Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic

Columbia Law School has pioneered the study of how technology affects the practice of law. Students in the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic learn contemporary lawyering through hands-on experience using the digital technologies that are reshaping the profession. 

 

Leaders of the bar, judges, and the most prestigious public interest organizations turn to students in the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic to improve access to justice. Clients include public interest legal organizations, prominent jurists, and non-profit legal technology initiatives that have a pressing need to integrate current and emerging computer and communications technologies in order to improve their efficiency and efficacy. 

Students typically choose either litigation or transactional projects. In seminars and in fieldwork with clients, students learn to gather, manage, and present information effectively. Through simulations and client representation, they gain proficiency with both the traditional skills of lawyering that are enhanced by technology—such as interviewing, counseling, and drafting—as well as the tools necessary to practice at a high level in the digital age, including online fact-investigation, knowledge management, and digital presentation. The clinic emphasizes how to harness technology to make in-person encounters with clients more productive and satisfying to all parties. 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.

Clinic projects have included:

  • Helping civil Legal Aid and Legal Services attorneys meet the substantial challenges of implementing New York City’s “right to counsel” initiative for low-income New Yorkers in eviction proceedings.
  • Creating an online portal to help millions of low- and middle-income workers secure billions of dollars in Earned Income Tax Credits.
  • Collaborating 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.
  • Developing the Collateral Consequences Calculator, in consultation with New York State’s Chief Judge, which shows the collateral consequences for some sections of the New York Penal Code.
  • Applying technology to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline in charter schools.
  • Creating tools for legal services attorneys helping homeowners facing foreclosure and communities seeking to reduce “zombie” housing.

You can learn more about the clinic on our website

In partnership with the Legal Aid Society of Orange County and Community Legal Services of Southeast Los Angeles County, the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic created an Earned Income Tax Credit online information portal. This portal, available in both Spanish and English, gives users an overview of the EITC benefit, eligibility requirements, and filing process.The EITC is the largest financial benefits program available to low- to moderate-income working individuals and couples, particularly those with children. In addition, portal users have access to an eligibility calculator, filing forms, and a list of resources for free help with filing for the EITC. The portal is designed to be an online “one-stop shop” for anyone to learn more about the EITC program—clinic students created the portal to break down seemingly complex tax filing information into straightforward language that is accessible to the public. The project aimed to address the overwhelming unmet demand for free civil legal services. 

 

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