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The Importance of Legal Tech and Continued Education
Law school provides many young attorneys with the critical thinking and analysis skills necessary to be a successful lawyer in today’s legal marketplace. In this episode of the ABA Law Student Podcast, hosts Chris Morgan and Sandy Gallant-Jones speak with Continuing Education of the Bar (CEB) Executive Director Kelly Lake about the disruptive effects of legal technology and why continued learning and development is essential for legal professionals.
Prior to joining CEB, Ms. Lake held key positions with Thomson Reuters in the UK and Asia, working to deliver a variety of legal workflow solutions and practice tools as well as with Westlaw in the UK, China, and India.View transcript
ABA Law Student Podcast
The Importance of Legal Tech and Continued Education
Intro: Welcome to the official ABA Law Student Podcast where we talk about issues that affect law students and recent grads. From finals and graduation to the bar exam and finding a job, this show is your trusted resource for the next big step. You are listening to the Legal Talk Network.
Sandy Gallant-Jones: Hello and welcome to another edition of the ABA Law Student Podcast on the Legal Talk Network. I am Sandy Gallant-Jones. I am the Seventh Circuit Governor for the ABA’s Law Student Division, representing the states of Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. I am currently a 2L at Northern Illinois University College of Law.
Chris Morgan: I am Chris Morgan, Governor of the ABA Law Student Division’s 12th Circuit and a 3L at the Gonzaga University School of Law in Spokane, Washington.
Sandy Gallant-Jones: Our show today is sponsored by the American Bar Association Law Student Division. In this monthly podcast we cover topics that are of interest to you, law students and recent graduates. We will cover a variety of topics from finals to the bar exam and everything in between.
Chris Morgan: We hope this show is a trusted resource for you, our listeners. For this show, Kelly Lake will join us as we discuss legal technology and the importance of learning how to use it, as well as the need for continued legal learning after law school.
Sandy Gallant-Jones: Welcome to the show Kelly.
Kelly Lake: Thank you. It’s great to be here.
Sandy Gallant-Jones: It’s great to have you here. I want to know a little bit about your background, why don’t you tell our listeners what influenced you to choose a career in the legal field?
Kelly Lake: It’s interesting that I would, even though I studied law at University in England, I would probably first describe myself as an information and media professional, who happens to have spent the bulk of my career building legal technology and information solutions.
So how I started there is, I was at law school looking for a job, as you do sometimes when you are an impoverished student, and this was the mid-90s in the UK, there was a lot of buzz around technology and Thomson Reuters, which was then West Publishing, and many of your students are probably familiar with Westlaw, was looking to build the first Westlaw outside of the United States, and that was Westlaw UK, and that was my very first job.
So as part of that I went on, I joined that as a legal editor, creating content for Westlaw UK and classifying the content, and I got completely sucked into the power and the opportunity of the technology. And it was very evident in that run up to the millennium that technology was going to explode and that it was going to really change — at that point in time I don’t know that I had the foresight to see how much it was going to change, the world around us, but it was pretty clear that this was a pass to a completely new and changing environment, and as a young person that was very exciting to me and I guess that’s how it has evolved.
And over the years I have moved through different parts of the media business. Thomson Reuters is a significant media and information business, with news, and scientific data and financial services data, and I have worked in all different aspects of that. But I guess my roots are in the legal publishing area and that’s where to some degree my passion is as well.
Chris Morgan: So you spent a lot of time with Thomson Reuters, could you tell us a little bit about your time there, kind of what you accomplished and what it was like working with them and for them?
Kelly Lake: Sure. So as I said before, Thomson Reuters was the start of my career with the UK part of the business, which was at that point in time very focused around building Westlaw UK, and that was I would say probably the first initial three years of my career.
From there, there was this mass explosion of technology, globalization, and the entire geo-economic environment shifted as well. And so I would say legal publishing has been a big part of my life through Thomson Reuters, but then also it has then offered me the opportunity to work on acquisitions in over 10 countries. I have launched products in over three continents, and I have been part of ongoing digital transformation of small Thomson Reuters’ businesses and print publishing entities I think for about a decade now.
And in 2011, probably one of my favorite things just before I left Thomson Reuters was I was part of the acquisition team for Practical Law Company, which I know is here in the US. It started in London, in the UK, and is I think a very interesting evolution of legal publishing and really signals some of the changes that we are seeing in the way law is practiced and legal information is delivered, and the role of legal technology to some degree that is shaping that change.
Sandy Gallant-Jones: You touched on this earlier, but I am sure through the course of your career you have seen just tremendous change and evolution in legal technology, and certainly legal technology or just technology in general has become so ubiquitous. So if you could talk a little bit about your observations and what you have seen and what do you foresee for the future?
Kelly Lake: Well, I am not sure I can say anything original on this, so certainly there has been a lot written and expounded on this particular topic for probably the last decade.
I guess as an insider in the legal publishing and legal technology space, I don’t know that legal technology is in itself; it certainly has disrupted and created some new opportunities. I don’t know that it is having the transformative shift that many predict, and part of that I guess is that we are looking at things on probably too short a timeframe.
A decade ago it was that automation was going to completely change the way law was practiced and certainly the way that the legal workflows operated, and that has happened; we have things like eDiscovery particularly changing, but I think for the most part what it has done is it has enabled lawyers to be more productive. It has created a lot more space for lawyers to focus on the practice of law and doing law more effectively and efficiently.
Then we have the commoditization effects. So you have really interesting companies like LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer who are using technology to commoditize, consumerize, however you want to see it, certain aspects of what was a legal service. Those are really interesting. I would argue that the disruption is in effect causing the profession to reflect a little bit, but overall I think it’s too soon to call to say what direction we are going in.
Now we are facing the role of artificial intelligence as well. And again, there’s a lot of discussion and projecting and forecasting of how this is going to shift, and I think probably the most immediate and likely outcome is that it’s going to have a similar affect that we saw with automation. It is going to remove certain or make certain activities that are of low-level or standardized or can be standardized more effective and more productive. And so the practice of law becomes more efficient and more focused on the framing of the problem. There’s more information readily and more quickly available to frame solutions to problems.
Chris Morgan: So law students have access to these very powerful tools now, dissimilar to the way that it was and the way that legal research was done back in the day. Now we have access to Westlaw, to Lexis, and all of these different tools coming into law school. How important is it do you think that students gain knowledge and experience with these tools so that they are ready to use them once they get out into practice?
Kelly Lake: I think, first of all, both Westlaw and Lexis have changed dramatically in the last 10 years. They both have kind of new versions or incarnations of themselves, which reflect how much technology has involved, the deeper search of better, more accurate and more intuitive, natural language search of a volume of content that they both house under those umbrellas of WestlawNext and Lexis Advance has also much increased.
So I would say, I don’t know how as someone who did research largely in a paper environment at law school, I don’t know how you can’t study law or perhaps practice law is a different scenario, but I don’t know that you can’t study law without knowing how to use those tools effectively. I think they are must-have tools, but the great thing is that they are so intuitive and so easy to use that familiarizing yourself with them is relatively, I would say trivial now compared to what it was five, ten years ago before the current versions.
Sandy Gallant-Jones: I am wondering if you have seen any trend among law schools introducing a technology and a law course that really focuses on the importance of utilizing technology in the legal field?
Kelly Lake: Well, I think we have a lot of interesting inroads made in that space, which are not really specifically around research, but certainly in thinking about legal information as data and the analytics you can derive from that data.
The Stanford Law School has certainly some very interesting programs around, an Incubator is coming out of that program, things like Ravel Law, which I think is a hugely exciting platform around legal technology. You have the introduction of concepts like design thinking into how you solve problems and build products for lawyers. And I think this shows that the world of law is not this walled garden that it perhaps once was, there is the opportunity here to really create something that’s very interesting and unique in the future using technology and different ways of thinking.
Chris Morgan: Kelly, can you explain to us a little bit about how you found yourself serving as the Executive Director of Continuing Education of the Bar and what kind of programs and services that you guys offer to practicing attorneys and law students?
Kelly Lake: CEB is the program of the University of California and it has been around since 1947. It was founded with the intention of helping returning World War II veterans back into practice, and this is the distinction between the study of law and the continuing education of law, improving the practice of law through ongoing professional development, and this is where CEB started. It continues in that trend, where we publish over 150 practical guides each year. We produce programs to help lawyers.
California is a Mandatory Compliance State, so every three years every attorney in California must have 25 hours of compliance credits in order to continue, and so we offer those programs. But we also look at what are the emerging needs of young attorneys, and what we hear repeatedly is that legal writing skills, running a small law practice, basic business skills, and preparing for the world of work and communication skills, business development skills, all of those things are things that young lawyers tell us that are becoming a bigger part of their day-to-day life.
And so we are trying to think of — shape what that continuing education needs to look like beyond the substantive areas and the compliance elements of law, and how we can offer practical guidance for young attorneys who have not grown up in a print world, who are very used to consuming information in a digital way, what that will look like for the legal education and continuing education provider like ourselves.
Sandy Gallant-Jones: I am curious, what does CEB offer for law students?
Kelly Lake: We have a great deal in fact. So we work very closely, since we are part of the University of California, we work very closely with the University of California Law Schools. And so all professors of University of California Law Schools and therefore by extension the students receive CEB products and access to our guides.
Students receive free programs and conferences. As a student of a California University you can attend one of our programs for free. You can access the on-demand programs online for free. You can get deep discounts on our popular practice guides, and we cover a range of practice areas.
And when you get out of law school, which is probably where it becomes most relevant, and the reality of the world is hitting, you can access our digital libraries, for the first year for free and then after that it’s significantly discounted, like 50% or 70% discounted, through your first five years of practice.
Just recently we have begun sponsoring for University of California Law Schools a Legal Writing and Research Award and that’s $5,000 that we award to students who display exceptional skills in writing and research. And this is really recognizing, I think to the earlier question about how important is Westlaw or LexisNexis, or legal research tools to the study of law, and I think being able to access the relevant information in the most efficient way, to be able to analyze and make sense of that information in order to frame solutions to legal problems is an essential part of the practice of a young lawyer, and it takes a few years out of practice to really learn and hone those skills.
And so we are trying to create a support network for young lawyers to be able to do that as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Chris Morgan: Right. So going off of that and all of the CLE courses that you guys are offering, how important is it for attorneys to continue learning throughout their career? We know that the legal profession, the medical profession, and several others have these requirements for continued learning, is there anything specific to the practice of law that you see that makes these CLE classes beneficial?
Kelly Lake: I am not sure it’s particular to the legal profession, I think continued learning is an essential part of the world that we live in, more so now, and the range of information that we need to absorb and assimilate is increasing exponentially.
So with a profession that is undoubtedly changing, it is undoubtedly changing. I think my remarks earlier were not that I don’t think that technology is not having a disruptive effect and it’s not going to change the profession or the regulation in some jurisdictions, just that that rate of change has been so hotly anticipated to be very swift, and what we are seeing is that it’s a lot slower, but the world around the profession, and law does not exist in a vacuum; it’s part of a broader society, and in fact it shapes society and the individuals, and that’s why I think none of us can sit by and not be committed to a lifetime of learning.
And that’s actually one of the things that drew me to this role in CEB, is that CEB sits at the intersection of law, education and public service, because we are a nonprofit and we are providing what is typically very expensive information and resources at a very affordable, and in some cases for free to the most challenged parts of the market that we serve.
And so this is a great opportunity to encourage everyone and to give everyone the opportunity for this continued learning and development that is essential to survival I think in the world that we live in.
Sandy Gallant-Jones: Well, it’s clear that you offer a tremendous service for attorneys in California and also terrific opportunity for law students in California, but generally for law students who are outside of California, what type of advice would you offer to law students in terms of networking, in terms of a willingness to learn beyond their doctrinal classes, during their law school years so that they can really hit the ground running when they venture out into the real world?
Kelly Lake: I should have clarified, one of the on-demand library of programs is available outside of California, to students outside of California as well, and that is not only jurisdiction specific. There are courses on ethics, bias, some courses around just how to start your own law practice. And so those are really I think useful for particularly people now entering the profession and available for free.
Generally, I would say if you are starting out now — I spend a lot of my time talking to young lawyers in their first five years of practice, because they are a very key component that I need to take on board as we shape our digital future and how we deliver information to them. And what I am struck by is that the networking is only really starting maybe year two of being out in the world of work, and you really do need to start building your networks much earlier, before you even enter the profession. And I think conferences are great. There are wealth of national conferences. There is a number of legal networking sites.
I think identifying sponsors and mentors is really important. So people who have similar career path that you think you might want to follow and finding ways to engage with them and to seek out their mentorship is really important, where you are starting to define and lay down the future for where you want to take your career.
Sandy Gallant-Jones: Great tips. Great tips.
Chris Morgan: Kelly, I am curious, just as a follow-up question, you guys are based out of the San Francisco Bay area then, is that correct? Okay, great. Do you guys partner, or if not partner, is there any sort of relationship directly between you guys and the area law schools there. I think UC Hastings is down there, Golden Gate, UC Berkeley, of course UC Davis a little bit up the way. Do you see students that tend to get involved with CEB at a younger age when they are in law school or are there opportunities for law students in the Bay area to get involved with what you do?
Kelly Lake: There is some limited opportunity right now. As I said, we have the Legal Research and Writing Award, so we go on to campuses to make sure that people are aware of this award and to provide the award.
We do some limited student fairs currently now, but next year we will be launching a Student Rep Program, and this is really a way for us to outreach and to connect more directly and meaningfully with students. That’s partly for us to create that connection to understand what the needs are, but I think it will offer a great opportunity for cross-networking with students as well via CEB. So we become a bit of a hub for students to start to see.
And we have also great links into public interest law and next year in fact we are planning to put on in conjunction with the University of California Office of the President and the law schools the first public law conference for University of California. And so that is a great pathway for students to connect with CEB and then connect with people who have careers currently in that area.
Sandy Gallant-Jones: All right. Great. Hey, one last question for our listeners who want to follow up, how can they reach out and connect with you?
Kelly Lake: If you go to our website HYPERLINK “http://www.ceb.com” ceb.com, there is an email address on that; I think it’s called something like Ask Kelly and that is a great way for people to ask questions, to connect with CEB or me directly.
Chris Morgan: Well, hey, thank you Kelly again so much for joining us on the podcast today. We really appreciate it.
Kelly Lake: Thank you guys. Thank you for your time and for taking the time to chat. It was fun.
Sandy Gallant-Jones: It was a pleasure. We hope you have enjoyed another episode of our podcast. We encourage you to subscribe to the ABA Law Student Podcast on iTunes, so you don’t miss an episode and take a moment to rate and review us as well.
Chris Morgan: You can also reach us on Twitter at @ABALSD using the #Law Student Podcast. We would love to hear what’s on your mind. I am Chris Morgan and thank you for listening to the ABA Law Student Podcast here on Legal Talk Network.
Sandy Gallant-Jones: And I am Sandy Gallant-Jones. Thanks for listening everyone. Until next time, take care.
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