Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic
Leaders of the bar, judges, and the most prestigious public-interest organizations turn to students in the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic for help with pressing challenges.
Columbia Law School has pioneered the study of how technology affects the practice of law. Students in the clinic learn contemporary lawyering through hands-on experience using the digital technologies that are reshaping the profession.
Our clients are public interest legal organizations, prominent jurists and non-profit legal technology initiatives that have a serious interest in integrating technology to improve access to justice. In the classroom and in our work with clients, students learn to gather, manage and present information effectively. Through exercises and client representation, students gain proficiency with both the traditional skills of lawyering that are enhanced by technology, such as interviewing, counseling and drafting, as well as the skills necessary to practice at a high level in the digital age, including online fact-investigation, searching, knowledge management and digital presentation. Throughout, we emphasize how to use technology to help make the very human encounters we have with our clients satisfying and productive.
Clinic students work shoulder-to-shoulder, both in person and in online environments, with lawyers from a wide range of public-interest organizations and members of the judiciary. Sample projects include:
- Helping civil legal aid and legal services attorneys meet the massive challenges of implementing NYC’s new “right to counsel” initiative for low-income New Yorkers in eviction proceedings
- Created an online portal to help millions of low and middle-income workers secure billions in Earned Income Tax Credits
- Worked with a consortium of public benefits lawyers and paralegals to build online resources that provide a real-time snapshot of systemic problems and access to immediate relief
- In conjunction with New York’s Chief Judge, developed the Collateral Consequences Calculator that shows the immigration consequences of conviction for all sections of NY’s Penal Law
- Using technology to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline in charter schools
- Developing tools for legal services attorneys helping homeowners facing foreclose and communities seeking to stem the blight of “Zombie” housing
Students emerge from the Clinic with a combination of contemporary legal and technical skills that give them a considerable professional edge as they enter the practice of law.
Visit the Clinic’s website to learn more about who we are and what we do.
Case Example: Collateral Consequences Calculator
Clinic students tackled a complicated issue on collateral consequences of criminal charges. The consequences are not spelled out in the Penal Code, in contrast to the direct consequences such as prison or fines. For example, an undocumented person arrested on a misdemeanor charge might face an extreme consequence, like deportation.
Lawyers, often expert in a narrow area of law, simply cannot know the myriad collateral consequences of all possible charges.
To address this challenge, students in the Lawyering In The Digital Age Clinic created a calculator that pools and organizes this specialized knowledge. The web-based tool enables lawyers to counsel clients, and judges to sentence defendants, with full knowledge of potential collateral consequences. The calculator, known as the 4C’s project, currently reveals the consequences for cases involving immigration and tenancy in New York City public housing.
Future modules will track family, employment, and government benefits consequences.
Professor Conrad Johnson
Conrad Johnson joined the Columbia faculty in 1989 after two years as an assistant professor at the City University of New York School of Law and many years as the Attorney-in-Charge of the Harlem neighborhood office of The Legal Aid Society.
To read Johnson’s full biography and to find his contact information, visit the Faculty Contacts page.
Lecturer in Law Brian Donnelly
Brian Donnelly, Lecturer in Law, co-taught the Seminar in Advanced Legal Research from 1996 to 1999. He helped to found the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic.
To read Donnelly’s full biography and to find his contact information, visit the Faculty Contacts page.