Chicago-Kent Legal Tech Program Races Against Fast Evolving Legal Careers

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For young professionals hoping to build a career in the legal sector, lifelong learning may have to amount to more than just joining the neighborhood book club. As law schools build out their curriculum to prepare students for an evolving marketplace that is still trying to decide where it stands on technologies like blockchain, the real challenge could be anticipating what a competitive resume will look like circa 2022.

“We know that technology changes at warp speed. … If you’re in business you make adjustments all the time too, and law schools perhaps for too long were exempt from those kinds of pressures. Now law schools have to keep an eye on the market,” said Harold Krent, dean of the Chicago-Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Last year, Chicago-Kent approved a Masters of Law degree in legal innovation and technology, but it won’t officially launch until students arrive in the fall of 2019. Under that very big umbrella fits knowledge in legal analytics, machine learning and technology-aided access to justice, all of which will be dolloped out to students over the course of one year.

Krent said the program was developed to address increased demand within the economy for tech-savvy employees that can step into knowledge management roles, assist with predictive analytics or provide some added value to an organization’s use of AI.

“There was a good dialogue, not just with law firms but with providers of legal tech, about what skills they want in the next generation of employees. That’s going to change so we have to keep abreast of that. It’s a constantly evolving market," Krent explained.

Right now much of the demand in the market revolves around privacy, security and e-discovery. Jared Coseglia, founder and CEO of TRU Staffing Partners, said the volume of hiring inside those three disciplines still outstrips that of innovation-based roles.

But there will be a demand for more innovation roles inside the legal sphere—eventually.

“Right now there’s a lot of talk and conjecture, but it hasn’t trickled down and dynamically effected the job market in the sense that legal innovation is still an executive level conversation with most law firms and not an operational agenda just yet,” Coseglia said.

A majority of the innovation-themed job openings that Coseglia comes across today originate from inside corporate law departments. This isn’t necessarily much help to graduating students since most of those companies prefer to fill those roles from within, but the ripple effect can still pose some benefits.

Law firms that work with corporate law departments, for example, could face weightier expectations with regards to their own use of technology. As those firms look to make upgrades, new innovation-based jobs might appear.

Coseglia pointed to blockchain as an area where firms who work with clients in the financial industry may be forced to become more innovative. That’s good for students at Chicago-Kent, where blockchain and cyrptocurrency are part of the curriculum.

But there are still no guarantees. “We’re teaching blockchain now, but do I know for sure we’ll be teaching blockchain in eight years? No, not at all. But maybe there’s something else we’ve never even heard of,” Krent said.