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Law 2050 Students Identify Legal Issues on the Horizon

Once again the core writing assignment in my Law 2050 class requires students to identify a trend of any kind—technological, environmental, social, economic, so long as it is likely to raise policy issues that could require legal responses—and spin out its impacts and legal implications in three styles of writing: (1) a blog post, (2) a client alert letter, and (3) a bar journal article. The idea behind the assignment is twofold. First, young lawyers can and increasingly must jump on emerging issues and brand themselves as among the “go to” legal experts. Second, the style of writing needed to make the brand is generally not taught in law schools.

What I enjoy most about the assignment is working with the students to identify topics, as I learn a lot about what’s on the horizon. This year’s topics:

  • Blockchain technology in banking
  • The rise of FinTech
  • Fitbits in the court room
  • Advances in assisted reproductive technology
  • Healthcare applications of nanobots in our bodies
  • Exoskeletons
  • Litigation finance
  • Space tourism
  • Moral programming of driverless cars
  • Smart fabrics
  • Personalized genome sequencing
  • Changing marriage norms
  • Brain mesh technology (aka neural lace)
  • Space colonization
  • The proposed Equality Act
  • AI robots in the workplace
  • New state physician assisted suicide laws
  • Cybersecurity and drones
  • Preimplantation genetics
  • Employee wellness programs using wearable tech
  • Cyberwars
  • Epigenetic manipulation of livestock
  • The new DOT driverless car policy
  • Global worker enslavement
  • Vertical farming
  • Smart homes
  • Climate geoengineering
  • Smart pills
  • Mobile IDs
  • Legalized pot
  • Nanomachines

There’s a lot in that lineup, to say the least! The semester ends with students giving 3-minute “elevator pitches” to convince the class that the topic has legal legs. My hunch is they will be pretty convincing!

Law 2050 Student Projects on Trends in Law and Law Practice

Given how much time we spend in law school covering what the law was and is, one of the goals of my Law 2050 class is to get students to think about what the law will be and how they can help shape it’s future. I have students identify examples of two kinds of trends. The first is an “inside law” trend, such as new technology and new kinds of service providers, that will influence how law is practiced. The other is an “outside law” trend, such as developments in health care, technology, and the economy, that will influence how law evolves in response.

Last year I had students work in groups to present “pitches” in a shark-tank setting, with the pitch being an assessment of whether to invest in the trend (e.g., put money into a new legal practice technology or devote firm resources to developing a new practice area). This year I have used this phase of the class to develop some practical, practice-oriented writing skills: a blog post, a client alert letter, and a bar journal article. As was the case last year, once again I am thoroughly impressed with the topics the students selected, and their blog post assignments were top-notch. Watch for several of them in coming days as students serve as contributing bloggers!

Here’s a sample of the topics:

Inside Law Trends: lawyer coaching for pro se clients; IP prior art search outsourcing; third party litigation funding; Shake, the contract app; legal hackathons; legal fee analytics; Ravel Law; Mitratech’s software for in-house counsel; “low bono” law firms; legal project management firms; online dispute resolution; pricing consultants; Islamic finance practice; speech recognition programs for lawyers; Bryan Cave’s Rosetta project; legal knowledge engineering; telecommuting and the decline of the law office; Counsel on Call; Integron; business for lawyers training programs; legal solution engineers; Clerky; Axiom–is it becoming another BigLaw?; virtual courts; Legal Force; and compliance lawyering.

Outside Law Trends: digital signatures; commercial delivery drones; invisibility cloaking; Google Glass; neural implants; predictive policing; driverless cars; commercial space travel; e-money; The Internet of Things (embedded sensor networks); newsgathering drones; unmanned cargo ships; virtual patient consultations; 3D printing of guns and organs; apps to convert 3D iPhone photos to 3D printing; Apple’s fitness watch; automobile connectivity and privacy issues; texting detection technology for police; cloud storage issues; sea level rise; crowdfunding; negligent infliction of disease; ridesharing (Uber etc.); robotic surgery; renewable energy trends; extreme reality TV; fracking; human gene patenting; and police body cameras.

Needless to say, we are going to have some interesting class discussions!

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