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August 12, 2021

How to forge a path to legal tech during law school

Maybe you went into law school wanting to be involved in technology, or perhaps you realized somewhere along the way that technology is becoming as commonplace in the law as paper once was. Either way, if you’re here, you are probably in the same boat as I was when I was in law school: you want to learn, but you don’t know where to start.

It used to be that there was a sharp divide between lawyers who did and did not use technology in their practice, But, as time marches on, that divide becomes less and less distinguishable, with many lawyers, from those at big firms to legal aid, adopting technology to streamline everything from intake and case management to drafting and billing. 

Now, maybe you have the good luck of being at a law school that offers courses in legal technology or coding, clinics that actively use technology or hosts conferences and training on innovation. (Shoutout to the law schools that offer innovation centers!) But, despite the widespread adoption by lawyers of varying levels of technology, many law schools still do not provide meaningful opportunities for students to learn how to use legal technology or how to keep up-to-date on the rapidly changing tools of the legal industry.

So, how do you bridge the gap between the more traditional legal education your school offers and the reality of using legal technology after graduation? Whether you’re looking to find a job in legal tech or want to keep up with the pace of changing technology, there are plenty of ways to get involved while you’re still in school. Get ready for a whole lot of links!



Bubble chart showing which law schools have innovation programs
A study of the types of technology and innovation curriculum that law schools offered was done in 2019, and helped me choose where to go to school. Source: Law School Innovation Index 2019.



Online Communities

Lucky for all of us, the legal tech community is thriving online. There is no shortage of conversations between people who are building the latest in legal technology and those who are using those same tools. Being a fly on the wall in these discussions (and eventually jumping in) is a low-effort way to get a sense of the trends in legal tech and how people are using technology to advance access to justice.

You can start with Twitter, one of the most active communities. The easiest way to find conversations on legal tech topics is to follow the #legaltech hashtag. Or, you can follow influential accounts directly to start seeing their discussions show up in your feed. How do you find out which accounts to follow? Easy. Start here:


Tweet from @Colarusso recommending "A Civil Technologist's Practice Guide by Cyd Harrell to a law student
Twitter is a wealth of information and conversation from leaders in legal tech. Source: Twitter


You might also want to try other communities like Reddit’s /r/legaltech or Facebook’s Legal Tech Community. Once you get a sense of which tools and services you want to know more about, you can try joining the Slack groups for specific products like Afterpattern, Documate, or docassemble to learn more, or explore broader communities like Resources for Legal, a group for sharing tech and non-tech resources for lawyers.


Newsletters

Maybe you’re the kind of person who wants curated information sent right to your inbox by someone who’s done all the research for you. Newsletters are the perfect way to get content from influential people in legal technology without having to lift a finger (except for hitting the subscribe button). While there are a lot of different newsletters out there, some of my favorites are:


Conferences and Meet-ups

Okay, okay, I hear you. You’re the type that needs to talk to people face-to-face. Lucky for you, lawyers love conferences. Even luckier, most conferences have a reduced registration fee for students (which is a little easier on the wallet). Conferences and meet-ups allow you to immerse yourself in a topic for an hour or two and then talk directly to the experts on any issue that catches your eye. There are quite a few meet-ups on legal technology, but to name a few:


Jobs and Internships

Finding a position as a student who wants to explore legal tech can be daunting. Some employers may advertise their jobs as having a tech-leaning or as a tech-forward company. But, how do you go about finding the organizations that will help you grow your tech skills? Start by looking online. Even if the companies you find are only publicly hiring for full-time positions if you love the organization, reach out and ask if they would be willing to take on an intern!



Self-study

You’ve decided to go out on your own, forge your path through legal tech by learning skills that will help prepare you for a career, but where do you start? There will never be a shortage of material to consume, from online courses about legal technology to podcasts to reading articles. For instance, Udemy courses can be a great, low-cost introduction to almost any topic while podcasts can be a passive way to keep up to date. Google is your oyster when it comes to learning new skills. To get you started, here are a few topics you can learn more about on your own:


Final Thoughts

I get it. I’ve just dumped a ton of links and names and to-dos on you, and you might be feeling overwhelmed. Just remember that the most critical next step is always to keep learning. Legal technology is changing rapidly, and to keep up; you have to have an open mind and be willing to admit that there’s a lot you still don’t know. So, get started by doing just one of the things listed in this article, and you’ll already be better off than you were before you read it.


Ready? Go.


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