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Program on Law & Innovation

The law, the legal services industry and legal education are all undergoing unprecedented transformations as a result of rapid social, economic and technological changes. Vanderbilt’s Program on Law and Innovation is designed to equip Vanderbilt Law students to become innovators who successfully navigate and influence the directions in which these changes take law and the legal industry throughout their careers. 

Law & Innovation keyboardThe way lawyers practice law is changing at a pace far greater than ever before. Legal clients increasingly demand more efficiency, lower costs and better results. Technological advancements in data computation have led to technologies—such as document review using machine learning—that have disrupted settled ways of managing legal practices and cases. And law itself is evolving rapidly. Now more than ever before, lawyers must also be innovators. 

Vanderbilt launched its Program on Law and Innovation in 2015 to train the next generation of lawyers to succeed in tomorrow’s legal environment by anticipating the opportunities created by the changes in law and legal practice. The program’s curriculum and activities focus on four related themes:

  • The Legal Industry. Legal service providers of all sizes and types are restructuring and changing the ways their lawyers practice. Traditional law firms now compete for business with new types of legal service providers, including legal project management firms and document review shops. New legal jobs, such as legal risk consultants and legal knowledge managers, are now available.    
  • Legal Technologies. Computers are increasingly doing legal work, from reviewing documents for relevant information to predicting liabilities and litigation outcomes using computer algorithms. These technologies allow lawyers to deliver more efficient and reliable services and results. They also affect the demand for lawyers and the skillsets needed to deliver legal services.
  • Legal Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Fueled by rapid social, economic, and technological changes, the demand for change in law is also on the rise. Existing regulations don’t address the issues raised by new technologies such as commercial drones, and new financial products that present uncertain risks demand new strategies for public oversight. Young lawyers with an entrepreneurial eye can quickly develop expertise in an emerging or evolving area of law.     
  • Access to Legal Services. Most people and businesses could not afford top-quality legal services in the past. As lawyers become more efficient and legal technologies more widely available, the availability of affordable legal services will open new markets for entrepreneurial lawyers and legal enterprises.

The program’s curriculum and activities expose Vanderbilt Law students to these and other changes in the legal industry that will have profound influence on the way they practice law. Our program faculty is committed to training savvy lawyers who will be innovators in law and legal practice.

In the News

Forbes: An Institute for Law and Innovation - Ahead of the Curve: Welcome to Campus, Gen Z - Wake Forest law professor Laura Graham discusses Gen Z and what law schools need to know about teaching them; the University of Pennsylvania Law School makes attorney well-being part of its mandatory professional responsibility course; and Vanderbilt's Program on Law and Innovation launches a hands-on certificate program for practitioners.

Business Wire: Vanderbilt Law School Launches New PoLI Institute Immersion-Based Programs and Certificate in Law and Innovation - Vanderbilt Law School and its Program on Law and Innovation (PoLI) officially launched the PoLI Institute and a new Certificate in Law and Innovation program. The PoLI Institute introduces a practical educational opportunity for both practicing attorneys and legal professionals, reaching far beyond the impact of hourly CLE courses.

Washington Lawyer: Law School in the Modern Era - Article highlights classes focused on the real-world aspects of practicing law. J.B. Ruhl, director, program in law and innovation, is quoted and the Program on Law and Innovation is featured.

Bitcoin: Legal field embraces promising use cases for blockchain tech - On April 7, attorneys and tech luminaries gathered at Vanderbilt University for “Blockchain and the Law,” a conference dedicated to the future of distributed ledger technology in the legal realm. The event, sponsored by Vanderbilt Law School’s Program on Law and Innovation, along with several local law and media firms, offered a chance for leaders at the fledgling cross-section between the worlds to give brief, TedTalk-esque presentations to a wider audience. Larry Bridgesmith, adjunct professor of law and coordinator of POLI, was quoted. The story also ran in Nasdaq.

The Huffington Post: Vanderbilt affiliates’ PredictGov uses machine learning to forecast Congress - A new website that forecasts Congressional bills’ success predicted the Affordable Care Act replacement bill would be shelved, awarding it a 15 percent chance of enactment. PredictGov, which uses big data and artificial intelligence to reach its conclusions, is the invention of a team of researchers that includes J.B. Ruhl, David Daniels Allen Distinguished Professor of Law, and John Nay, a Vanderbilt doctoral student in integrated computational decision science. Ruhl and Nay are quoted. A similar story was also posted on Mashable .

The Young Lawyer (American Bar Association): Opinion: Try (legal) hacking around - J.B. Ruhl, David Daniels Allen Distinguished Professor of Law, writes about the growing importance of “legal hacking,” which involves bringing together legal and technological experts to solve practical problems of community access to law and justice.

The National Law Journal: Preparing lawyers to be practice-ready in a tech-driven world - Getting law students practice-ready by graduation has always been a challenge for law schools, but many schools have begun to look beyond traditional legal training to enable students to compete in an increasingly tech-driven legal market. Larry W. Bridgesmith, adjunct professor of law and coordinator of the Program on Law and Innovation, is quoted. (Subscription required). A related story was posted by

Professor Larry Bridgesmith: Should "Prevention" Be a Core Principle of AI? Intraspexion trains a Deep Learning algorithm, a form of artificial intelligence (AI), to learn about certain types of legal threats, and eventually provide in-house attorneys with an early warning of the risks.  This AI functionality has been developed to avoid or prevent litigation. Read more

Should “Prevention” Be a Core Principle of AI?

Music City Legal Hackers Take First Place at Georgia Bar Legal Hackathon - The Music City Legal Hackers, a group sponsored by Vanderbilt Law School's Program on Law and Innovation that brings legal professionals and computer experts together to explore technology solutions for legal practice problems, took home the first-place prize of $2,000 at the Georgia State Bar Association's first legal hackathon in Atlanta Sept. 12-13.