Applying technology to improve law practice is a continuing challenge, as those of us who have been doing it for years can attest. What, one might ask, are the law schools doing to help? 

A New York Law Journal Article, Law Schools Steal a Page From Business Schools (May 5, 2004), discusses whether law schools should offer more business training than they currently do or consider work experience in admitting students. I have always been of the view that law school should provide more practical skills training, so was happy to see that there appears to be serious discussion of the curriculum in the academy.

In particular, it seems to me that law schools, aside from any business skills they could teach, should also teach law students about practice and information management, including the use of technology. Medical students are trained to use a range of equipment that they need to be effective doctors. Why is the same not true in law? The answer surely cannot be that neither equipment nor tools are needed.

I am not suggesting turning high-end law schools into trade schools. But it is a fact that lawyers in all types and sizes of practice need to manage a lot of information. One or two classes on matter management, databases, spreadsheets, document management in large cases, risk analysis, and so forth would surely not destroy all that is sacred. And, as an economist, I would argue that the marginal value of one or two practical classes greatly exceeds the marginal value of yet one more substantive law class in a topic the student will never once encounter in practice.

Speaking of marginal value, the value of my entire third year of law school was very low. I think there’s a strong case that law training could be very effective with just two years. I’ll stake a strong – but I think entirely reasonable and defensible – position and say that requiring the third year benefits mainly law schools, by supplying an extra year of tuition, and the profession, by creating an artificial barrier to entry to the profession. Now that my cards are on the table… it seems to me that at least the academy should provide some practical business and technology skills if they insist on keeping the degree a 3-year affair.