New Program on Law & Innovation Launched

Program offers classes, internships, fellowships and other experiential learning opportunities focused on changes in modern legal practice.

Vanderbilt officially launched its new Program on Law & Innovation this spring, after two years in the making. During that time, program director J.B. Ruhl collaborated with adjunct law professor Larry Bridgesmith, the program’s coordinator, and other faculty to develop new courses and extracurricular opportunities for it.

Ruhl, who holds a David Daniels Allen Distinguished Chair of Law, developed and taught the program’s first course, Law 2050, in fall 2013. “The law, the legal services industry and legal education are all undergoing unprecedented transformations,” he said. “The Program on Law & Innovation is designed to equip Vanderbilt Law students to become successful innovators throughout their careers who know how to navigate and influence the directions these changes take law and the legal industry.”

Law and Innovation students
A group of students present their app to judges in a manner reminiscent of the Shark Tank reality TV show.

A second Law & Innovation course, Technology in Legal Practice, debuted in spring 2015. Students in the class, taught by Marc Jenkins ’03, an executive with the Nashville-based eDiscovery company Cicayda, used the Neota Logic software platform to build legal technology applications for five nonprofit legal organizations with the goal of enhancing access to justice in Tennessee.

Law & Innovation Program faculty are also working with Nancy Hyer, associate professor of operations management at Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management, to explore innovation in legal project management, business models and technologies through field studies of firms and other legal service providers. “This research will help guide the development of program curriculum and activities as well as future legal and business scholarship,” Ruhl said.

Mark Foley ’15, the first Law & Innovation student research fellow, assisted the program in launching research initiatives. He also helped organize a “legal hackathon,” bringing together groups of students, IT professionals and attorneys to develop technology-supported solutions to legal service needs.

According to Dean Chris Guthrie, the Program on Law & Innovation is the culmination of an effort by several faculty, spearheaded by Ruhl, to prepare Vanderbilt Law students to anticipate and capitalize on global and industry trends and to understand the advantages and limitations of legal technology as it evolves. “Now more than ever before, lawyers must be innovators,” Guthrie said. “Legal clients increasingly demand more efficiency, lower costs and better results, and law itself is changing rapidly. Our aim is to prepare all of our students for 21st century legal practice.”

Program director J.B. Ruhl blogs about the future of legal practice at

Summer 2015 Vanderbilt Law Magazine