Professor Charlotte Tschider is the Lead Affiliated Professor of Law at Mitchell Hamline School of Law’s Cybersecurity and Privacy Law program. She is also Owner/Principal for Cybersimple Security, an international privacy and security consulting company. Professor Tschider serves on the ABA’s Cyberspace Law Committee and writes on a variety of technology law topics, including her new book, International Cybersecurity and Privacy Law in Practice (Wolters Kluwer 2018). I had the pleasure of speaking with her about thoughts on legal tech. 

A lot continues to be said and written about the need for law schools to change the way that they educate their students and prepare them for legal practice. What is your view?

I am a big believer in contextual knowledge: although doctrinal theory and case law form a foundation for comprehension, knowledge and understanding “cement” when applied to real-world situations. Real-world situations also carry with them the exigency of real clients with real problems. It might be easy not to read a case for class, but will you tell your client you are not prepared when their life or interests hang in the balance? For these reasons, I urge students either to consider taking a clinical course or starting externships and internships early-on in the educational process. It simply makes everything more real and usually improves classroom performance, as well. In classes I teach, I connect theory and case law to real-world cases in the news and find opportunities for students to practice skills related to verbal and written communication.

What prompted your interest in legal tech?

I started coding at public libraries when I was 15 and the Internet was a new concept. Although I went on to pursue a degree in genetics and later scientific and technical communication, my path seemed to lead back to technology. After 10 years engaged in various Information Technology roles, including cybersecurity and privacy, I saw an opportunity to combine expertise in technology with the law and went to law school. The rest is history!

There seems to be a persistent gap between the tech world and the legal world, despite persistent efforts to eliminate the gap. It may be narrowing, but what do you think remains the biggest roadblock to full bridging the gap?

Some of this is by design: private entities generally are incentivized by innovation and creating the next best thing for customers while the legal world operates in a responsive mindset and is slower to change. Unfortunately, in order to effectively protect clients’ interests, attorneys increasingly will need some technical knowledge. Some attorneys still believe that technical knowledge is not a legal responsibility.

The legal tech world is really taking off in terms of both development and ideas. Yet, what areas do you see as being ripe for disruption, but are not yet being given due attention?

Automation and artificial intelligence are still very new for legal technology. Once these areas take off in the legal field, many things will change. Although some attorneys view these disrupters as the death knell for law jobs, I think that the attorney will assume a new, even more strategic role. If attorneys embrace technology and remain open to learning, they will be successful. Attorneys of the future will use technology to their advantage rather than their detriment.

How would you define legal innovation?

Innovation often refers to more efficient or effective means for completing tasks, rather than simply introducing new technology into the equation. Legal innovation makes legal operations and tasks easier and less expensive to fulfill through technology.