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Law & Innovation Activities

The PoLI Institute

The PoLI Institute represents a natural evolution of Vanderbilt Law's Program on Law and Innovation (PoLI), launched in 2015 under the leadership and vision of Dean Chris Guthrie . PoLI's mission is to equip Vanderbilt students with the modern skills and tools to navigate an ever-rapidly changing legal landscape — and position them to lead this change.

With the PoLI Institute, we're expanding the scope of the PoLI curriculum and bringing it to practicing legal professionals.

Music City Legal Hackers

The original intent of the concept of hacking was to engage in technology supported “problem solving”. Seeking to reclaim that intent, the Music City Legal Hackers will address the intersection of law, technology and the public interest. Following the initiatives in other major legal centers, this group brings together law students, academics, practicing lawyers and other disciplines to explore how social concerns can be addressed through innovative approaches to the delivery of legal services. Technology and other legal service delivery methodologies are explored and developed consistent with Nashville’s pressing legal needs. In addition to regular meetings (8 to 10 times yearly), the Music City Legal Hackers intend to sponsor annual “hackathons” at which legal service providers, technologists, policy makers and the client community gather to create solutions to pressing legal needs in the Nashville community.

2017 Music City Hackathon

3L Kyle Miller (center) joined over 40 others in the first Legal Hackathon sponsored by the Program on Law & Innovation on April 8, 2017. Five pro bono legal services providers attended as stakeholders with problems which lawyers, technologists might help solve. Over the course of the day, four technology solutions were created to increase the service capacity of these pro bono entities. Tennessee Supreme Court Justice Connie Clark '79 (BA'71) appeared to thank the legal hackers for their service to promote access to justice in Tennessee.


Music City Hackers session, held Sep. 17, 2015More than 50 lawyers, law students, technologists, entrepreneurs and public interest advocates participated in the Sept. 17 “Music City Hackers” session organized by the Program on Law and Innovation. Hosted by the Waller law firm and the Nashville-based legal services firm Cicayda, the meeting featured Cicayda founder Roe Frazer, a former trial attorney, and Adjunct Law Professor Marc Jenkins ’03, Cicayda’s deputy general counsel. Frazer and Jenkins discussed how Cicayda is applying Augmented Intelligence and other technologies to change the ways in which e-discovery and other legal services are performed and delivered.
PoLI is directed by Professor J.B. Ruhl and coordinated by Adjunct Law Professor Larry Bridgesmith, who organized the “Music City Legal Hackers” to bring the disciplines of law, technology and public interest advocacy together to help address pressing community issues. In spring 2016, PoLI and the Music City Legal Hackers will host a Legal Hackathon in Nashville at which lawyers, academics, law students, software developers, systems analysts, legal project managers and public interest advocates will work together to develop new software applications to advance access to justice.
PoLI has attracted strong interest among law and computer students as well as favorable attention from Nashville’s legal and tech communities. PoLI was launched in January 2015.


Blockchain and the Law

Following the phenomenon of Bitcoin, businesses and lawyers are beginning to explore the unique technology on which it was built. Blockchain, a distributed ledger platform, is a secure, transparent, virtually instant and verifiable technology that can be used to support many kinds of transactions (like currency exchange) without much of the costly intervention of numerous intermediaries which reduce the value of the transaction. Health care, finance, supply chain and law are among the many industry sectors now discovering the disruptive impact blockchain can have on their businesses and services. These "smart contracts" or "intelligent transactions" can literally execute themselves.

Jason Epstein at Blockchain and the Law Conference on April 7

Vanderbilt Law School Adjunct Professor Jason Epstein, a partner with the Nashville office of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, offers his perspectives about legal issues surrounding the emerging technology of blockchain at the Blockchain and Law conference the Program on Law & Innovation sponsored on April 7.


The Workshop on Artificial Intelligence and the Law

The Workshop on Artificial Intelligence and Law each year brings together academics and practitioners working in one or both of two themes—AI for Law, which explores how AI will be deployed in legal research and practice; and Law for AI, focused on the legal, policy, and ethical issues that the deployment of AI in society is likely to create. Each year’s workshop includes some of the nation’s most thoughtful experts and thinkers in both spaces.


Program Director, J.B Ruhl, blogs about all matters within the scope of the Program on Law & Innovation at his Law 2050 blog . Program Coordinator, Larry Bridgesmith, covers this theme as well at his Lean.Law Letters blog.

Innovation Student Fellows

Students demonstrating an interest in the focal themes of the Program and wishing to support Program scholarship and activities can apply for a semester-long Student Research Fellowship. One fellowship will be awarded each semester.

Summer Access to Law Fellowships

Vanderbilt Law School provides financial support to students who work in the summer for non-profit organizations dedicated to developing legal innovations that promote access to legal services for small businesses and low and moderate income families.