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Digital doctoring

Right on the heels of my white paper, the Dean of Harvard Medical School publishes an op-ed in today’s Globe makes essentially the same argument as the paper, only more succinctly, coherently, and compellingly. As the pull-quote summarizes: “The revolution in medical technology requires a revolution in training.” From a general view, law and medicine (and their respective professional schools) share a lot in common.

Here’s a letter I sent to the Globe responding to this excellent and timely piece:

Joseph Martin raises the same concerns that lawyers have about the growing role of computers in our work (“Digital Doctoring,” Op-Ed, March 29). “Rip it out” is how many law professors react to laptops in the classroom. No surprise, then, that a recent study I authored found that law students and lawyers have scarce opportunity to learn new skills like how to manage complex global teams using technology.

As in medicine, the cost of ignoring technology is high. In a nation where fewer than 4 in 10 middle-class Americans facing legal problems have access to an attorney (3 in 10 for low-income individuals), technology can enable lawyers to meet the need by working smarter. For example, software developed at Chicago-Kent Law School helps clients fill out paperwork by translating legalese into plain English. Attorneys need more tools like this – and the skill to use them.

It’s easy to assume that “digital natives” will figure it all out with time. But best practice emerges when someone bothers to study what works – a role that medical schools have long played for doctors. Law schools today have a similar opportunity to partner with practicing attorneys to discover digital responses to the ancient call of justice.

As always, the challenge of keeping under 200 words pushes the question of what’s really at stake. To me it really is about addressing unmet legal needs through better leverage of scarce resources (aka lawyers).

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  1. […] The letter was published after all, with fewer edits than it deserved (the last sentence, in particular, made no sense because of a last-minute edit I made). Link to Globe letters (it’s the 3rd one). […]