How to Start with Legal Technology
Just last week, my colleague Markus (same last name but not related) got an e-mail from an aspiring future lawyer—highly motivated and interested in legal technology—who wondered how best to develop the necessary skills for a technological future of the legal profession, which we put forward in our 2016 report “How Legal Technology is Changing the Business of Law”. As I am in charge of handling academic/student affairs dealing with legal technology for Bucerius Law School, he asked me to answer it. This happens more and more frequently so we thought the answer might be interesting for others, too.
Here it is:
First, try to keep up to date with the developments. In order to do so, choose a couple of influential people to follow on Twitter or LinkedIn and see what they are talking about. To get you started, here is a Google Sheet of influencers that we have just begun to build; it is still in early stages, but have a look at it from time to time and you’ll see updates. This list of people who teach coding to law students, put together by David Colarusso, might be interesting for you, too. You probably do not need me to tell you that there are a number of extraordinary books like Richard’s and papers like Dan's out there.
Second, check out more formal ways to become part of the community. For a start, I’d suggest ELTA (EUR 30 p.a.) and Legal Hackers. Some great events around the topic are the ELTA conference, Legal Geek, LawX, Future Law at CodeX Stanford, Fin(Legal)Tech in Chicago. In general, it’s worth going to one of these things, but be careful as there are a lot of very expensive events targeted at lawyers, that quite often are not really worth the high fees (they are rather trade shows than real points of idea exchange). The ones I named are all held in English (at least in large part) and I have been to them and learned something.
Third, build the skills that you believe to be valuable and just start anywhere. Coursera, Udacity and the like provide nice and easy introductions to many of the topics—from coding to project management and a general understanding of tech—and you could easily fit them into your work schedule. Make sure to test the classes before subscribing as lecturers may sometimes be difficult to follow or content may not be at the level you’re seeking. This is not going to give you proficiency or make you an expert, but it will help you to improve one step at a time.
Last, let me mention what I believe to be the best solution to make the next step (be careful, I am trying to “sell” something to you now). I have spent the last three and half years trying to find out about the best education in legal technology. I have met the vast majority of people involved in this field in both Europe and the US, looked at their teaching and discussed their ideas. I asked some of the most renown and engaging of them to come over to Hamburg this summer and teach people what they believe to be relevant.
The result is our new Summer Program in Legal Technology and Operations. I honestly believe it is the most thought-through, student-centred and intense program for this content—certainly in Europe and probably in world right now. It is an incredible deal from a US perspective, but not so inexpensive for many Europeans as we are used to free education. Just have a look at it and let me know what you think. So far, we were successful in convincing employers to let their junior staff (trainees and young associates) come to the program and pay the fees (for a law firm it is, after all, not that expensive). If you want to know more, just let me know. I believe it could be what you are looking for...and no, I am not saying this to everyone; I actually build it with people like you in mind.
Finally, let me know if this was helpful or if there is anything else you want to know.
This last part is particularly true. Please let me know what you think: Are we missing someone important or should we include additional/different topics next year? Just drop me an e-mail!