Another Law School Joins The Legal Innovation Movement With New Lab


Legal technology is evolving so fast that from the day a student enters law school to the day they graduate, the tools and skills they need to succeed in practice have already changed.

Think about it. ROSS Intelligence was founded in 2014. Three years later, the company was gaining national attention for its powerful, AI-backed research tool. Casetext, which was founded in 2013, put its own research tool CARA onto the market in 2016. In the last year alone, the legal market has seen an influx of cool new tech like chatbots, document automation and analytics. For some perspective, there are currently 1,868 legal tech startups listed on Angel List. 

With all of these innovative legal tech tools popping up, all promising to disrupt the legal services industry as we know it, law schools are facing increasing pressure to teach law students how to assess new technology as it is developed, as well as determine if and how it can be applied to the practice of law.

The new Legal-Tech Virtual Lab at Penn State Law is just the latest example of how law schools are working to keep up with the rate of change. The lab, which was launched April 17, seeks to train law students on how to take advantage of new legal tech products hitting the market everyday. 

For the law school’s dean Hari Osofsky, preparing students for the practice of tomorrow is a top priority.

“As artificial intelligence and machine learning, immersive technology, 3-D printing, blockchain, and technologies we are not yet thinking of transform legal practice and raise legal issues, we want to prepare our students to lead,” Osofsky told the Penn State News. 

The Legal-Tech Virtual Lab is is built around a set of technologies which are housed in a virtual, rather than physical, space. Students at Penn State Law have the opportunity to learn about, and work with, the various technologies featured in the lab. Students will see first hand how groundbreaking legal tech is being implemented in practice while also exploring legal issues surrounding the emerging technology.

Other law schools have developed similar programs, including Colorado Law’s Silicon Flatirons Center, Northwestern’s Center for Practice Engagement and Innovation, and Vanderbilt’s Law and Innovation Program. Some law school programs have even begun building their own legal tech products, such as SoloSuit, which was developed by students at BYU Law. To keep track of the most forward thinking law school programs, Dan Linna, director of LegalRnD – The Center for Legal Services Innovation at Michigan State, even created a law school innovation index.

At the launch of the Legal-Tech Virtual Lab last month, Penn State Law hosted a pop-up event in the University Park with ROSS Intelligence where law students were able to get their hands on EVA, ROSS Intelligence’s new free, publicly accessible AI research tool.

Thomas Hamilton, vice president of strategy and operations at ROSS Intelligence, attended the event and provided a demonstration of EVA, Penn State News reported.

“Legal research can be frustrating and take hours,” Hamilton said. “We wanted to create and release a system that is easy to use and also happens to be free to users.” 

“Doctors use AI to enhance their ability to do their jobs; lawyers can now do the same thing,” he continued. “This will enable lawyers to do their jobs faster, which will allow them to help more people, giving a larger percentage of the population access to legal service. It makes legal work less robotic and enhances the abilities of lawyers.” 

Osofsky said that she is “thrilled that ROSS Intelligence is joining us as we kick off this important initiative to provide our students with the knowledge they will need to provide the kinds of legal services in demand in our rapidly changing society.”

Osofsky is exploring partnerships with other leading tech companies like ROSS Intelligence to bring new tech to the Legal-Tech Virtual Lab and Penn State students.


Related articles:

This new index tracks law school innovation

Legal Analytics Lab explores the intersection of business, big data and law

BYU Law launches innovative design lab LawX


Tyler Roberts is an editor for The National Jurist. You can follow him on Twitter at @wtylerroberts