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When the University of Chicago Law School alters its curriculum for the first time in 40 years, people notice. In February the school decided to shorten a mandatory first-year criminal law class and add one titled “Technology, Innovation, and Society.” The change caused a mild buzz both inside and outside academic circles. “It was a necessary step if the mission of the law school is to give its students an idea of the law as it relates to technology,” says Jeremiah Goulka, who just finished his second year. It’s not just in the Windy City that changes are sweeping through law school curricula. Most schools are beefing up their intellectual property offerings, adding cyberlaw courses, and prepping attorneys for work in the Internet marketplace. But that’s not all. In some courses, students are learning how technology will help them practice law. A profession schooled for generations on the Socratic method is discovering the silicon method. Whether they eventually practice e-commerce law or public interest law, students are learning a new set of tricks. Below, a selection of classes preparing law students for a future that is already here. University of Pittsburgh School of Law: Neteracy for Lawyers Devin Winklosky needed two more credits to graduate and was closed out of his first course selection. He chose “Neteracy for Lawyers,” taught by Bernard Hibbitts, more out of desperation than inspiration. “I finished getting my schedule changed and walked directly into the first class, got the syllabus, and from that point on realized this was going to be something valuable,” says Winklosky. Lawyers need to know how to manipulate the written word. They will also need to know how to manipulate the Net. “It’s more than putting pen to paper,” says Winklosky. “There is an entire new marketplace for sharing ideas.” As a legal historian, Hibbitts studies the effect of communication on the law. “When the Web came along, I thought, this is tremendous!” he says. Now he’s the Web master of The Jurist (www.jurist.law.pitt.edu), perhaps the most comprehensive portal for legal and law school information. Hibbitts does not want students just to study the Internet. “Lawyers need to engage directly in this medium so they can shape it — not just react to it,” says Hibbitts. His students begin by looking at various legal Web sites and evaluating them. Then they spend part of the semester in the computer lab learning code and getting, as Hibbitts puts it, “their hands dirty. ” The last few weeks consist of examining software like FrontPage, a program that produces sites. “ I want them to look under the hood first. If you know what’s under the hood, you can make a better site,” says Hibbitts. For their final assignment, students must build a Web site of their own. Winklosky devoted his to judge advocates (military lawyers) because there was nothing for them on the Internet and because he wants to become one himself. Cornell Law School: Legal Information Systems Professor Tom Bruce does not teach his students how to make a Web page. “I assume that, frankly, trained apes can do that,” the codirector of Cornell’s Legal Information Institute jokes. Rather, he teaches his class how to write a business plan for building a legal information site. Through his own experience with the Legal Information Institute’s site — one of the first robust legal sites on the Web and still one of the best — Bruce knows how the Web is breaking down the mandarin culture of the legal profession. “Traditionally, we have sort of imagined the world to be lawyers on one side and everyone else on the other,” he says. The course examines the issues that grow out of the spread of legal information. As the course description puts it: “What happens to the role of the lawyer when clients have equal or better access to the letter of the law? What is the boundary between legal information and legal advice?” He encourages students to develop plans to serve niche markets — say, a legal database for hospital administrators or even garage mechanics. When Marilyn Kamuru, who is from Kenya, learned that there is no online access to Kenyan law, she created a proposal for an electronic legal access information site there. Her venture, Kenyalaw.com, should be ready to launch in December. Kamuru says that she will continue to develop the site after starting at Boston’s Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo this fall. She had trouble convincing investors to pony up: “I put up some money I had for law school, my aunt put in some, and my mother as well.” She didn’t hit people up just for money, either. “My boyfriend is doing technical assistance,” she says. Columbia: Lawyering in a Digital Age Columbia University law professor Conrad Johnson started using technology in his classes in 1994. “I realized that all around us, people were practicing law using these tools,” he says, thinking at the time that “if we’re going to do this right, we’re going to be teaching students about the practice of law as it exists now, rather than the way we learned it 20 years ago.” Today, he and Brian Donnelly, director of instructional services and a lecturer, jointly teach a seminar, “Lawyering in a Digital Age.” Lawyers learn about everything from listservs to copyright law. During a typical class, a court official in Virginia is broadcast to the classroom, via videoconferencing, to talk about electronic filing. Two cameras are set up in the classroom: one focusing on the students, and the other on the professor. When a student raises her hand, a teaching assistant operating the other camera from his laptop zooms in on her. “One thing the seminar points out,” explains the course’s teaching assistant Chris Lewis, who will join the New York office of Pittsburgh’s Kirkpatrick & Lockhart after graduation, “is that not only is this stuff the future, but the future is now.” Johnson likes to stress the benefits of technology for public interest law. Says Johnson: “If you’re at a public interest organization, and you want to do the best job you can, so that fewer people are made homeless and more people have food on the table, technology can be a life saver, just as it can be a money maker for somebody else.”

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