Today’s law students grew up side by side with technology and typically view it as an integral part of their lives and futures as lawyers. As such, today’s law schools are working to support students through more robust legal technology training and development. Digital Edge hosts Sharon Nelson and Jim Calloway talk with Kenton Brice about his involvement with the Digital Initiative at the University of Oklahoma College of Law to get a sense of how technology is being leveraged in a tech-forward school. They also discuss how the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) and legal ops are using technology to increase access to justice, and Kenton shares his thoughts on what tech trends point to new possibilities for the future of law.
Kenton Brice is the director of technology innovation at the University of Oklahoma College of Law and directs the OU Law Center for Technology & Innovation in Practice and the College’s Digital Initiative.
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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’re listening to Legal Talk Network.
Sharon Nelson: Welcome to the 172nd edition of the Digital Edge Lawyers and Technology. We’re glad to have you with us. I’m Sharon Nelson, President of Sensei Enterprises and Information Technology, Cyber Security and Digital Forensics Firm in Fairfax Virginia.
Jim Calloway: And I’m Jim Callaway, Director of the Oklahoma Bar Association’s Management Assistance Program. Today, our topic is Training the Next Generation of Lawyers and the Future of Legal Tech. Our Guest today is Kenton Brice, the director of Technology Innovation at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. He directs the OU Law’s Center for technology and innovation and practice, and the college’s digital initiative. He teaches courses and workshops on legal research, technology and practice, and innovation. And through his efforts, OU Law has been named an Apple Distinguished School from 2017 to 2022 and has been listed as a top 20, most innovative law school multiple times. Kenton is a 2018 inductee in the Fast Case 50. He’s a Lean Six Sigma Greenbelt. He enjoys woodworking and spends lots of time hanging out with his wife and kids in Norman, Oklahoma. Thanks for joining us today, Kenton.
Kenton Brice: It’s great to be here, Jim. Thanks for having me, Sharon.
Sharon Nelson: We’re glad you could join us today. And let us start out by asking you, this is a softball. What is the digital initiative at OU Law?
Kenton Brice: Yeah, that is a softball. Thanks, Sharon. So, the digital initiative at OU Law was started in 2014 before I got here actually, and it’s a comprehensive technology forward program to prepare law students for the next generation of legal practice. We are mostly focused on the practice of law. And as others would probably say, technology applied in law practice or innovation applied in law practice. But it’s more than technology though. It’s also to understand like the why of technology and then how to drive innovation and legal from practicing attorneys all the way to the court systems, and how we think we deliver services to people out there. The digital initiative really stands up four pillars. I would say, hardware, training, facilities, and emerging technology. We’ve had a one-to-one iPad program since 2014, where every single law student that comes through our building gets an iPad Apple pencil now, that’s been going on since 2014. Eight years, I cannot believe it’s been eight years, almost a full decade of doing that but it’s paid off in dividends with professors, be able to write e-textbooks, understanding that their students coming through their doors would have a way to access those e-textbooks. So, it’s an equality issue for us, as well as kind of a happy circumstance in a really bleak time.
We had assurances right when the Pandemic hit in 2020, that all of our students had ability to access Zoom through a capable device, and so we were able to transition online rather quickly and seamlessly. So that hardware piece, a lot of people I talk to like, why do you provide hardware to students? And a lot of it is for those reasons, but also to leverage those devices for training purposes, and that goes into more of our training stuff, which that’s really the bread and butter of what I do, is a comprehensive training program, consisting of, depending on the year. 60 to 80 different lunch-and-learn presentations. I think, Sharon, Jim, both of you have talked to my students before, obviously in those trainees, in our Lunch & Learn series. And we do everything from how to use Microsoft Word, as a competent legal professional all the way to the metaverse or is AI really going to take my job kind of topics.
And then, so that’s training. A ton of that’s going on ongoing. I’m hosting the training tomorrow on Microsoft 365. Kind of do a boot camp for our new students. So, it’s getting them ready to go for what’s out there. And then obviously facilities and emerging technology. So, facilities, we have been renovating pieces of our law school for the past five, six years. Now, with a technology ford focus. Anyway, from an active learning classroom to how our courtrooms are redesigned and how they work in the law school for training purposes. And then lastly, emerging technology, I get to play around virtual reality, augmented reality tools. Mostly I’ve been worried about how lawyers preserve evidence and then how they can exhibit evidence in hearings using these types of technologies.
And it’s been a lot of fun, it’s a lot of work, but I think it’s been paying off in dividends for our students for almost the past decade.
Jim Calloway: Well, we’ve certainly seen the results of your work, Kenton. And I’m familiar with it since we’re in the same state. But why don’t you describe to our listeners how it is you do what you do?
Kenton Brice: Yeah, so it’s a lot. I have a lot of administrative support and that’s from the very beginning. I came out of the practice of law into this role through the law library and really, I have to give a big shout-out to my predecessors, Darren Fox, who is now retired, who was the director of the law library at University of Oklahoma and Joe Harris, who was the dean of the law school at the time, who is now the president of the University of Oklahoma. And out of the gate, this was kind of their brain child and they brought me in and they allowed me to grow it, gave me a lot of freedom and it’s been great. Just the administrative support I get. I cannot express how important that is for implementing a program, like this in a law school environment. Being a non-faculty member, I have to have a lot of administrative support to do what I do.
But then beyond that, it’s also outside of our building. I build relationships across the ecosystem. I mean obviously, I said earlier, Jim, you and Sharon both have talked to our students before and that’s from understanding who are experts in the marketplace and that comes from attending conferences, attending webinars, talking to people, building relationships to bring value back to our students. We were using Zoom before Zoom was cool during COVID. I don’t know, people say it was cool. But we were using Zoom to webinar people in to talk to her students from across the nation about different pieces of the legal industry and what technology was available. And so, those relationships are key to being successful. I think a lot of law professors or law librarians feel like they have to do everything themselves and my statement to them all the time is always, “No, you don’t. You can tap into a wealth of knowledge out there in the legal tech world to really create really good programming.” And so, I say that and then I’ll say, one of the things I do a lot is I just ask all the time for everything, and I get told, no a lot. This is something that happens. I just keep on asking and asking, and asking to people, “Can I do this? Can we do this? Or why do we do it this way? Can we do it this way?” And then, you know, if I get 15, 20 percent of people say yes, that’s a win for me.
And, obviously I’m a tech guy, I’m a techie. I’ve always been a techie. I’m not an IT guy, though. So, I’m not like a systems infrastructure professional or anything like that. I like to tell my students. I know enough to be really dangerous in a server closet. So, I had that kind of tech competency as applied to the legal profession. But really, you also have to come in and have a lot of tenacity in a position like mine, where there’s a lot of roadblocks to actually implementing a successful program like this. So, a lot of the how is just being tenacious and just doing it and going and asking all the time, and then knowing you’re going to get a lot of no’s, but that’s okay. That’s part of the progress.
Sharon Nelson: Well, you don’t want me in the server room either? I could absolutely tell you that. In fact, they don’t allow me the key. So, they understand. But really, you have done so much work, Kenton. You’ve done so much innovation already. So, I’m really interested in where you now see potential growth and opportunities in teaching legal tech and other related subjects.
Kenton Brice: Oh, my gosh. Yeah, it’s if anything legal tech has sped up by leaps and bounds over the past two years and there is so much change in investment. I mean, if you just go read, a big shout-out to Bob Ambrosia and his coverage on these things and other people. But if you just go and read about the legal acquisitions or legal tech acquisitions going on, or the investment that’s going on in legal tech, it is just accelerating. And there is some talk about test slowing down in 2022, 2023, but it’s been accelerating quite a bit over the past five years. So that means there’s more technology, there’s more tools. There’s people realizing that we could build solutions for things that we weren’t thinking of as a profession 10 years ago or 15 years ago. So just staying on top of that can be exhausting. And so, there’s always potential growth and opportunities because of just some massive growth in the market. And I would say, for law schools, there’s potential growth nationwide to do this because there’s still may be only a handful of law schools doing this. I am probably one of the first to be doing this in a law school environment and the scale that we’re doing it, but we’ve got a session, a bunch of librarians, law librarians are putting together a session at the American Association of Law Libraries Conference in Denver in July 2022. And we’re doing a teaching the law tech teachers kind of mini conference like workshop. Because we are seeing more growth at law schools.
But I think beyond just like teaching just technology, the growth is really in these other areas of competency that are related to technology. Like I tell my students all day long, technology does not exist in a vacuum. It needs to be applied to something to actually work and then people have to actually leverage it to do work. And when I say work, I mean actually delivering client services or public services, or whatever it may be. And over the past decade, we’ve seen incredible progress and understanding the competencies that a modern legal professional need and like, starting with a t-shaped lawyer. And then going into the delta model now a 4.0. And then you have the institute for the American Advance or the advancement of the American legal system aisles and they put together their whole lawyer competency framework.
So, I think law schools have like crazy potential opportunities to teach to those new and, or not new but newly discovered competencies for a modern legal professional, such as focusing on technology conference, of course. But also design thinking, process improvement. I put it in my intro for you guys to read that I’m a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt. And I did that to understand more what’s going outside the walls of legal that we can possibly bring back into legal, to really innovate change and deliver better services. And so, things like that design thinking process improvement, even project management, leadership skills, there’s been some pretty good work recently being done on like what makes a good leader. I think there’s a brand-new textbook. It actually hit my inbox this morning. I’ve been waiting for it for a while on leading in law. I’m really looking forward to reading it, because I think leadership skills is another area, we can develop our teaching into.
And then lastly, is operations and having an operational framework. How do we operationalize the law to provide services to client at scale? I mean, their opportunities are endless right now in the legal market. I think it’s such a fun time to be in legal. That’s what I tell my students. It’s an incredible time to be in legal. When I graduated from law school 13 years ago, I don’t think it was a very incredible time to be in legal. It was 2009 at the heartbeat of the recession, but now I’m like, man, there’s so much energy if you can just start leveraging these other competencies. So, I’m really bullish on our future.
Jim Calloway: Well, Kenton, we’re assuming we have a greater than normal number of faculty members in law schools listening to this podcast. So why don’t you follow up on those thoughts by saying, how do you believe law schools could continue to best develop the next generation of lawyers?
Kenton Brice: Yeah, that’s a great question. Because I get this a lot from outside the walls of the University of Oklahoma from other schools. And a lot of it is, this is great, we need to do this as an institution. We don’t know how or where to start. And my messages start where you can with what you already have. I would say, leverage existing frameworks and departments that already exists in your law school, that are already seen as kind of the inherent agents of change for that law school. I mean, I came to the law library. I’m a big believer in law libraries. I think law libraries are incredible resources in legal institutions, whether it be Academia or law firms, or governmental institutions, where you have really service-minded professionals that can think in an innovative way. They’re untethered from the traditional way of providing services for the institution and I mean, knowledge management itself is exploded in the past 10 years as a discipline.
And I think if we could just harness those traditional departments and institutions or frameworks that already have a trust mechanism built in within their institutions, we can start there. And then understanding that, that would say go invest, go invest in those people that can bring the curriculum through those frameworks institutions. And I would say specifically, law librarians, clinical faculty are another one, we can see across the nation right now what clinics are doing, and I would say just keep that up and encourage, and invest in those clinics. And how do you say, also your traditional faculty. And so, there are some really interesting developments in newer faculty and older faculty.
People that have been employed for 20 or 30 years that they’re starting to see kind of the change outside the walls in the legal industry, but they don’t know where to start, or where to get help. And where I say go back to law librarians, go back to your clinical faculty and let’s go build this together. Let’s go really build what a law school could look like, like law school 2024 or 2030, or 2050. What that could be to develop the next generation of lawyers. I think there’s a lot of opportunity. It’s just going to get, I think people kind of exhale after the Pandemic —
–and realize, wow, we have some amazing forward-thinking institutions that already exists. Let’s just give them a little bit of freedom to go experiment with some curriculum and just see how it goes, that’s where I would start. And that’s what I usually tell others a lot, because I get a lot of phone calls on how do we do this, where do we start. I’d say, leverage what you already have.
Jim Calloway: That’s great, Kenton. Before we move on to our next segment, let’s take a quick commercial break.
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Sharon Nelson: Welcome back to The Digital Edge on the Legal Talk Network. Today, our subject is Training the Next Generation of Lawyers and The Future of Legal Tech. Our guest today is Kenton Brice, the director of Technology Innovation at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. He directs the OU Law’s Center for technology and innovation in practice and the college’s Digital Initiative. He teaches courses and workshops on legal research, technology in practice and innovation, and through his efforts, OU law has been named an Apple Distinguished School from 2017 through 2022 and has been listed as a top 20 most innovative law school multiple times. So, Kenton, what about CLOC? The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium. How does that fit into legal education?
Kenton Brice: Well, currently it really doesn’t. And so, CLOC has only been around for a few years, six or seven years. And I have the chance to go to CLOC’s global institute back in early May 2022. I think I was one of three academics there, Josh Kubicki from University of Richmond was there, and then Brian Tang from Hong Kong University was there. So, there’s not a lot going on in law schools in legal education with CLOC, but I think there’s amazing opportunity here because CLOC represents a whole segment of the legal profession that really did not have any traction or exist a decade ago, legal operations. And so, not yet, but I think law schools need to be paying attention to what’s going on and start developing curriculum for legal operations. Legal operations, kind of business domain of expertise that kind of encompasses is the bridge between legal and business. And it’s one of those bridges that law schools could slot onto or into to really facilitate change in all aspects of legal industry. Right now, it’s really big and like big law firms and corporate in-house legal departments, but I really see opportunities across the entire ecosystem for legal ops to really change and help deliver services at scale.
Jim Calloway: Kenton, here’s another big question that you’ll have to cover briefly, but what about the practice of law and how it relates to access to justice. Does legal operations fit into that as well?
Kenton Brice: I think so, absolutely. Illegal ops, you can tell my excitement. I am super excited about thinking through the competencies that create a good legal operation professional. And it’s process improved, it’s leadership, it’s technology adoption, it is knowledge management data governance, human resource. It’s all these competencies that I look at and I see what legal operations professionals are doing. That could be applied at any institution, at any scale to help deliver legal services. The Legal Services Corporation back in April 2022 released their 2022 Justice Gap Report. I can’t remember the technical term for it. But they said 92 percent of low-income Americans cannot afford or access the legal system. That’s a massive problem. And so, we need to be leveraging different models of thinking and professionals to help solve that problem. I think legal operations is an amazing domain that could slot in or domain of expertise where you get some professionals in this world that think differently about the delivery of services from an operational standpoint to really facilitate change.
Sharon Nelson: What specific technologies are you seeing, Kenton in legal ops that other legal professionals can take advantage of?
Kenton Brice: The big thing in legal ops right now is CLM, Contract Lifecycle Management. And so, from just like their CRM, Customer Relationship Management, you have CLM where you’re not managing a relationship, you’re managing contracts from cradle to the grave. And that’s the big piece of technology that we see. But that type of technology and what it exists to do is to provide a 360-degree framework for your contracts can be applied to case management that could be applied to obviously, CRM or Customer Relationship Management, or even for court systems. I mean, it’s that it’s kind of thinking through what this software are intending to do. And then how do we apply that in different domains. And I think CLM is the big winner for regular legal departments, but the idea of CLM can be applied in so many other domains to really provide services. But CLM, I think right now, it’s really targeted to big firms and in-house legal departments. But I think even smaller shops that even just deal with a few contracts or a few hundred contracts a year, like the smaller transactional boutiques could really take advantage of CLM. It’s a really cool pieces of tact and there’s a lot of investment going there right now. So it’d be really fun to see how it develops.
Jim Calloway: Kenton, are there any other industry participants in the legal echo system that legal education can look to for development?
Kenton Brice: Absolutely. Legal operations, CLOC is one, but also this other kind of non-traditional organizations and non-traditional from the idea that law schools generally don’t appear or don’t have representation in these organizations. I would say ACC, the Association for Corporate Counsel, is another one where a law school could go partner with the ACC to develop frameworks about how to be an in-house lawyer. I would also say, American Association law libraries is kind of already there. But what about the American Library Association? They kind of think differently about how library services should be provided at scale and more like public settings. The other ALA out there, the Association for Legal Administrators, is another one. Law schools generally don’t have a presence there, but they could. And there’s a whole another vertical within the legal ecosystem. At least when a talent standpoint that law schools just start paying attention to, and I think we could, just so we could learn how to develop our own curriculum.
Understanding full well that the modern law practice, it’s going to have a multidisciplinary professional look to it. It’s not just going to be the JD holding lawyer but it’s also going to be a legal operation professional and it’s also going to be an office administrator and it may also be something that we don’t even know yet. And so, there’s a lot of different organizations we can look to and then I also say, to our bar associations. I have tried over the past few years to really sell the idea to my faculty that we need to integrate more with the bar associations, either local or statewide. I haven’t found a lot of traction for it yet, but I’m hoping now that we’re past the Pandemic or on the other side of it, may on the down slope of that mountain, that we can restart those conversations.
Jim Calloway: Before we move on to our next segment, let’s take a quick commercial break.
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Sharon Nelson: Welcome back to The Digital Edge on the Legal Talk Network. Today, our subject is Training the Next Generation of Lawyers and The Future of Legal Tech. Our guest is Kenton Brice, the director of Technology Innovation at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. He directs the OU Law’s Center for technology and innovation in practice and the college’s Digital Initiative.
Jim Calloway: Kenton, let’s talk about AVA Tech Show. We’re on the planning board for last year’s AVA Tech Show and for the upcoming years AVA Tech Show. So where does legal education exist within the tech show world?
Kenton Brice: So, Tech Show’s happening. It starts on March 1, 2023 in person in Chicago, and we are super excited about this year. I am on the plan board again this year. I’m just blessed to be able to help. And as for legal education, I take students with me and we’re seeing more, and more law students start to come to tech show in person. And I think legal education has a spot at the table. Tech Show is really the platform for the entire legal ecosystem to get together to talk about how technology works, how it’s applied. And then let’s talk about what that means for the future of law practice. I mean the entire legal ecosystem. So, from legal technology, vendors, companies, to practicing attorneys, to PMAs and bar associations, but also law schools, law professors, and law librarians, and law students should also be there to help understand what’s going on right now. And then, how do we build for the next generation. Traditionally, over the past few years, pre-COVID, we had an academic track and then that turned into the next 20, and that was really good foundational work for Tech Show to get academics involved.
But now we’re kind of looking at how do we get legal academia, legal education more integrated in with the rest of the ecosystem. So, we’re all having the same conversations together about technology applied as well as the future of practice. And so that’s what we’re looking for next march in 2023. It is going to be, it looks to be an excellent show. We had a planning board meeting back in Nashville in May. And the energy that came out of that room was palpable, it was awesome. We are so excited about next year and then for legal educators to really take notice of what’s going on in the industry and then start forming curriculum around that, and also helping build the future. And so, we’re really excited. I plan on taking students again. Just a side note, I had a student stopped me in the hallway last week and says she got an internship because she attended Tech Show, which I was just so happy for her. I mean, there’s so much opportunity out of Tech Show for legal educators and law students alike, and I’m really looking forward to March 2023.
Sharon Nelson: Well, we are too and thanks for joining us today, Kenton. The only problem with you, of course, is that you have no enthusiasm, no energy, and no optimism for the future. And of course, I am kidding because you have all the enthusiasm and energy and optimism in the world. So, this has been very fast paced and you are truly an evangelist for all this stuff. So, it’s been a great pleasure to have you with us. Thank you for taking the time.
Kenton Brice: Well, thanks for having me. Obviously, my enthusiasm is, hopefully, it’s not blind, right? It’s real enthusiasm. I really see a bright future for legal and for my students.
Sharon Nelson: And that does it for this edition of The Digital Edge Lawyers and Technology. And remember, you can subscribe to all of the editions of this podcast at legaltalknetwork.com, or on Apple Podcast, and if you enjoyed our podcast, please rate us in Apple Podcast.
Jim Calloway: Thanks for joining us. Goodbye, Ms. Sharon.
Sharon Nelson: Happy trails, cowboy.
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