Vanderbilt launches new Program on Law and Innovation

Jan 28, 2015

Vanderbilt Law School has launched a new Program on Law and Innovation to train students to succeed in a legal profession that is changing rapidly due to globalization, technological advancement, cost pressures, economic and social trends, and the increasing complexity and interactions of national, federal, state and local legal systems.

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

J.B. Ruhl blogs about the future of legal practice at Law2050.

According to Vanderbilt Law Dean Chris Guthrie, the Program on Law and Innovation is the culmination of an effort by several faculty, spearheaded by Ruhl, to develop new curricular and extracurricular opportunities that enable Vanderbilt Law students to anticipate and capitalize on industry trends as well as 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.”

The program will offer courses and develop internships and other experiential learning opportunities in which students prepare for careers involving legal innovation and entrepreneurship and explore ways to deliver legal services more efficiently and expand access to legal services to individuals and organizations that are currently underserved.

In addition to Law Practice 2050, courses in the program’s core curriculum cover e-discovery, legal project management, law as a business, and cyberlaw. A new course, Technology in Legal Practice, debuted in spring 2015. Students in the class, taught by Marc Jenkins, Class of 2003, an executive with the Nashville-based eDiscovery company Cicayda, are using the Neota Logic software platform to build legal technology applications for five non-profit legal organizations with the goal of enhancing access to justice in Tennessee.

Law and Innovation faculty are also working with Nancy Hyer, a professor at Vanderbilt’s 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, Class of 2015, and Laura Komarek, Class of 2016, are serving as the first Law and Innovation Student Research Fellows during spring 2015, assisting the program in launching research initiatives and in planning a “legal hackathon” to form groups of students, IT professionals and attorneys who will work together to develop technology-supported solutions to legal service needs.

Larry Bridgesmith, an experienced mediator who teaches on Vanderbilt’s adjunct law faculty, will serve as program coordinator. In addition to developing and teaches courses, he is currently spearheading the hackathon and working on the legal project management research project.

Visit the Program on Law and Innovation site for more information.


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