Legal Tech Download: Second Chances Empathy Hackathon

Law360 (October 29, 2019, 8:00 PM EDT) — The world of legal technology is evolving quickly, with new products coming to market in rapid succession.

Recent developments include Latham’s creation of programs in which students can gain virtual experience in M&A and white collar law, the announcement of two new classes that count toward a legal technology certification at Suffolk University Law School, and a hackathon where participants developed a tool for people recently released from prison to obtain the government identification they need to thrive in society.

Here, Law360 rounds up the biggest news in legal technology.

Second Chance Gap Hackathon

Nearly 100 students, data experts, lawyers and reform advocates gathered at the Santa Clara University on Saturday to find technology solutions to help close the “second chance gap,” according to organizer and Santa Clara University Law Professor Colleen Chien.

The second chance gap, according to Chien, is the gulf between the promise and delivery of a legal system that purports to help people who have been incarcerated gain reentry into society through methods such as resentencing, reinfranchisement or expungement.

The participants on Saturday worked to map the experience of a person reentering society and created code for an online form that helps them navigate the maze of government websites for getting a government ID, a common challenge for people who are being released from prison. The code, which will be posted to an open source sharing website and available for all to use, provides an intuitive questionnaire that users can use to cut through the clutter and get to the sites they need to, Chien said.

“Two-thirds of people who leave prison return within three years. Our event was motivated by wanting to try to bend this curve,” she said.

Virtual Legal Experience At Latham

Latham & Watkins LLP has partnered with virtual internship platform InsideSherpa to launch two virtual experience programs, in which students can enroll in online training programs provided by the law firm in both mergers and acquisitions and white collar defense and investigations, the firm said Oct. 24.

Participants complete an online training program that includes performing simulated legal tasks such as a high stakes transactions, with the program taking them through the process in a simulated environment, from reviewing a nondisclosure agreement to offering urgent advice to shareholders, the firm said.

“As part of our efforts to recruit the best and brightest legal talent, we’re committed to developing and exploring cutting-edge platforms and technology,” Abid R. Qureshi, chair of the law firm’s recruiting committee, said. “Our Virtual Experience Programs with InsideSherpa will help law students get a sense of what life is like at a global law firm.”

BYU Law, Wilson Sonsini Tackle Asylum

BYU Law is joining forces with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati PC to launch the newest iteration of its LawX legal design lab, which will guide its law students through design thinking exercises to come up with ideas for simplifying the U.S. asylum application process and make it more accessible to those in need of asylum, Brigham Young University Law School announced Oct. 24.

Wilson Sonsini’s technology subsidiary, SixFifty, will provide technical support for any solution that the students enrolled in the program during the 2020 winter semester come up with, and the program will be co-taught by Kimball D. Parker, LawX director and president of SixFifty, and Marie Kulbeth, co-director of LawX and COO and general counsel at SixFifty.

“LawX will look at asylum front to back, assessing everything from intervention points to alternatives, tapping insight from individuals and organizations that understand the issue,” Parker said. “With such a daunting project as asylum, we are thrilled to collaborate with Wilson Sonsini, one of the best law firms in the world, to design this year’s solution.

AI Has Not Caught On With Most Attorneys

Most law firm attorneys don’t place using artificial intelligence software high on their priority lists, according to the latest technology survey results from the American Bar Association. Just 8% of the attorneys who participated in the annual Legal Technology Survey Report published Oct. 23 said they are currently using “AI-based technology tools.”

The number improves slightly when broken down by firm type, with 26% of shops with at least 100 attorneys “most likely” currently using AI. But just 5% of firms with between two and nine lawyers and 4% of solo attorneys are using it, according to the data. No firms with an attorney headcount of 10 to 49 reported using the technology, down from 12% in 2018, according to the report.

The survey respondents varied on when they think AI will become mainstream in the legal industry, with 16% saying it will catch on within the next three years, 19% in the next four to five years, and 20% in the next six to 10 years, according to the data. The most common answer, from 35% of participants, was “don’t know.”

Law School Plans Tech Certification Classes

Boston-based Suffolk University Law School announced Oct. 15 that it will be offering two courses this spring as part of a part-time legal innovation and technology certificate program the school offers to attorneys and other legal professionals.

One of the courses, which can be taken on their own or as part of the program, will cover the business of delivering legal services and the other will explore legal technology. Both will explore ways that law firms can deliver legal services with greater efficiency and effectiveness, the school said in its announcement.

“We’re seeing an evolution not a revolution,” Suffolk Law’s Dean Andrew Perlman said. “What the Legal Innovation and Technology Certificate program is trying to do is help people as the evolution takes place.”

Legal Services Corp. Awards Technology Grants

The Legal Services Corporation announced Oct. 10 that it will award $4.2 million in technology initiative grants to 30 legal services organizations to fund technology projects aimed at improving access to legal assistance and information for low income Americans.

“LSC’s Technology Initiative Grants increase access to justice for low-income people with critical civil legal needs,” LSC President Jim Sandman said. “These technology projects improve the delivery of legal services and information to the millions of Americans who would otherwise have to navigate the legal system alone.”

According to the LSC, the 30 funded initiatives include several projects that improve online self-help resources, others will use the funding to ensure their services are accessible to individuals with limited English proficiency, and others will use technology to better reach deaf and hard-of-hearing clients.

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