Introducing technology to legal education could be the key to inspiring innovation in the legal industry. In this episode of The Digital Edge, hosts Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway talk to Darin Fox about how he sees technology functioning in legal education. They discuss the program Darin oversees at the University of Oklahoma, how the recession affected the use of legal technology, and potential future uses of courtroom technology.
Darin Fox is an associate dean at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. He oversees the law library, information technology, and the school’s law practice technology training program, called the Digital Initiative Project.
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The Digital Edge
Teaching the Technology of Law Practice to Law Students
Intro: Welcome to The Digital Edge with Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway, your hosts, both legal technologists, authors and lecturers, invite industry professionals to discuss a new topic related to lawyers and technology. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Sharon D. Nelson: Welcome to the 116th edition of The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology. We are glad to have you with us. I am Sharon Nelson, President of Sensei Enterprises, an information technology, cybersecurity and digital forensics firm in Fairfax, Virginia.
Jim Calloway: And I am Jim Calloway, Director of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program. Today our topic is Teaching the Technology of Law Practice to Law Students.
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Today we are very pleased to have as our guest Darin Fox. Darin is an Associate Dean at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. He oversees the Law Library, Information Technology, and the school’s Law Practice Technology Training Program called the Digital Initiative Project.
Prior to joining OU, he was an Associate Dean and Director of Information Technology at USC Law School in Los Angeles. He has focused his career on the intersection of legal education and information technology, and it’s my pleasure to get to interview for our podcast a fellow Oklahoman.
Thanks for joining us today Darin.
Darin Fox: Well, thanks to you both for having me. I am a big fan of you both.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, let’s start at the very beginning Darin, can you let us know how you became interested in legal technology?
Darin Fox: Sure. Well, I won’t tell you my whole life story, but I grew up in the 1980s when technology was really becoming available to consumers and businesses, and so I spent quite a bit of time with friends and family experimenting with technology and building computers and customizing them. And much like the prior generation, Customized Cars and Hot Rods, I think we have a whole generation of folks that grew up in the 80s and 90s experimenting with technology.
And my first experience with technology and the law was in law school. I ran a bulletin board service called The Legal Fiction here in Oklahoma and that was really my first chance to see how technology could be used for collaboration and communication by folks who have similar interests.
And then another element that really sparked my interest in technology was when I was in graduate school at the University of Illinois. There was a guy there named Marc Andreessen; you guys may know his name, he was there actually developing Mosaic, which later became Netscape, and then of course Firefox, and so that was a chance for me to see how technology could really impact education and distribution of information. So that happened when I was in school.
And then when I got my first job at USC in the mid-90s, this was really the birth of the web, of the World Wide Web, and so there was a huge call for technology skills in web development and classroom technology and online research and database development and these are the things that I was learning when I just happened to be in school at that time, sort of in the right place at the right time.
And so then in my career as a librarian and professor I started watching the development of the major legal research databases like Lexis and Westlaw, and now we have this whole new exciting field of AI and the new tools like Fastcase and Casetext and Ravel Law. And so I have spent a lot of time doing training in that area.
And then a little bit later in my career as an IT Director I was focused on how technology could improve business processes and help to move an organization forward. I also had a chance to see just how students were using technology in their education, and I am sure you have had other people tell you this before, but we have this latest generation, we have a bunch of folks who are really savvy consumers of content and really savvy users of certain types of technology, like social media, but those skills really don’t always translate into productivity skills like we might need in a law practice or another business setting.
So that’s just a few examples of things that have kind of combined together through my education and my career, and especially now since the recession have kind of focused me in on teaching law students technology and how they can use it in the practice of law.
Jim Calloway: Darin, as it has been with law firms, I understand that law schools have been going through some changes since the Great Recession. Can you tell us how these economic changes have impacted law schools?
Darin Fox: Oh yeah. So the recession has had just a huge impact on law schools and it has really caused quite a bit of reflection on how legal education is conducted and provided all across the country.
So I don’t know if you have heard these details about what’s happened in legal education, but after the recession we had a whole generation of young people who were watching the news and seeing the impact of the recession on business, and of course that then in turn affected law firms, and especially big law firms with a business slow down in 2008, 2009, 2010. And so, law firm hiring really slowed down over those years and in the subsequent years.
And so if you just look at the numbers of people applying to law schools around the country, just 15 years ago, in 2003, we had nearly a 100,000 people applying to law schools all over the country, and now, over the last two years we are seeing about 57,000 people applying to law school. So we have had almost — it’s almost half, it’s a 40%, 45% drop in the number of people going to law school.
And so at the same time we have had law schools, academia kind of watches what’s happening in law firms, and after the recession we saw law firms — there has always been a focus of technology, and Jim and Sharon, you both have been champions of this, the use of technology in law firms, but I would be curious to know if you agree with this. After the last recession it seemed like eyes opened maybe even wider than they had in the past in terms of, how do we create greater efficiency so that we can survive these lean times following the Great Recession.
And so we watched that in academia and saw that greater focus happening on legal technology. And eventually the ABA took notice of this, and especially part of the ABA that deals with legal education, and in 2012, just a couple of years after the recession, we had the ABA form the Task Force on the Future of Legal Education and they tackled a bunch of issues; the cost of legal education, how education is delivered, but then one element of it was technology skills.
So this Task Force on the Future of Legal Education saw that technology was becoming increasingly important in law firms and really challenged schools to begin incorporating that into their curriculum in their 2013 report. And so that was really one of the major factors that caused us to start thinking about our program at the University of Oklahoma.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, it’s certainly true that law schools which were once the cash cows for their universities, now they had their hand out looking for something. So it’s been quite a time and the recession set them back for a loop and then the law firm started using expert systems and alternative legal providers, and now we have lawyers working on a gig basis, so you have a lot of change from what we had in the old days. The entire practice of law is shifting ground under our feet.
So tell us if you can Darin, how law schools are adapting to the increasing importance of technology in law practice?
Darin Fox: So we have been seeing pressure really from two sides. We have law firms that are increasingly busy, they are maybe leaner, and so they have less time to train their new associates.
And then on the other side, from the students that come in, we have ever increasingly more and more savvy students who come to law school and they have a vision for what they want to do and they understand that they want to be as completely prepared to practice law as they can. And so we are really seeing these pressures from both sides, both from firms that want students to be more practice ready when they hit the doorstep and from students that want to be more practice ready when they hit the doorstep.
And so as a result we have been seeing law schools start to begin with — usually most schools will start with like a seminar course where they will cover law practice technology, but now we are starting to see schools even expand their offerings in a bigger way and start to branch out into school-wide type programs. There’s really cool experimentation happening on many different fronts from several different schools around the country.
So I think we are in a period of kind of innovation in academia, just like we are sort of in a period of, I think, I would be curious to know if you agree if we are in a period of sort of increased innovation in legal technology generally across practice.
Jim Calloway: The changes are really interesting I will say Darin. I know that the University of Oklahoma College of Law has a technology training program. Why don’t you share the details of that with our listeners?
Darin Fox: Okay, so in 2014 we started a program that we call our Digital Initiative Program and there’s really three components to it. We sort of looked around at the landscape and saw what other schools were doing and tried to fashion the best program that we could.
And so the three elements are, first, we distribute iPads to the entire student body. So every student that comes to school here has an iPad, and it’s not just an iPad giveaway, it’s an iPad training program. So we actually train them how to use their iPad to study law and how to use their iPad in the practice of law. And we saw that as kind of an important growing tool in education, because as we started to get eBooks being produced and as we started to see classroom technology like Top Hat and other types of programs, we felt it was important for the school as a whole to know that all students have this platform available.
So if you were going to have an eBook, you know that every student has a mechanism for reading that eBook, and if you were going to do some interactive software in class, you know that you have a platform that every student has.
So we have the iPads and you will be interested to know that this incoming class is going to have the iPad Pro, with the Apple Pencil, which is fantastic. I know you guys have played with it, but it’s really the first tablet that you can handwrite notes with and have it truly be as fine as a pen and actually keep up with your fast handwriting that you might need to do in a law school class. So that’s the first element.
The second element is the technology training requirement that we have and we have a school-wide annual training requirement. So every student has to attend at least three hours of technology training per year. That’s really the modest sort of ground floor, and what we find is the students, as they see the benefits of being able to be more efficient with Microsoft Office, Acrobat, we will go on down the list of — I could give you a list of the programs that we train on.
As they start to see the benefits of that, you will get a certain percentage of the population that will come to 20, 30, 40 hours of training every year. So we are going to graduate a group of students, a good sized group of students, not everybody, but a good size that will have just dozens and dozens of hours of training, and that’s really one of the main elements of our Digital Initiative.
And then the third part is the physical facilities. So in the summer of 2016 we renovated the law library here, a part of the law library, thanks to the Inasmuch Foundation and built a collaborative Learning Center, and we tried to take pages from what was happening in law firms, with more group work, more collaborative work, and we incorporated those elements into the facility to make it easy for students to work together with technology as they study the law.
Jim Calloway: That’s a good rundown. I appreciate that. Before we move on to our next segment, let’s take a quick commercial break.
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Welcome back to The Digital Edge on the Legal Talk Network. Today our subject is Teaching the Technology of Law Practice to Law Students. Our guest is Darin Fox, an Associate Dean at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. He oversees the Law Library, Information Technology and the School’s Law Practice Technology Training Program called the Digital Initiative Project.
So Darin, tell us something about specific technology skills that you provide training on.
Darin Fox: Sure. So we do more than 50 training sessions per year for the students, and those range from — we do most of them in person, hands-on training, but we also do some online training for the students.
We have done three years of the program now, so we have formed partnerships with many legal experts; Jim comes and speaks to our students quite regularly; and Sharon, you have also spoken to our students, and we have partnerships with many vendors, so we stay in close touch with them.
We train heavily on Microsoft Office. We have actually gone to the ABA TECHSHOW many times and we pay close attention to what others tell us are the important tools that are being used in law practice. So, Microsoft Office, not terribly sexy, but essential to be proficient with, so we train a lot on Office, OneNote and Word specifically.
We train on Acrobat, LIT SOFTWARE. So we train on TrialPad, TranscriptPad, all the case management systems. We have worked with Rocket Matter, Clio, and others.
Thomson Reuters has a suite of practice tools and one of the main ones is Drafting Essentials and so we train quite a bit on that, and then lots of other topics like security and ethics. So there’s quite a long list of topics that we offer throughout the year.
Jim Calloway: What sources do you use to stay current on legal technology other than The Digital Edge podcast of course?
Sharon D. Nelson: That was subtle Jim.
Darin Fox: So the ABA TECHSHOW has really been a critical conference for us to go to every year, because it’s amazing. The number of legal technology vendors that come to this conference, I mean when you first walk into that exhibit hall for the first time and it just stretches almost further than you can even see, just tells you that that’s the place you need to be to see the innovation that’s going on and the established vendors too and what they are doing that’s new. So we go to the ABA TECHSHOW every year.
You may know, you may have seen Bob Ambrogi and some other people tweeting and blogging about the American Association of Law Libraries Conference, which just ended. They kind of called it a mini TECHSHOW and it sort of is becoming a mini TECHSHOW.
The librarians throughout the country are sort of filling that gap in academia as technology trainers because of our experience with research platforms and databases that run libraries, and IT departments tend to be at law schools just big enough to really get the business processes done and there’s not always time for training to happen out of IT. So librarians are really stepping up and doing that.
But there’s lots of blogs. Jeanne O’Grady, of course her blog, and Greg Lambert in Houston; he is a University of Oklahoma law grad, so we watched their blogs, and of course listen to The Digital Edge.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, I hope so. I do understand that your school offers certification and technology skills. Can you tell us something about these certifications?
Darin Fox: That’s right. So there’s an organization called HYPERLINK “http://www.ltc4.org” ltc4.org and this is a consortium of law firms and legal technology vendors that have gotten together and created a series of core competencies in individual technology areas. So for instance, legal presentations or legal documents or security, and there’s ten of these skills altogether.
And when you become a member, so the University of Oklahoma College of Law is one of the first members of LTC4, so we have access to those core competencies and those help us to set our training curriculum. So that we are properly connecting the skills that we train with what the law firms say they are needing.
And so we have this membership in LTC4 and then we have a testing system by a company called Capensys. And so we have the ability for our students to attend training and then take the LTC4 certification tests and then they can put that on their resume so they can demonstrate for their employers, potential future employers, that they have these technology skills.
Jim Calloway: Mobile technology is increasingly important in law practice today. You mentioned the iPad, are there other ways you train your students on mobile technology?
Darin Fox: Yes. Well, the iPad is really the main technology tool that we use. We watch closely the types of mobile technology that are used in firms. So there’s a fantastic survey that’s done every year by the ABA called The Legal Technology Survey Report, and I would recommend anybody in academia that is thinking about trying to figure out how to train students on technology, that’s a wonderful report to look at, because what it tells you is that iPads are the most heavily used tablets in firms. And so you can see that over 50% of firms, it’s now approaching 60% of firms use iPads and over two-thirds of lawyers use iPhones.
And so we customize — that’s why we chose the iPad. So we train both on iPads and iPhones and we train on tools like TrialPad, which is written only for the iPad. And that’s a fantastic tool to train students, especially those that are going into solo and small firms, because it can be used in not just the courtroom, but it could be used in a boardroom or in a presentation to a client as a way to go through evidence.
So we really focus on keeping your iPad secure and how to use it efficiently as a tool in your practice, and then also your iPhone. We use the example of if you use a case management system and you meet your client at the Donut King, how easy it is to record your time if you have that app for your case management system on your iPhone. You can make sure that you have recorded your 60 minutes over the coffee and donuts with your client.
Jim Calloway: Before we move on to our next segment let’s take a quick commercial break.
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Welcome back to The Digital Edge on the Legal Talk Network. Today our subject is Teaching the Technology of Law Practice to Law Students. And our guest is Darin Fox. So Darin, how is your law school integrating legal technology into the rest of the curriculum?
Darin Fox: Well, it’s great, because we have had three years of doing this program now and so that’s been time enough for the faculty here at the University of Oklahoma College of Law to come to various sessions and be thinking themselves about ways that they could incorporate law practice technology in their classes.
So here’s just a few quick examples, every Trial Techniques class that we teach, we teach them to use TrialPad. So they have some experience with presenting evidence in a digital format in a courtroom.
In our required first year Legal Research and Writing class, we have a required session where everyone receives Word training on how to write a brief. So they are taught how to automatically generate tables of contents and tables of authorities, how to track citations using the features that are built into Word so that you are not manually remembering all those supras and infras as you go and develop your document.
So we have a fantastic trainer Kenton Brice, he is our Digital Resources Librarian and he is really a Microsoft Office expert, and he teaches all of the first years how to do that.
We also have several faculty who are writing eBooks for their courses and so they have published those on the Kindle Desktop publishing platform and students are able to access their course materials on their iPad in class.
And then one final example is we have various transactional classes, contract drafting and transactional law practicum that they actually use a case management system to track their time and upload their documents, much like you would do in practice. And then they also use Drafting Essentials to work through their documents and use the tools that help them be more efficient in drafting.
Jim Calloway: Certainly not the law school Sharon and I went to.
Sharon D. Nelson: Hardly.
Jim Calloway: Can you tell us about some of the more cutting-edge technologies that you are exploring?
Darin Fox: Yes, so you are seeing increasing discussion of virtual reality in the professional literature and we do have two virtual reality stations here at the Law School and we are in the process of developing content for those virtual reality stations.
So we have already one class that requires virtual reality to be used and that is a 360 degree video. So we have a Human Rights class, International Human Rights class and there’s a video, a 360 degree video that was recorded by a young girl who lives in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan, and she has been living there for quite some time and she gives you a tour in 360 degrees of the entire camp and what her daily life is like. So our students in that class are required to watch that video, and it just gives you a little bit better sense of what it’s like to live in that situation.
We are also exploring the use of virtual reality for courtroom training. Can you imagine how much more confident you would feel, I know I was really stressed out the first time I went into a courtroom, just being able to put on the VR goggles and look around an entire courtroom while some procedure is happening and you know what each person might be doing at any given time. We are exploring that for training uses.
And we actually have already done an experiment where we sent a 360 degree camera with a class up to a law firm in Oklahoma City and their task was to negotiate a contract with the attorneys from this firm. And so we recorded that in 360 degrees, and you can see as the negotiation is going on, you can be looking around the room, it gives you the flexibility to look around and see what’s happening in the room and what is any individual person’s reaction to what is being suggested and the back and forth. So that is one of the main cutting-edge technologies that we see a potential use for in training law students in the future.
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, it is a long way from our law school experience, isn’t it Jim?
Jim Calloway: Yes
Sharon D. Nelson: Well, we want to thank you a lot Darin for being with us today. It’s heartening to see how well some of the law schools, not all of them, but they are responding more and more to the pressures of the marketplace and trying to do what they didn’t do in the past, which was really prepare students to practice law, and that’s not really what they were doing a good job of doing.
So I am just thinking it’s wonderful, everything that’s happening at your school and thanks for taking the time to explain some of this to us today.
Darin Fox: Thanks so much for having me. It was fun talking to you.
Sharon D. Nelson: That does it for this edition of The Digital Edge: Lawyers and Technology. And remember, you can subscribe to all the editions of this podcast at HYPERLINK “http://www.legaltalknetwork.com”legaltalknetwork.com or on iTunes. And if you enjoyed our podcast, please rate us on iTunes.
Jim Calloway: Thanks for joining us. Goodbye Ms. Sharon.
Sharon D. Nelson: Happy trails cowboy.
Outro: Thanks for listening to The Digital Edge, produced by the broadcast professionals at Legal Talk Network. Join Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway for their next podcast covering the latest topic related to Lawyers and Technology. Subscribe to the RSS feed on HYPERLINK “http://www.legaltalknetwork.com”legaltalknetwork.com or in iTunes.
The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders and subsidiaries, none of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
Jared Correia: Hi. My name is Jared Correia. I love fondue, long walks on the beach, and I have a large collection of Grover Washington albums at my home.
Oh, I also host a podcast on Legal Talk Network called The Legal Toolkit, where we talk about law practice management issues and Warren Zevon every month. Check us out on iTunes, Stitcher or HYPERLINK “http://www.legaltalknetwork.com”legaltalknetwork.com.