By Alexander Rabanal, Access to Justice Fellow at Chicago-Kent’s Center for Access to Justice & Technology
Take a look around; the practice of law is changing. This change has been driven by emerging technological innovations and the demand for cost-maximizing legal solutions. E-discovery, electronic communications, and document assembly and recognition software are changing the way large law firms are doing business and how much those firms are charging for services. Clients are increasingly unwilling to pay for the services of inexperienced attorneys or for work that could be done by a computer or paralegal. Additionally, the demand for routine legal documents has led to commodification and has opened the door for non-lawyers to perform services that lawyers traditionally perform.
What ethical challenges emerge out of this new space? How can lawyers traverse this changing landscape that may soon represent the new orthodoxy of legal practice? This fall, Professor Ronald W. Staudt is offering a new course, Practice & Professionalism, that grounds students in the rules of legal professionalism, focusing on how lawyers can meet their ethical obligations when using emerging technology and interacting with clients who are demanding more for less.
Not only will students learn those rules, but they will do so in a setting that simulates the collaborative work environment the students will experience as lawyers. This structure also facilitates the students’ ability to gain valuable experience by working on real-life projects. On the first day of class, students were placed into “law firm” teams, in which they will produce and present a business plan for a new legal practice. The students will again work in teams later in the semester as they prepare and present a grant proposal to obtain funding for a legal aid organization.
From left: guest segment leader Nancy Roberts Linder, Adjunct Professor Will Hornsby, and Professor Staudt.
Students will also benefit from the esteemed group of national and regional experts whom Professor Staudt has assembled for both course development and classroom instruction. These experts enrich the course through their diverse experience, spanning large law firms to legal aid organizations. Adjunct Professor Will Hornsby, Staff Counsel for the ABA Division of Legal Services, will co-teach the class and is an expert on legal professionalism. Segment leaders include Nancy Roberts Linder from Chapman Cutler, Andrew Baker from Seyfarth Shaw, and Dave Bonebrake of the Legal Services Corporation. Valuable contributions have also been made by IIT Chicago-Kent faculty and staff, including Professors Kathy Baker and Sarah Harding; Maureen Aidasani, Director of Expriential Learning; and Dean Susan Lewers.
The course fulfills IIT Chicago-Kent students’ general graduation requirement of taking a course in professional responsibility. It is also a required class for the Praxis Certificate.