The practice of law and the use of technology have become intertwined. The new Technology Law and Policy Center at the NCCU School of Law will help law students become tech-savvy in their practices and understand technology as it applies to the law. The center was launched with a five-year, $5 million grant from Intel.
“There’s a need for legal expertise in the ever-expanding technology space, and this is increasingly where the legal jobs are. It’s incumbent upon us, especially as an HBCU, to make sure that we position our students so that when they graduate, they’re able to move into these growing markets,” said April Dawson, NCCU Law School Associate Dean of Technology and Innovation.
LAW PRACTICE TECHNOLOGY
“One of the center’s objectives will be to educate students in law practice technology that they will use in their day-to-day practices regardless of practice area. Students need to attain a certain level of tech competency to ensure they leverage tech to work as efficiently and accurately as possible. While in law school, students need to learn the ‘beyond the basics’ of applications heavily used by lawyers, like Microsoft Word. Students also need to be exposed to case management applications like Clio,” said Dawson. Classes will give students hands-on experience with these tools.
“For example, every law student takes multiple legal writing classes, and it makes sense to take time in these classes to intentionally instruct students on the proper use of writing applications. Lawyers write briefs and need to include tables of contents and authorities. Students should learn to create tables of contents and authorities with a push of a button while in law school instead of doing it the old school way, which can take a couple of hours. The more efficient students are in navigating writing applications, the more time students can spend developing their writing craft.”
A majority of North Carolinians can’t afford to hire a lawyer. However, Dawson said the technology being taught to NCCU law students would help address the problem.
“Our law practice tech curriculum will focus on the access to legal services problem in the state and the nation. Teaching students to utilize technology to make them more efficient can help consumers. For example, many legal office tasks can be automated, resulting in lower overhead costs, which could significantly lower legal costs,” explained Dawson. “We will also explore how technology can open up the avenue for people to represent themselves.”
LAW OF TECHNOLOGY
“While our law practice technology focuses on exposing students to technologies that will facilitate the efficient practice of law, our law of technology curriculum addresses emerging tech-focused areas of law like data analytics and blockchain. There is a growing need for lawyers who have expertise in the emerging areas who can advise and represent technology-sector clients,” said Dawson. One major technology area that needs more legal experts is cybersecurity. “Cybersecurity law did not exist when I was in law school,” said Dawson. “We want to provide students interested in this field with courses that educate them about data privacy and security and the lawyer’s role when a client has experienced a cybersecurity incident.”
CLOSE THE DIGITAL DIVIDE
“A key component of NCCU School of Law’s mission is to educate students who are committed to social justice and racial equity,” said Browne C. Lewis, dean of the NCCU School of Law. “The pandemic has shown us that there are disparities that adversely impact low-income persons and people of color when it comes to the availability of technology. Intel Corporation’s generous gift and the company’s willingness to partner with one of the six HBCU law schools in the country gives me great hope that we can help close the digital divide.”