from other departments to expose students to coding and entrepreneurship through its “law/business/technology interface.”
While such experience may help attorneys better communicate with technical staff or even launch a venture, one professor finds the approach self-defeating. “The irony here is that these new technologies are destroying traditional legal jobs,” says Professor Paul F. Campos of the University of Colorado. “The fundamental problem remains that we’re putting out way, way too many lawyers—or, should I say, people with law degrees, given the number of entry-level jobs.”
As society grows increasingly reliant on technology, Northwestern Dean Rodriguez expects the need for lawyers with business and technical skills to gather steam. “That doesn’t mean you need to have a Ph.D. or a master’s degree in math to become a lawyer,” Rodriguez tells the New York Times. “It doesn’t actually kill you, but makes you stronger, to have a background in statistics.” And, he added, “Not to be too jargonistic, but big-data analytics have pervaded many aspects of the management world, and lawyers need to have some facility with that.”
Source: New York Times

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