Course Descriptions

The Core Course in Legal Technology and Management

Legal Expert Systems

Training Lawyers as Entrepreneurs

Ethics of Practicing Law in a Digital World

Social Media in Law Practice

Document Automation Applications

Legal Project Management

eDiscovery Management

Legal Process Re-Design

Access to Justice and Legal Technology

The Core Course in Legal Technology and Management (3 credits)

Description: This required course for the Certificate is for students interested in gaining a practical knowledge of law practice management concepts, with a focus on virtual law practice, unbundling and alternative forms of technology-driven legal service delivery. Students will study ethics issues and best practices for the use of these delivery models, with a focus on the legal ethics of online delivery of legal services. In addition to a strong focus on unbundled legal services, other alternative or complementary forms of legal service delivery covered will include: the virtual law firm, the branded network concept, online dispute resolution, franchised law firm models, alternative business structures, web advisors, alternative billing methods, marketing a law practice, entrepreneurship in the development of new law firm models, and collaborative methods of online delivery.

The methods of practice management covered in this course will apply to a broad spectrum of students interested in both traditional and technology-enabled law practice.

The course covers more traditional topics such as accounting and taxation issues which are directly relevant to the business of practicing law, human resource management issues, and how to develop a viable marketing strategy.

Students will be required to complete a business plan for a law practice that integrates one or more methods of online legal service delivery discussed in the course, which is the major outcome of the course. Students will participate in a simulation of a virtual law practice.

For a more in-depth description of the assumptions underlying the design of this course, download this article by Richard Granat and Stephanie Kimbro on teaching law practice management to prepare law students for a 21st century law practice.

Click here to download article

This course is also suitable for recent graduates of law school who are planning to go directly into private practice as a solo practitioner.

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Write a formal business plan, including the following components:
  • Business model and objective or mission statement,
  • Technology decisions covering website development, the addition of the client portal and use of other cloud-based systems, including costs and integration into business model,
  • A strategy for keeping up to date with the technology and security issues, including a weekly and monthly recurring plan,
  • A list of unbundled legal services delivered online and/or off,
  • Collaboration methods with other attorneys or other professionals on the chosen business method,
  • Estimate of startup costs for a law firm. (This includes using Excel spreadsheets and learning to create a budget for a law practice.),
  • Billing procedures with estimates for fixed fee or value billing for each service offered if using alternative billing options (This includes learning to use Excel spreadsheets.)
  • A cloud computing and/or social media policy statement,
  • A limited scope and/or traditional engagement agreement,
  • A marketing strategy that extends for one year with recurring marketing activities on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis,
  • Plans for integration of pro bono and/or low bono volunteer work in the business model,
  • Procedures for working with virtual assistants, paralegals or other forms of outsourcing for the business, and
  • An “exit strategy” and succession plan for the law practice.
  • Work and collaborate with others in multiple cloud-based legal software applications.
  • Make educated technology decisions about the following systems needed for practice: document management systems, practice management systems, billing, invoicing and accounting programs, outsourcing and virtual assistant services, litigation and trial prep platforms, document automation and assembly programs, mobile device applications used in practice, etc. Students will be equip to make these decisions after learning tech basics in the course, such as data types, file formats, transferability and compatibility of data, purpose of the systems and how to repurpose data with technology use.
  • Hands-on experience doing all of the following tasks among others:
  • Securely uploading and downloading documents to clients and colleagues online
  • Setting up security and privacy settings appropriate for cloud-based software applications.
  • Creating billing and calendaring tasks in a legal software application.
  • Communicating with other students and "pretend" clients directly online through the virtual firm simulation.
  • Evaluating ethical issues that come up in online delivery methods and responding to those through the simulation.

Faculty: Richard S. Granat, Co-Director CLPT and Affiliate Faculty and Stephanie Kimbro, Co-Director, CLPT and Affiliate Faculty

Legal Expert Systems (1 credit)

Description: The course will utilize the development platform or a comparable development platform that is easy to learn and implement. Other platforms maybe used such as LiveCode.

Students will be evaluated on the quality of the applications that they develop by the instructors and substantive experts in the subject area of the expert system.

  • Students will understand the benefits and risks of using legal expert software applications.
  • Students will understand the policy and ethical issues that may impact the introduction of new technologies in the delivery of legal services.
  • Students will acquire a conceptual framework for understanding how legal expert systems can increase the productivity of all kinds of legal organizations, from law firms to courts and be able to determine under what kinds of circumstances a legal expert system could be used.
  • Students will learn how to work collaboratively in a team at a distance over the Internet, and learn about their individual strengths and weakness for effective team work and how to improve their team work skills.
  • Students will be able to develop a design document for a legal expert systems for a real or hypothetical client.
  • Student will be able to translate the design document into a working legal expert system.
  • The student will demonstrate that they have the skills necessary to develop a legal expert system by authoring a legal expert system.

What are Legal Expert Systems?

Faculty: Marc Lauritsen, President of Capstone Practice Systems

Training Lawyers as Entrepreneurs (1 credit)

Description: The Lawyers as Entrepreneurs course is designed to help students understand the realities of functioning in entrepreneurial roles in a law firm or other legal enterprise.

This course builds on the concepts introduced in the Core Course that deals with the idea of creating a business plan for a solo law firm, but extends this analysis by exposing the student to a more nuanced discussion of what it takes to launch any kind of legal enterprise from law firm to "legal-start-up".

Empirical data on successful entrepreneurial ventures is introduced to the students as a method for benchmarking the creation of entrepreneurial enterprises.

The business model's of new "legal start-ups", such as UpCounsel, LawPal, RocketLawyer, LegalForceLaw, LawPivot, and LexSpot, to cite just a few examples, will be analyzed as case studies.

The course will examine how the rules of professional conduct impact the structure and development of new legal enterprises and innovative law firms models. New law firm models and legal enterprises from the United Kingdom, AU, and South Africa,will be compared to what could be done in the United States.

The course will employ a case study approach to illustrate the challenges that entrepreneurs face in creating their enterprises.

The primary faculty will be supplemented by guest lecturers/lawyers who have started their own law firms and other legal enterprises as a way of exposing students to the challenges they face.

Students will also have the opportunity to build new law firm business models that serve the low and moderate income population with legal services that are affordable but also provided a sustainable income for the practitioner.

Students are exposed to a series of behavioral self-evaluation instruments to identifying the tasks and behaviors necessary for success. The course faculty believe that entrepreneurship in the legal industry can be taught, and is not just an "inherited" talent.

The course will be particularly useful for students who are contemplating solo practice, or consulting, or engaging in an entrepreneurial legal venture, as well as those who are considering non-traditional uses for their law degree to create new legal enterprises.

By the end of this course:

  • Students will acquire the analytical skills required for evaluating the feasibility of a new legal enterprise.
  • Students will have an understanding of the new kinds of legal enterprises that are emerging and the forces shaping the legal profession.
  • Students will learn how to work collaboratively in a team at a distance over the Internet, and learn about their individual strengths and weakness for effective team work and how to improve their team work skills.
  • Students will have completed their own self-assessment of their talents and skills in terms of playing an entrepreneurial role within a legal enterprise.
  • Students will be able to develop a written concept paper for a new legal venture and communicate the elements of this concept to a potential source of funding.
  • Students will have the opportunity to “pitch” their concept to their peers and a panel consisting of faculty and one or two outsiders.

Faculty: Luz Herrera, Associate Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Ethics of Practicing Law in a Digital World (1 credit)

Description This course will examine ethics issues related to the use of technology in law practice by starting with a discussion of the work of the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 and its recent changes to the model rules. The class will read several of the commission's reports and responses from the legal community related to such issues as the use of the Internet for client development, the use of cloud-based outsourcing by a law firm, new online methods of lawyer advertising, concepts of "virtual presence", duties to prospective clients when interacting online, the effects of UPL on multijursidictional virtual law firms, etc. Specific state ethics opinions and disciplinary cases related to the use of technology in law practice will be covered. The final deliverable for this course will be a research paper addressing an ethics issue covered in the class. The student will be expected to focus on the state or states where he or she plans on practicing law in the future and analyze both the model rules, state rules and ethics opinions in reaching a conclusion.

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Choose technology applications for a law practice that comply with ABA and state(s) bar rules of professional conduct.
  • Be familiar with the existing state ethics opinions related to the use of technology in law practice and learn how those apply to the practical side of practice management. For example, the class will review several states' opinion on lawyer's use of Groupon in practice and discuss how to take those differing decisions to a state without any formal opinion and make their own ethical choices for practices.
  • Analyze the terms of use and service level agreements for technology applications. Learn what features need to be in those agreements and how to negotiate with vendors or make requests for policies needed to be ethically compliant.
  • Ethically manage relationships with and supervision of technology vendors, third-party providers of cloud-based services, and outsourcing services.
  • Specific ethics issues that the students will understand, among others, include:
    • How to establish the attorney/client relationship online.

How to authenticate client identity online and determine issues of competency.

    • How to ethically handle billing and collections procedures with third-party credit card processing and online practice management systems.
    • How to work with clients through online branded networks and their tech tools to comply with advertising rules.
    • How to handle UPL issues in delivering services online and if in a multijurisdictional law firm.
    • A solid understanding of how the following ABA Model Rules among others apply to the use of tech in law practice: 1.1, 1.2, 1.6, 5.3, 5.4, and 7.1-7.5.

Faculty: Will Hornsby, Staff Counsel at the American Bar Association

Social Media in Law Practice (1 credit)

Description: In order to be competitive in a legal marketplace that is increasingly influenced by the use of cloud computing and the public’s access to the Internet, lawyers must learn how to safely navigate the world of social media. Social media may be used as part of a marketing strategy to develop an online brand for an individual lawyer or a law firm or it may be used in client development and networking with other professionals. There are ethics issues that may arise from the use of social media as well as best practices that a lawyer should adhere to when engaging with others online through social media applications.

Lawyers or law firms that chose not to engage in social media face the risk of not being able to monitor their online reputation and leave the brand and expertise building to their competition who may have mastered the use of social media.

With careful attention to best practices for the use of social media, a law firm may find a number of benefits from its use both for client development and networking as well as improved customer service for existing clients.

This course will focus on developing best practices for use of a variety of different social media models, including but not limited to the following: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest. Students will learn how these tools may be used to grow a lawyer’s client base and develop a rich network of other professionals while staying in compliance with the rules of professional conduct. This course is appropriate for practicing lawyers as well as law students. Other topics that will be discussed include:

Time management concerns with social media; integration of social media into firm websites and blogging; monitoring and management of social media applications; security and privacy settings; protecting client confidentiality; using social media for investigative purposes; ethics issues such as: duty to prospective clients; inadvertent creation of attorney/client relationship; recommendations and testimonials on social networking sites; UPL; and confidentiality.

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Create and author a blog, including know how to use the blogging platform's dashboard and analytics tools.
  • Develop a niche writing style for a law practice blog as well as how to manage a team of authors, work with guest bloggers, and create a consistent blogging schedule.
  • Comment and respond to comments on a blog.
  • Set up the blog to cross post on other social media applications and contain widgets that encourage engagement and sharing of the content once posted.
  • Archiving and backing up a blog.
  • Create profiles and/or law firm pages on the following platforms:
    • Facebook; LinkedIn; Twitter; Google+; Pinterest
  • Learn the terminology and culture for each of the above platforms and know how to use the engagement features and tools within each to create and share content.
  • Use the privacy and security settings on each application.
  • Understand the default settings of each platform and ramifications of data access by third-party applications.
  • Analyze the terms of use policies of each application and understand the implications for copyright and trademark purposes of contributing content on these applications.
  • Create an account on HootSuite for social media monitoring and management, including learning how to use it to:
  • Cross post content from their blog to their social media accounts,
  • Create searches using hashtags and handles
  • Respond appropriately to interactions through the different platforms using this tool
  • Take part in legal and professional conferences and events using hashtags
  • Use analytics to determine which social media platforms are the most effective and what actions are attracting the most interaction
  • Learn how to engage with others on social media platforms to determine which contacts to follow, fan, friend, or follow-back.
  • Learn the difference between using social media for brand building and creating an online presence personally and for a law firm.
  • Learn how to use social media for investigation purposes in litigation.

Faculty: Stephanie Kimbro, Co-Director, CLPT and Affiliate Faculty

Document Automation Applications (2 credits)

Description Students will learn how to automate legal documents that can be used by law firms, corporate legal departments, legal services organizations, and courts. Students will learn how to logically analyze a legal document into its elements and create a system that assembles a document from answers to questions in a structured, on-line questionnaire. Topics covered include: the difference between desktop and web-based document automation systems; how to evaluate the different systems that are available for use within a law practice; the potential for such systems for increasing the productivity of law firms and other organizations that deliver legal services, whether to the public or to internal clients. Policy and ethical issues such as whether the offering of smart legal documents directly to consumers constitutes the unauthorized practice of law will also be explored.

The context for this course will be the use of legal technology to increase access to the legal system. Thus, students will also draft automated court forms and instructions for pro se litigants and the public. A variety of legal topics are available for student projects, including immigration, domestic relations and consumer rights. These drafting projects include the following activities: researching, drafting, and editing Web-based legal education materials and legal forms with instructions for the public, and developing plain language user interfaces for Web based document assembly. No prior technical training is required beyond normal computer familiarity with word processing. At the end of the course, the student will have created an automated document that they can include as part of their portfolio of work projects.

By the end of this course:

  • Students will understand the risks and benefits of using document automation software.
  • Students will have acquired a conceptual framework for understanding how document automation can increase the productivity of all kinds of legal organizations, from law firms to courts.
  • Students will be able to analyze the work flow within a law firm and determine which legal documents are appropriate for automation.
  • Students will learn how to create a Project Scope Document and Research Memorandum as a planning tool for a document automation project.  The scope document is the initial planning document that underlies the creation process for a specific form. The purposes of the document are to define the boundaries of the project, to identify the specific clients that the project will serve and to specify the exact legal needs the finished product will address. The scope document also identifies the legal and practical targets for investigation and research. In the research memorandum, students focus on the legal problem facing the client. The memorandum serves as an audit trail explaining the law, procedure and other possibly undocumented information that might be helpful to a client using the proposed form.
  • Students will learn how to work collaboratively in a team at a distance over the Internet, and learn about their individual strengths and weakness for effective team work and how to improve their team work skills.
  • Students will be able to evaluate different document assembly platforms and determine which platform is best to use for a particular document automation task. 
  • Students will be able to analyze a legal document into its elements for the purpose of automating the document.
  • Students will be able to use document automation software to automate a document that is in MS Word, RTF or Adobe file type.
  • Students will be able to program loops, strings, questions, question types, alternative text insertion, and help screens as part of the process of mastering legal document automation.
  • Students learn how to use the appropriate wording and terminology for each screen of the interview. The language and sentence structure for each screen of the interview is targeted at a 5th grade reading level and writing clear questions and help screens is a skill that can be taught and learned.
  • Students will learn and understand the policy and ethical issues that may impact the introduction of new technologies in the delivery of legal services and determine under what conditions the use of document automation software is ethically compliant.
  • Students will have acquired the skills necessary to automate legal documents as demonstrated by the completion of a document automation project.

Faculty: Marc Lauritsen, President of Capstone Practice Systems

Legal Project Management (1 credit)

Description: This course introduces students to the theory and practice of project management in a legal context. For the purposes of this course, a project is defined as a multi-task/multi-skill job that must be completed according to the fixed constraints of time, cost, and minimum quality standards. Although a project will typically have someone assigned as a manager, the most successful projects—as measured by efficiency, creativity, or timeliness—inevitably require team members to participate in all phases of the project. Therefore, the course also includes basic training on team theory and creating effective teams. Project Management for Lawyers is an experiential, skills-based course in which students learn the necessary project management skills by planning an actual project.

  • Legal Project Management is a discipline that enables lawyers and law firms to manage the delivery of legal work more effectively. The legal profession is currently undergoing significant change, and the business model is transforming. Clients are pushing back against traditional law firm business practices, while demanding greater efficiency and transparency for matter budgeting and case management. And, a growing number of clients expect not-to-exceed budgets or non-hourly pricing for some or all of their work. Law firms are challenged to meet these demands while maintaining profitability and lawyer satisfaction.
  • More and more law firms are applying the principles and methodologies of project management to case and matter management in order to meet client expectations and achieve their own strategic business objectives. Yet most firms do not have legal project management resources and capabilities readily available. They need lawyers who are not only proficient at project management, but also who understand how attorneys work and the unique requirements of the legal profession.

Course Objectives:

By the end of this course, students will learn:

  • How to evaluate the risks and benefits of using cloud-based Project Management Software.
  • Students will be able to identify the project management tools and under what circumstances these tools should be used.
  • A working knowledge of core Legal Project Management principles, skills and processes.
  • How to use project management software and tools to plan a legal project;
  • How to project time, resources, and cost and translate these factors into project management plans; and
  • How to work collaboratively in a team as a distance over the Internet, and learn about their individual strengths and weakness for effective team work and how to improve their team work skills.
  • How to communicate with clients and colleagues about the application of Legal Project Management technologies to specific legal matters.

Faculty: John E. Murdock III, Partner at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, LLP

eDiscovery Management (1 credit)

Description: This course is designed to provide a solid foundation in the concepts of eDiscovery and eDiscovery management. The course concentrates in detail on the phases of the EDRM: Review, Process, Analysis and Production. This course covers case law, Early Case Assessment, Technology Assisted Review, analysis and more. Students are given real-life cases and will learn to identify and collect data from critical data sources. Successful eDiscovery project management identifies issues quickly and has consistent methods which minimize the risk and exposure impact to the overall success of the project. This part of the course is designed to combine proven-by-practice methods with new insights and ideas from a wide range of resources.

Students will learn about cost analysis of eDiscovery projects, methods of project management for eDiscovery Projects, and the latest predictive coding technologies and how these technologies impact on the cost of eDiscovery.

Students will work with software that is used for analyzing the relevancy of documents in eDiscovery.

By the end this course, students will learn how to do the following:

  • Students will learn about the risks and benefits of using eDiscovery software and predictive coding technology.
  • Explain the role of e-Discovery in today’s legal system;
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the e-Discovery process, fundamental legal principles and the "EDRM (" process;
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the principles of e-Discovery legal ethics and best practices;
  • Proficiently access, locate, and manage e-Discovery cases by both traditional and electronic methods;
  • Demonstrate problem-solving and critical, analytical thinking skills within the context of evaluating e-Discovery practical issues;
  • Communicate effectively with accurate legal terminology in written and/or oral form, with a demonstrated proficiency in the use of eDiscovery technology;
  • Gain an understanding of the typical eDiscovery Workflow; and
  • Be able to develop and plan for an eDiscovery Project and communicate the Plan in written form to a law firm.

Faculty: Tom O'Connor, nationally known consultant, speaker and writer in the area of computerized litigation support systems

Legal Process Re-Design (1 credit)

Description: Legal Services Re-Design, sometimes known as Legal Process Re-Engineering , or Law Practice Operations Management, borrows from operations management techniques in manufacturing to eliminate waste, increase inefficiency, and enhance client service.

Students learn how to implement a formal design process to break down any legal service into its component elements and to rebuild a more efficient and effective legal service. As law firms move towards fixed fee pricing for discrete legal services, it is essential that the cost of each task be known and that non-essential tasks be eliminated. Many large law firms are now implementing this approach and employing lawyers who have skills to implement this process.

By the end of this course students will:

  • Identify the major operations techniques and understand under what conditions they should be used.
  • Learn how to use operations management software and tools to re-engineer a legal service.
  • Learn how to apply “lean” approaches to the delivery of legal services.
  • Learn how to work collaboratively in a team as a distance over the Internet, and learn about their individual strengths and weakness for effective team work and how to improve their team work skills.
  • Be able to produce a report to a law firm communicating how one of the legal services offered by the law firm should be redesigned to increase law firm productivity.

To learn more about a systems approach to re-designing legal services, hear John Murdock, a partner in the firm Bradley, Arant, Boult Cummings, LLP talk about: Law Practice Operations.

See also: Re-Engineering the Business of Law for discussion about a new way to design legal services.

Faculty: John E. Murdock III, Partner at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, LLP

Access to Justice and Legal Technology (1 credit)

Description: Research studies repeatedly demonstrate that 80% of the legal needs of the poor in the United States remain unmet, despite existing federal, state, and volunteer programs that provide some civil legal services to low income people. In addition it is well documented that 70% of moderate income individuals cannot afford the high cost of legal fees.

The course will examine the sources, resources and methods that use technology to provide legal information, advice and services to meet the needs of individuals, particularly those of low and middle-incomes. Topics include : the digital divide and the risk of two tiers of justice; the role of the courts and law schools in providing legal services; the impact of technology on access to the legal system; basic practices for using technology to increase access; and the implications of technology-based dispute resolution mechanisms outside of the courts; a comparative analysis of the US approach to access to the legal system and other countries. The class includes guest speakers from around the country, including those who conduct and support legal needs studies, provide grants for legal aid technologies, coordinate online court services and design technological dispute resolution mechanisms. The seminar will be both experiential and experimental.

Students will visit courts and legal services offices to observe our current justice system in action in their local communities. Students will be required to write papers that explore innovative approaches to increasing access to justice.

By the end of this course:

  • Students will have an understanding of the subject of access to justice and the legal system in the US, and a basis for comparing the US with other countries on this issue;
  • Students will have an understanding of how information technology can be used to increase access to the legal systems;
  • Students will have gained an understanding of new career roles that are emerging with courts, non-profits, and legal service agencies that involve the application of technology to the problem of access to the legal system.

Faculty: Marc Lauritsen, President of Capstone Practice Systems