Quinten Steenhuis, QSteenhuis@suffolk.edu
Meetings: Mondays, 2:00-3:50 via Zoom
You do not need to purchase any materials.
The class website is the "home base" for this class. Links to readings and required videos will be posted there in advance of each class.
We will make use of some of the following free websites and software applications:
- GitHub (https://github.com)
- Slack (https://slack.com)
- Docassemble (https://docassemble.org) (Instructor will provide server information)
- QnAMarkup (https://qnamarkup.org)
- Community.Lawyer (https://community.lawyer)
- Clio (https://clio.com)
You will not need to install any software on your computer. All work will require an active Internet connection.
The best way to reach me is by messaging me on Slack. I am usually available during normal working hours for quick questions. If I am not available, we can set up a meeting at a later time. I am also available for impromptu Zoom meetings to work through problems you may run into with the assignments or questions about class.
Course Goals & Learning Objectives
|Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to know/understand:||Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to:||How the student will be assessed on these learning objectives:|
|Students will know what technologies are being used by lawyers and others to assist with distinctly legal work, and understand the possibilities and fit of different legal technologies||Identify different kinds of legal technology, and compare the benefits and disadvantages of different tools for differerent scenarios||In-class discussion, presentations|
|What ethical and regulatory issues are presented by legal technology||Describe the current regulatory landscape and challenges posed by ethical rules for additional legal technology, as well as the potential moral considerations in both additional automation and potentially failure to automate routine work||In-class discussion|
|Know how to break down a process analytically into component parts||Map a process and identify inefficiencies and potential improvements||Demonstrated through project work|
|How to build a software application that does useful legal work||Identify a legal technology need, work with clients to create a project scope, develop software requirements and automate a single process from start to finish||Final project; interim assignments|
|How to model legal knowledge and reasoning||Break a legal rule or piece of legal knowledge into discrete, automatable components using diagrams and software tools||Assessments and in-class discussions|
|What career paths are available for technologically savvy lawyers||Describe the many roles of technology in the legal practice and how technical knowledge can assist in different job functions||In-class discussion|
Learning to fail
In many law school classes, you get a single high stakes test at the end of the semester. As a litigator, you may also have a single opportunity to make your case.
Software development is not like that. The process of computer programming often involves repeatedly running into errors. Errors are an opportunity to learn. In addition, creating a successful product requires iteration. The first draft is often the first chance to do real discovery about what works and what does not work.
As new coders, you will need to ask a lot of questions. I will never "hide the ball" or refuse to answer direct questions. Questions are part of the learning process, especially for new coders. Failing to ask questions may frustrate and slow you down. My rule of thumb is if you have 30 minutes without progress, ask a question.
Software development is a highly results-oriented domain. It is not just okay, but expected to use libraries, prewritten code, and samples to reduce reinvention of basic components of your product. I expect each student to produce unique work, but not to waste time rewriting code that already works to achieve a goal.
Being successful in this class means:
- Asking for help and feedback early. You will not be graded negatively if you don't understand everything right away. It's expected to need to ask many questions early on.
- Accepting that you will run into errors and perhaps dead ends
- Your first draft will look very different from your final product
- It is not just okay, but an important part of the process to collaborate, share early drafts, and gather feedback.
Software development is a creative endeavor that can be truly exhilarating. There is the struggle of creation and then the excitement and joy of producing something that can live on in the world. Most of all, it should be fun.
Online learning expectations
Online learning presents a challenge to a seminar-style class. I expect active participation, although Zoom makes it easy to be working silently on something else while the class is on in the background. Please come prepared to engage in each class.
- Attend every real-time class, all semester long, except for excused absences. I will make use of a "flipped" classroom at times throughout the semester to reduce "Zoom fatigue." I may replace some regular meetings with one-on-one check-ins.
- Join with video camera on. I encourage you to select an appropriate virtual background to protect your privacy.
- Be an active participant in discussions. If your home situation makes it more challenging to have your microphone on, please let me know in advance so we can find an appropriate accommodation.
I am required to include the following information in this syllabus:
To enable participation of students who are unable to make regular meetings, classes will be recorded. Recordings of classes will be made available on Slack and via a secure link available only to enrolled Suffolk students and staff.
Students are prohibited from making their own recording of lectures and classes, unless the recording is an approved disability accommodation in accordance with University policy.
This class takes the ABA requirements of 2 hours of outside class time per credit-hour seriously. Because this is a project class, we only meet once a week. In exchange for that extra day free, you should expect to spend a fair amount of time outside class, at least 6 hours on average, to keep up with readings and project work. Project work in particular can eat up as much time as you have available.
There will be a modest amount of background reading and/or online video for most classes. But the key requirement in this course is to make something that does useful legal work - i.e., a software application that assists someone with a non-trivial legal task. That will require analyzing, designing, planning, and managing a project. See the Project Work column in the course schedule below for more details. Important advice: Start Early! Backup your work frequently!
You will be evaluated in the following areas:
- preparation for, and participation in, class discussions
- timely completion of assignments
- quality of project analysis, design, and implementation
The grade breakdown is as follows:
- 50% on progress/completion of final project;
- 10% Legal Tech Assessment (advanced Microsoft Office and Acrobat skills);
- 20% on participation;
- 20% on weekly journal entries.
Attendance and punctuality are basic requirements for an effective discussion- and project-based course. Your frequency and quality of contribution to discussions will be assessed and reflected in your grade. If you cannot attend a class please inform me in advance. We will be keeping records of attendance.
I measure class participation based on the following criteria: arriving on time; paying attention to presentations and discussions; respectfully listening when others are speaking; making thoughtful contributions; being fully engaged in your learning without texting, checking your phone or email, or participating in other digital distractions.
If you anticipate issues related to the format or requirements of this course due to the impact of a disability, it is important that you contact the Law School's Dean of Student Office for further information and assistance, including information on disability-related accommodations. We can then plan how best to coordinate any accommodations.
Observe Suffolk Law School's general attendance policy. In the event that the University cancels classes, such as for severe weather, you are expected to continue with assignments as originally scheduled. Any assignments scheduled during those missed classes are due at the next class meeting unless other instructions are posted at the course website or communicated via email.
The schedule, policies, procedures, and assignments are subject to change in the event of extenuating circumstances, by mutual agreement, or to ensure better student learning. This course is a work in progress, and I'm always looking for ways to improve. Therefore, mid-course corrections should be anticipated! This online version will be the most "up to date," so if you print this, just be aware that the "official" version will be the digital version available at this web page.