Law is a profession that runs on information, and students who understand how to operate in the information age are in a unique position to develop their talent fully, whether they go on to work in the private, governmental, or public-interest sectors. That is why leaders of the bar, judges, and the most prestigious public-interest organizations in New York City turn to students in the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic for help with pressing challenges. While many law schools now offer law-and-technology courses, Columbia has pioneered the study of how technology affects the practice of law. Students in the clinic learn contemporary law practice through hands-on experience using the digital technologies that are reshaping the profession.
In the classroom, students learn and practice basic skills, such as interviewing and counseling, with an emphasis on using digital technology to help make these very human encounters satisfying and productive. In addition, students employ technology as they draft pleadings, plan case strategy, and advocate in a variety of settings. Beyond learning how to adapt technology to assist in these traditional activities, students acquire the new skills that are transforming law practice—knowledge management, electronic fact gathering, and presentation.
Clinic students work shoulder-to-shoulder, both in person and in an online environment, with lawyers for a wide range of public-interest organizations and members of the judiciary. Among other projects, students have handled eviction cases, advocated with administrative agencies to restore essential government benefits, represented victims of domestic violence, organized the pro bono efforts of the private bar in the wake of 9/11, and worked with grassroots community groups to press for affordable housing. Recently, clinic students, working in collaboration with the New York City Civil Court, began to develop an online, automated tenants' response to eviction proceedings, which could serve the needs of the hundreds of thousands of tenants who face eviction each year without the hope of obtaining a lawyer. Students emerge with a combination of contemporary legal and technical skills that gives them a considerable professional edge as they enter the practice of law.
"I knew when I signed up for the Lawyering in the Digital Age clinic that I would be entering new territory in terms of expectations for responsibility and creativity. It was a great experience, and I feel ready for anything now. It is very satisfying to work directly for clients and at the same time to be having an impact on the way law is practiced." -- Brian Agboh '03
Professors of the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic
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 and has collaborated for many years with Professors Conrad Johnson and Mary Zulack on the development of other efforts to teach lawyering and technology. He is the director of instructional services at the Law School. In his administrative role, he is responsible for the design and operation of the Law School's world-class classroom technology and curriculum-based Internet initiatives.
Professor 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. He co-founded, and for eleven years directed, the Law School's Fair Housing Clinic, which specialized in civil rights litigation. He served as the Director of Clinical Education at CLS from 1992 to 1996. He is co-creator of the Law School's first distance-learning offering, the Seminar in Race-Conscious Remedies (1999), and co-created, with Brian Donnelly, the Law School's first e-course (2000), "The Impact of Technology on the Legal Profession." Since 2001, he has served as co-director of the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic, the first clinic devoted entirely to the study of the impact of technology on law practice and the profession. Professor Johnson is recognized nationally as a leader in innovative legal education, access to justice, technology in law practice and diversity in legal education. He is the 2013 recipient of the Professor Willis L.M. Reese Award for Excellence in Teaching, the Law School’s only teaching award.
Professor Mary Marsh Zulack joined the Columbia faculty in 1990. She co-directed the Fair Housing Clinic and inaugurated and taught the seminar on Law and Policy of Homelessness. In the course of her 20-year career in legal-services management and practice prior to joining the faculty, Professor Zulack served in many positions, including attorney-in-charge of the Harlem neighborhood office of The Legal Aid Society of New York City. She has served the Association of the Bar of the City of New York as a member of the Executive Committee, Nominating Committee, Judiciary Committee, and Civil Court Committee; was founder and first chair of the Committee on Legal Needs of the Poor; and was awarded the 1996 Leadership Award by the Citywide Task Force on the Housing Court.