Session by Kristen Sonday, Monica Goyal, Jeannette Eicks, Jeff Ward, Oliver Goodenough, and J.B. Ruhl.
The future of law jobs to be “undergirded by technology.” However, we have to understand how to reframe the conversation to ensure we are solving the problem in the correct way. We tend to see things in terms of replacement or functional equivalence, but we should be thinking about solutions with an “enhancement perspectives.” Instead of seeing how we can completely phase out current practices or how we can equate changes to how things are currently done, we make the arguments in terms of values-added.
In North Carolina, upwards of eighty percent of legal needs are not met by the current system. Something needs to change to meet the needs of the market. One important question was posed by Monica Goyal: “How does someone afford me?” That question is striking. First, it is probably not a question that many attorneys ask themselves, at least not in the way that Monica meant it. She was not looking to squeeze more money out of clients. She expressed dismay that her charged-out rate was cost-prohibitive to people trying to get her services. This happens far too often and drives a significant part of the access to justice gap.
An answer to that problem could be the implementation of legal IT programs like the one from Osgoode Hall, which includes a course on designing the future of justice. We can empower schools when we have buy-in from academic deans to mix the typical conservatism (risk-aversion) with the unbridled enthusiasm of entrepreneurship. “A legal education teaches you to be critical, see the risks, understand the world as it exists, and sometimes say “no.” Entrepreneurship flips that on its head. It sees possibility and says “why not.” The strength of legal entrepreneurs is combining those two mentalities.” (Felicity Conrad). Law professors need to walk the walk.
Law students emulate role models, and there are too few role models in the legal technology and innovation space. The legal academy does not press its members to take up this mantle for law students. Ultimately, you get what you incentivize.
“The JD, as currently structured, is broken and has been for some time.”
“Unless your school has a large endowment, it has been operating at a deficit for some years.”
We are billing at rates that are too high. Too few people are accessing justice. We aren’t teaching people in an honest way that something needs to change.