In Search of a Killer App...
In Search of a Killer App:
How to Ignite the Use of Technology
and Change Legal Academia
The average age of law students in America is 25. They grew up during the Internet revolution and were exposed to the Internet through most of their higher education. These folks are proficient in the use of the web, email, instant messaging, and file sharing. They come to law school equipped with computers and ready to use them. For these students the Internet is an information source, a communication channel, and cheap entertainment. They expect that information is available on the web, and that communication occurs via email and chat.
American lawyers are becoming increasingly wired. Laptops and PDAs are standard issue. Wireless 'always online' access is becoming more available. Lawyers and firms use sophisticated knowlegde management and document management systems to master terabytes of accumulated data. Video conferencing and real-time transcription are used in deposition and trial. Web-based intranets and extranets, electronic file sharing with colleagues and clients, and electronic court filing are becoming common. Today's attorney can be reached anywhere, anytime, by email or cell phone.
Sitting right between these two increasingly sophisticated groups as the channel students must pass through to become lawyers are law schools. In many ways, law schools look like they did one hundred years ago. Their students and alumni do not. Legal education in America is traditional, conservative, and slow to change. The approach to the use of technological enhancements to education has been slow at best. There are many reasons for this. How many law school's can say that all faculty members have web pages, that all courses have websites, that course materials are delivered electronically, that the school is making effective use of the Internet as a communication channel to reach its students and alumni?
Law school faculty are at the root of the lack of use of technology in law schools. There are many reasons for this, but the a significant reason is the high cost of entry into the electronic world. Putting up a website is not easy. Faculty do not have the time or inclination to become web designers/developers or technologists and law schools do not have the resources to support them if they did. However, the web is an ever-evolving place. Applications are appearing that lower the cost of entry, true plug-and-play web platforms. The best of these is Radio from Userland software. This is the killer app that can change the face of technology in law schools.