LAW-2156 Lawyering in an Age of Smart Machines

Prof. Gabriel H. Teninbaum, Mr. William Edward Palin,

3 credits day; 3 credits evening.


Students using this course to fulfill the experiential learning requirement may not also use this same course to meet the legal writing requirement.


Some legal work can be done by software systems that embody specialized knowledge and know-how. Often these operate as power tools in the hands of skilled practitioners. But increasingly they are being used directly by consumers. People do their own wills and taxes with off-the-shelf packages. Law firms sell access to online systems that dispense sophisticated legal analysis without direct human involvement. Corporate law departments equip field personnel with do-it-yourself contract assemblers. Courts and legal aid programs provide intelligent forms for unrepresented litigants. And lawyer-less entities vend interactive documents and automated legal assistance over the Web.

What challenges, opportunities, and responsibilities do these developments pose for lawyers? What ethical and policy considerations frame the use of intelligent software? What are the business and career implications of tools that undermine the billable hour, yet yield dramatic returns for those who can raise the necessary capital? Can governments and non-profits exploit them to improve access for those who can’t afford lawyers? Is that second-class justice?

This seminar will survey these developments and issues – largely for the light they shed on lawyering and the legal services delivery system. We’ll study examples in the above sectors. We’ll examine the burgeoning literature on the practicalities and ethics of ‘elawyering,’ with attention to the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct. Each student will build an illustrative software application, for concrete exposure to aspects of legal knowledge engineering. By coordinating with the multi-school ‘Apps 4 Justice’ initiative, students will produce results that help real people with real legal issues.

This is a three credit course. In addition to weekly classes, students are expected to spend an average of eight hours a week preparing for discussion and working on projects. The final project will be to build a software application.


pointer    Enrollment is limited: 16 

pointer    Elective Course

pointer    Meets Skills Menu Requirement

pointer    Meets Legal Technology and Innovation Concentration Requirements

pointer    Meets Experiential Learning Requirement


<<Course Updated: April 06, 2016>>