Law School Innovation Index

By now, it’s clear that that 21th century needs a new breed of lawyers. But the questions is where to find them and how to make young students fit for purpose.

That is why Daniel Linna, director of LegalRnD – The Center for Legal Services Innovation, and his team at Michigan State University College of Law launched the Legal Services Innovation Index, a new initiative that tracks and measures innovation in legal education.

The objectives of the index are:

  1. Create a measure of the extent to which each of the 200+ U.S. law schools prepare students to deliver legal services in the 21st century.
  2. Create a taxonomy of law school legal-service delivery innovation and technology programs.
  3. Differentiate between programs and courses focused on “legal-service delivery innovation and technology” and those focused on the intersection of law and technology (e.g., “law and [technology] courses”).
  4. Raise public awareness of law schools that are educating students about legal-service delivery innovation and technology, including awareness among employers, prospective and current law students, and alumni.
  5. Raise prospective and current law students’ awareness of the disciplines and skills needed to be successful in the 21st century.

“Clients are asking lawyers to innovate, to use data to get better outcomes and to use technology to deliver legal services,” Linna said. “How can we prepare students to give clients that value?”

Looking at 10 technology and legal-service delivery disciplines, the law school innovation index identifies schools that have undertaken significant efforts to teach competencies in legal technology and innovation. Data analytics, process improvement and technology basics are just several of the disciplines Linna’s team is tracking. The index also looks at related law topics, such as artificial intelligence, block chain technology, cyber security, eDicovery and entrepreneurship and the law.

Only two law schools teach all 10 disciplines: MSU Law, which is home to LegalRndD, and Chicago-Kent College of Law, home to The Law Lab and the Center for Access to Justice and Technology. Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, Stanford Law School, Suffolk University Law School, and the University of Miami School of Law topped the index as well.

Of the 38 schools that are currently being tracked for innovation, 19 have a center, 10 have a concentration, eight offer executive education or continuing legal education courses and seven host clinical opportunities for students. Popular courses include Business of Law, Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Empirical Methods.

Linna stressed that the innovation index is not a law school ranking; it does not measure the depth or quality of law school programs. The index is a prototype, he said, meant to serve as a starting point for describing legal education innovation. Future versions of the index might include results from law school surveys designed to identify other innovative initiatives.

“We need to start measuring these things, start describing innovation and measuring it,” Linna said. “We need metrics for what is happening in the legal industry.”

Law schools are not the only subjects of the Legal Services Innovation Index. Law firms are also under Linna’s microscope as well.

“We as lawyers spend almost all of our time working in the business of law and very little time working on the business of law,” Linna said. “We are doing work, but we don’t stop and question the results or think about how can we do it better and what other ways we can add value to our clients.”

Linna said the goal of the index is to identify ways in which legal services can be delivered to more people at a lower cost. There are many opportunities to leverage process, data and technology to improve legal-service delivery. The index highlights the law schools graduating students with abilities to seize those opportunities.