Thinking like a lawyer, designing like an architect: preparing students for the 21st century practice
Tanina Rostain, Roger Skalbeck, and Kevin G. Mulcahy suggest that building legal expert system apps furthers pedagogic goals associated with traditional law school curriculum and clinical teaching. In “Thinking Like a Lawyer, Designing Like an Architect: Preparing Students for the 21st Century Practice,” 88 CHI.-KENT L. REV. 743 (2013) (forthcoming) the authors present the rationale and design of courses in which students create such legal expert system apps. The authors argue that, by exposing students to principles of systems design, these courses prepare them for the emerging challenges of 21st century practice.
Tanina Rostain is Professor of Law and Research Director for the Center for the Study of the Legal Profession at Georgetown University Law Center. Her scholarship focuses on legal ethics in the context of corporate and tax practice. Roger Skalbeck, Adjunct Professor and Associate Law Librarian at Georgetown University Law Center, specializes in technology management in law libraries. While Kevin G. Mulcahy is Director of Education for Neota Logic.
In designing legal expert systems apps, students engage in careful legal analysis and anticipate the problems and questions a typical user will have. Students also learn to communicate legal concepts in precise and plain language, which deepens students’ understanding of the concepts they communicate. The authors contend that the process of such app creation teaches essential skills of analysis and expression while generating technological skills that befit the modern lawyer.
“Various law schools—Chicago-Kent Law School, New York Law School, Vermont Law School, and Georgetown Law Center among them—are beginning to offer innovative classes in which students learn to build legal expert systems intended to enhance access to the legal system. Working in platforms that do not require technical expertise, students are able to build apps that incorporate rules-based logic, factor balancing, and mathematical operations to implement the reasoning of a regulatory regime. In this essay, we suggest that teaching students to design apps furthers pedagogic goals associated with the traditional law school curriculum and clinical teaching. In designing legal expert systems, students are required to engage in careful legal analysis and anticipate the problems and questions a typical user will have. Students also need to learn to communicate legal concepts and categories in precise and plain language. Contrary to the traditional law school curriculum, however, which emphasizes case-by-case analysis, in clinics that focus on building legal expert systems, students learn to develop systemic solutions to legal problems. By exposing students to principle of systems design, these classes prepare them for the emerging challenges of 21st century practice.”
The authors will expand on this article while presenting during the live, in-person symposium on June 15, 2013, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. For more information.
Throughout the next two weeks, as the live symposium approaches, the CALI Spotlight Blog will preview another symposium presentation each day:
- June 5, 2013: Marc Lauritsen, “Liberty, Justice, and Legal Automata”
- June 6, 2013: William E. Hornsby, Jr., “Gaming the System: Approaching 100% Access to Legal Services Through Online Games”
- June 7, 2013: Conrad Johnson and Brian Donnelly, “If Only We Knew What We Know”
- June 8, 2013: Richard S. Granat and Stephanie Kimbro, “The Teaching of Law Practice Management and Technology in Law Schools: A New Paradigm”
- June 10, 2013: Oliver R. Goodenough, “Developing an e-Curriculum: Reflections on the Future of Legal Education and on the Importance of Digital Expertise”
- June 11, 2013: Tanina Rostain, Roger Skalbeck and Kevin Mulcahy, “Thinking Like a Lawyer, Designing Like an Architect: PReparing Students for the 21st Century Practice”
- June 12, 2013: Ronald W. Staudt and Andrew P. Medeiros, “Access to Justice and Technology Clinics: A 4% Solution”
- June 13, 2013: Hybrid Courses of the A2J Clinic Project
- Tanina Rostain & Roger Skalbeck, Technology, Innovation and Law Practice: An Experiential Seminar at Georgetown University Law Center
- Judith Wegner, Becoming a Professional at UNC School of Law
- Sunrise Ayers, A2J Clinic at Concordia University School of law
- June 14, 2013: Traditional Clinical Courses of the A2J Clinic Project
- Conrad Johnson, Mary Zulack & Brian Donnelly, Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic at Columbia Law School
- Joe Rosenberg, Main Street Legal Services, Elder Law Clinic at CUNY School of Law
- JoNel Newman & Melissa Swain, Medical Legal Clinic at University of Miami School of Law
- June 15, 2013: Kevin D. Ashley, “Teaching Law and Digital Age Legal Practice with an AI and Law Seminar;” and Vern R. Walker et al, “Law Schools as Knowledge Centers in the Digital Age”
Professor Ashley and Professor Walker are unable to attend the in-person symposium on June 15, 2013, but their valuable contributions will be published with the printed edition of the Chicago-Kent Law Review that accompanies the live symposium.