By John Palfrey
The first-year law school curriculum took shape more than 100 years ago. The basic curriculum hasn’t changed much over the course of the last century. Meanwhile, the practice of law has changed dramatically. One of those changes is the importance of information technologies in what young lawyers do as they enter the profession.
The Harvard Law School faculty recently voted in favor of substantial changes to our first-year curriculum. We aren’t the first law school to amend the first-year law school curriculum, but the changes are significant for at least two reasons. They passed unanimously, signaling a masterful job by the plan’s architects, Professor Martha Minow and Dean Elena Kagan. And the specific reforms, including introduction of a required course in international law, are well-conceived.
One question that remains unanswered is whether there’s a place for technology in the law school curriculum. Just as the profession has become global in scope — giving rise to new first-year courses in international and comparative law — the practice of law involves extensive use of information technologies. Young lawyers learn how to use technologies in practice on the job at law firms where training programs exist, and on their own if they’re in a smaller firm. (more…)