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Penn Law’s Center on Professionalism helps students become experts in frequently used legal technologies

January 04, 2016

In recent years, technology has greatly impacted the practice of law. Changes often occur rapidly, and legal organizations are being forced to think about how their lawyers use technology to interact with their clients and the larger world.

To ensure that Penn Law graduates have a mastery of executive technology, the Law School’s Center on Professionalism offers a slate of programming throughout the year that allows students to learn about the latest innovations as they prepare for their first legal work experiences.

We often assume that younger lawyers are technologically savvy, explained Jennifer Leonard L’04, Director of Penn Law’s Center on Professionalism, and when it comes to social media and other web-based platforms, that assumption is often correct. But for the day-to-day applications lawyers use, recent graduates are often just as inexperienced as their senior colleagues.

“We’re signaling to employers that we understand how critical technology skills are in the legal field and how mastery of these technologies allows lawyers to provide more efficient and effective service to their clients,” said Leonard. “Through these programs, we’re preparing students to be ready to add value to the work their employers perform from their first day on the job.”

To help Penn Law students become proficient in the programs lawyers most commonly use, Microsoft expert Craig Brody, who also works with students in Wharton’s MBA program, offers Introductory, Intermediate, and Advanced programs in Excel, Word for lawyers, and Adobe.

The interest in these programs has grown substantially over the years, noted Leonard. For example, the registrations for last year’s Intermediate Excel program had around a dozen students; this year, when registration opened, over 50 students signed up.

COP has also increased its offerings on e-discovery. To complement credit-bearing coursework the Law School offers on e-discovery, COP’s programming gives students an additional opportunity to see exactly what the process looks like in practice. Jason Lichter, director of e-discovery for the law firm of Pepper Hamilton, leads a workshop for 2Ls and 3Ls in the fall, and a workshop for 1Ls in the spring, so students can better understand the types of tasks junior attorneys perform with respect to e-discovery.

As a capstone for this year’s programming, COP will welcome experts who work at the intersection of law and technology for a conversation that presents a variety of viewpoints. Technology affects practice in increasingly varied and complex ways, and the speakers will represent a cross-section of perspectives from this novel space.

Possible topics for the Capstone event include discussions of businesses that offer law firms document review services, what it’s like to oversee a large firm’s e-discovery work, the impact of social media on practice and on representations, and the developments in artificial intelligence and the law.

But technology isn’t the only area where COP has been developing new programs. In the past two years, the Center has introduced new bootcamp programs, which are immersive experiences that allow students to practice the skills they’ll use at law firms. There is a Deposition Skills Bootcamp, which features a full-day deposition that includes personalized feedback from seasoned litigators, and there is also a three-week Private Equity Bootcamp with attorneys from Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Students meet in weekly two-hour sessions and are given assignments as though they were associates at a large firm. Between sessions, the students complete activities that they return by email and receive feedback that allows them to better understand and apply the concepts underlying private equity. COP is also excited to offer a new bootcamp program in Mediation Skills, which alumna Ellie Wertheim L’97 will lead with her partner Abby Tolchinsky.

The Center on Professionalism supports Penn Law students with programming that prepares them for success as professionals in an evolving legal landscape. COP’s programs support the mastery of skills such as leadership, management, confident and purposeful communication, relationship building, organizational savvy, executive technology, personal productivity and effectiveness, high-level strategic thinking, and team dynamics.