This new index tracks law school innovation

Employers want new lawyers to find innovative ways to add value for their clients. But aside from anecdotes and intuition, law schools do not have a reliable way of measuring — or even describing — what employers are looking for. 

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.

“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?”


Become an Insider. Join our mailing list.


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.

Click here to learn more about the Legal Services Innovation Index. 


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