New Tech and Innovation Concentration Boots Up

UC Hastings Law students interested in shaking up the delivery of legal services may now pursue a concentration in Technology and Innovation in the Practice of Law.

The offering represents the latest creation of LexLab, the school’s hub for collaboration among faculty, students, and alumni interested in legal tech and the innovation happening in the Bay Area’s wider tech community. Launched in 2018, LexLab offers academic programming, a legal tech accelerator for startups, and public events.

Provost & Academic Dean Morris Ratner says the new concentration reflects the ongoing effort to adapt UC Hastings’ curriculum to the changing nature of legal practice, characterized by rapid technological innovation.

“The concentration not only gives students insight into how practice is changing but also gives students the opportunity to think about where practice should head,” Ratner says, “and, more broadly, about how innovation can improve lawyering and legal services and address access to justice gaps.”

Professor Alice Armitage, who oversees LexLab and serves as the advisor for the concentration, says it’s designed so students can choose to pursue a dual concentration in, for example, social justice lawyering or business law.

“I firmly believe that every part of the legal profession is going to deal with technology,” she says. “We want all students to be comfortable with it.”

Aspiring legal tech concentrators aren’t expected to learn specific technologies, which quickly become obsolete in a fast-changing field. Instead, Armitage’s focus is on helping students develop an entrepreneurial mindset and learn design thinking – collaborating with experts in other fields to solve real-world problems.

“I want them to have other tools in their belt in addition to the critical thinking skills they learned as lawyers,” she says.

Many of the courses available in the concentration involve hands-on experience working with startups and looking for solutions to complex programs such as homelessness. Some students have already gone on to win pitch competitions and launch startup businesses.

The concentration is open this fall to 2Ls and 3Ls. Armitage expects it to be popular since many UC Hastings students hope to stay in the tech-centric Bay Area. She has even heard from several 1Ls who want to sign up when they’re eligible.

One of the required courses in the concentration provides an overview of the impact of technology on the practice of law. Other courses dive deeper into subjects such as legal informatics, the study of different technologies that can be used in the delivery of legal services. For students who aren’t sure if they want to become concentrators, she suggests broader courses such as the regulation of emerging technologies, Internet law, or data privacy.

Ratner says Armitage, who is director of applied innovation at UC Hastings, is a perfect person to serve as advisor for the concentration.

“Along with LexLab Director Drew Amerson,” Ratner says, “Alice and the rest of the LexLab team have turned UC Hastings into an innovation hub.”