As we venture into the future of the legal profession, we encounter an increase in the use of technology. The real issue this raises is whether law students are being prepared to enter this ever-changing field. While the value of textbooks can never be questioned, the reality is that once in practical world, the likelihood of using textbooks to research and find information is slim. This raises the importance of increasing the use of technology in the classrooms. Some professors has already taken his step by teaching students about the use of trial presentation software, while others have started using web-based tools to create more engaging learning experiences for students.
Professor Thaddeus Hofmeister, Associate Dean and Professor of law at the University of Dayton Law School is the most recent professor to implement social media in the classroom. Having written Social Media in the Courtroom, he realizes how important it is for students to know how to utilize social media in a professional context. He states that “when I was writing my book I realized that social media law is an area that is underserved, so I created this course. Not only do my students study law and social media – we also use social media throughout the court.” He cites to the use of blogging not only for himself, but he finds it important for his students to learn how to blog in the legal context as well.
Professor Hofmeister believes that teaching students how to blog and use social media in an effective way can prepare them to better compete in a marketplace that is increasingly influence by online interactions. He finds that
“today’s practitioner needs to have a presence online because tomorrow’s clients will rely on Yelp and social media to find lawyers.”
Blogging and having an online presence allows you to have a significant body of work in a given area which allows for potential clients to find you easily. Building a professional footprint while still in law school allows for students to establish positive and useful information for potential employers and clients alike in the future.
The use of technology and social media in the classroom is also a means by which to keep students engaged and interested. Hofmeister states, “Some professors try and use the same approach that worked 10-20 years ago but you have a different student today.” He points to the fact that many attorneys will use visual presentations in the courtroom now. He emphasizes the importance of keeping students engaged in the classroom, otherwise you run the risk of losing them. While technology may not be a fit for every situation, it should not be ignored outright. The key according to Hofmesiter, is that students should be exposed these concepts an new uses of technology so as to not be behind the curve when heading into the real world.
Professor Hofmeister’s advice to students, professors and lawyers: “don’t be afraid of the unknown.” Ethical rules require us to stay up-to-date on changes in technology and the best way to do so is to actually use it. There is no need to go too fast however. Making learning it a priority, but do so are your own pace.