Marketing Partner Forum: Forging a New Generation of Tech-Ready Lawyers at Suffolk University

Topics: Corporate Legal, Efficiency, Law Firms, Legal Education, Legal Innovation, Marketing Partner Forum, Midsize Law Firms Blog Posts, Talent Development

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RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. — Gabriel Teninbaum — Professor of Legal Writing; Director of the Institute on Law Practice Technology & Innovation; and Director of the Law Practice Technology Concentration at Suffolk University Law School in Boston — spoke at this year’s Legal Executive Institute’s 24th Annual Marketing Partner Forum, on technology and innovation in the legal market.

Following his keynote, Teninbaum sat for an interview with the Legal Executive Institute blog and provided more details of the nature of Suffolk University’s legal tech and innovation program. The law school has a concentration in Law Practice Technology, which he likens to an undergraduate major, in the sense that students get a traditional JD as well as a certification of their deeper dive into legal technology. The classes that make up the concentration — in subjects like process management, document assembly and alternative business models — can also be taken by students outside of the concentration who want to dip their toes into certain subjects without fully immersing themselves.

A fun fact: Two classes of students in the concentration have graduated so far, and those students enjoy a 100% employment rate, not a bad record in today’s tough legal employment market. Teninbaum mentioned an example of a student who gave a six-minute talk at a legal innovation conference describing her work through the concentration — by the end of the day the student had two good job offers in hand.

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Aside from the academic concentration, Teninbaum also leads Suffolk’s Institute on Law Practice Technology & Innovation. The Institute promotes the values of the program through students and through outreach to the legal community. The school organizes events, including Teninbaum’s co-leadership of the Boston Legal Innovation Meet-up group.

Consulting is also a key activity important to both students and the legal community. Teams of student work with local law firms and legal aid organizations to perform technology and process audits. The firms get access to the students’ knowledge of current technology solutions, and the students get valuable practice in implementing innovation with measurable outcomes.

Suffolk is one of several US law schools building programs for multidisciplinary training of lawyers; others include the Law Lab at Chicago Kent College of Law; and the Legal RnD program at Michigan State University; and Stanford University’s law school’s CodeX center and its partnerships with Stanford’s design school. All of them are, like Teninbaum, forging a new generation of lawyers who are more aware of the possibilities of technology, and in some cases, are really ready to lead the industry’s transformation.

The examples of legal innovation that Teninbaum highlighted in his keynote, while certainly not an exhaustive inventory of industry innovation, are certainly the exceptions rather than the rule today. But his work in bringing a new, better-prepared generation of lawyers into the mix will likely be one of the factors that helps to accelerate change.