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Law and Tech Trends: Cross-training on the Rise

Often, we are too slow to recognize how much and in what ways we can assist each other
through sharing expertise and knowledge.
Owen Arthur (*1949, Barbadian politician)

There’s an interesting trend emerging in the usually separate worlds of law and technology that is worth a closer look. Because if it really catches on, it bodes well indeed for those who dwell in the world of eDiscovery or concern themselves with information governance and data security.

What’s the trend? It’s practical action to cross-train professionals based upon the growing realization that the intersection of law and technology is fertile ground from which both can be nourished: lawyers need technological know-how so they can better (and more cost-effectively) serve their clients, and technologists need enhanced legal sensitivity and a grasp of the laws relating to the data they maintain to better protect their constituents.

Technology itself breeds all sorts of legal concerns—cybercrime, privacy breach, data security, intellectual property protection—and there are lawyers who make that their field of expertise. But now, just your normal everyday lawyering requires some level of tech-savviness without which both costs and risks can mount for unwary clients (see our earlier True North post, Technology Competence? Are you Talkin’ to Me?).

And it’s no secret that a major challenge in eDiscovery is the all-too-frequent disconnect between the lawyers and business folks concerned with content, and the technologists responsible for maintaining the systems that contain it. If, for example, lawyers had a better sense of why it might be difficult to collect or extract data from certain sources and technologists better understood chain-of-custody demands, the wheels of eDiscovery might glide along more easily.

As evidence of this welcome trend to share knowledge, some technology programs, such as Columbia University’s Executive Master of Science in Technology Management, are wrapping legal and eDiscovery courses into their curriculum. Columbia has gone even further toward the goal in its creation of the Center for Technology Management (CTM), which recently offered an all-day symposium, “Partnering to Meet Court Requirements in Electronic Discovery,” directed to both lawyers and IT professionals. According to Dr. Arthur Langer, Director of the CTM and Academic Director of the Master’s program, “Technology professionals will be increasingly responsible for understanding the legal issues technology creates. The Center will be instrumental in raising awareness and helping bridge today’s gaps.”

On the legal side, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York has recently launched an initiative to place law students in data-oriented summer internships to learn technology. “Law schools must adapt their traditional tools to these challenges by including clinics, externships and tech-oriented courses drawing on talented practitioners,” notes Matthew Diller, dean of Cardozo in a letter to the New York Times. “Taking the lead in preparing students for a tech-driven environment is a practical matter for law schools—one that will benefit society at large.”

“Giving IT professionals a sense of the rules and risks driving the counsel that advise their organizations is crucial in today’s environment,” says H5’s Julia Brickell, faculty in Columbia’s Master’s program noted above. “With technology at the heart of much innovation and stored data often a major burden in litigation, the more IT knows about the legal imperatives for intellectual property, data privacy and eDiscovery, the better.”

The thought leadership on either side that is driving this cross-pollination is laudable, and it we look forward to seeing it bloom in programs throughout the country as time goes on.


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