In Thomson Reuters’ examination of methods that modern law schools can use to help enable their students to become more “practice ready”, we identified four law schools already integrating practice-ready skills into their curriculums.
In the following series of case studies, we explore how those schools are shaping law students and law firms.
From Virtual Reality to iPads, University of Oklahoma Immerses Law Students in Technology
The Digital Initiative program at the University of Oklahoma College of Law immerses students in technology with extensive training and hands-on experience. Secured with a $300,000 grant in 2014, the comprehensive, college-wide program integrates technology into the curriculum and equips all students with iPads, keyboard cases and software. (You can see a video on OU Law’s Digital Initiative here.)
The program has three elements: the iPads, which create a common platform for the entire student body; ongoing training programs — twice-weekly lunchtime training sessions offered year-round, plus workshops and curricular integrations — and the facility, which recently underwent a $1.5 million renovation of the law library, resulting in a state-of-the-art collaborative learning center.
Case Study: University of Oklahoma College of Law
Darin Fox, associate dean and director of the law library, said the renovation was designed with the collaborative use of technology in mind, to facilitate students using technology to study and to work together — with each other and with faculty. It includes two Virtual Realty stations, which are being used, among other ways, to explore how VR can be used for evidence demonstration.
“In talking with alums and in reading the professional literature, especially with the changes occurring in the practice following the last recession, we realized students will be at a competitive disadvantage if they’re not proficient with law practice technology,” explained Fox.
The Digital Initiative enables students to make the most of the increasing use of law practice technology and the growing demand for law firms to operate more efficiently. Curricular integration is a hallmark of the program. “Every student that goes into trial techniques, for example, gets training on the TrialPad app,” Fox said.
“In the fall, we focus on studying related uses of technology like Microsoft® Office, especially OneNote,” he added. “We offer three levels of Word training — how to more efficiently use Word to write a brief, knowing how styles work and doing internal citation references — and we explore how to use PowerPoint®, Excel® and Adobe® Acrobat in law practice. In the spring, we switch to practice applications and case management software, such as the Thomson Reuters Firm Central® and Drafting Essentials products.”
Students have reported a 96% satisfaction rate with the program for the past two years.
“It’s a necessity for our law students to leave law school with a technology proficiency,” said OU College of Law Dean Joe Harroz Jr., “especially in light of Oklahoma’s recent adoption of Comment 8 to Rule 1.1 of the American Bar Association Rules of Professional Conduct, which requires lawyers to know the risks and benefits of technology.”
Fox agreed. “This is another facet of how we prepare our students to get out and practice law right from the time they graduate,” Fox added. “It’s more important than ever for new associates to be effective and efficient members of a firm — not just knowing the law, but knowing how the business of law practice works. We’re focused specifically on the technology part of how law practice works.”