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Q&A with Director Andrew Perlman

Professor Andrew M. Perlman

What will the Institute on Law Practice Technology and Innovation (LPTI) do?

The Institute will offer programming to the law school community and the public on technology’s transformation of the practice of law.  We also will develop new courses for students who want to learn how to use technology to deliver law-related services in innovative ways.  And we plan to create technology of our own; for example, we’ve developed a Massachusetts litigation app designed for mobile devices that will offer lawyers easy access to a wide range of state and federal litigation resources.  Also, I applied for – and won – an opportunity to be an early adopter of Google Glass, an exciting new wearable technology; the goal is to experiment with Glass to see how it might be used in the classroom and how lawyers might be able to use it in practice. (My applications are here and here.)  So we’re envisioning a lot of related projects falling under the Institute’s umbrella.

What kind of programming will the Institute offer?

One example is the Richard Susskind program, which addresses the big picture of how technology is transforming law practice.  But we also plan to schedule events that will be more practical, such as programs related to electronic discovery, data security, and data privacy.   We expect that these programs will give lawyers and interested non-lawyers more information about how they can use technology to deliver legal and law-related services more effectively, efficiently, and ethically.

How long has the Institute been in the making?

It really started last year when we were investigating the possibility of creating a certificate program in the area of law practice technology, which would have included a series of programs for lawyers and even non-lawyers to take in this area.  We had a planning committee for it, and we were fairly far along in developing a curriculum. We then asked a focus group to look at what we had developed.  The feedback was that we had come up with a lot of great content, but the concern was that most people only would want to take discrete pieces of the curriculum, not sign up for the entire package.  So we went back to the drawing board and quickly realized that the curriculum should be offered to the general community without creating an artificial certificate title to package it.  We approached the Dean, and under her leadership, created the Institute.  The mandate is to study how technology is revolutionizing the practice of law, creating both opportunities and challenges for lawyers in every practice setting.

How is the Institute going to help set Suffolk Law apart?

There are currently only a few law schools with institutes or formal programs studying these issues. There are a lot of law schools, including Suffolk, that focus on technology and intellectual property, but so far only a handful that are at the intersection of technology and law practice innovation.  So we’re hopeful that this will be a real contribution to legal academia, the profession, students, and Suffolk’s graduates.

Why is there a need for this now?

There’s a need right now because technology is transforming the practice of law in dramatic ways. Some of those transformations are helping lawyers, and some are cutting into lawyers’ bottom line, such as through competition from non-lawyer service providers like LegalZoom. Lawyers need to understand how to use technology to innovate in an increasingly competitive marketplace. For example, technology can bring down costs so that lawyers can reach clients who might otherwise be unable to afford legal services.  Many people are often willing to pay a lawyer but can’t pay the rates many lawyers need to charge to cover their overhead.  Technology offers a way for lawyers to innovate, reach new markets profitably, and improve access to justice.

In what ways will the Institute on LPTI help students?

One way the Institute can help students is by teaching them how to use technology to deliver legal services more efficiently and effectively.   For example, Suffolk recently offered a course called Lawyering in the Age of Smart Machines, taught by nationally known legal innovator Marc Lauritsen.  It was designed to help students think strategically about how they can use technology in their practices. So I think the Institute can help students through the development of more courses like that one.

Where do you see LPTI going in the future?

We plan to form an advisory committee for the Institute that will help us think about the Institute’s direction, but we are certainly open to ideas from students, alumni, lawyers, and the general public.  Our ultimate goal is to help everyone – lawyers and non-lawyers – get a better grasp of how technology is transforming law practice and how lawyers in all practice settings can take advantage of that transformation in ways that benefit the legal profession as well as the clients we serve.


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