This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project is the creation of a web-based platform for teaching entrepreneurial lawyering skills through virtual apprenticeships. The skill and experience of an entrepreneur?s lawyer have a significant impact on the success of the entrepreneur. Lawyers are critical architects of bringing innovation to commercialization. They organize entities, structure financings, protect intellectual property and serve as the nodes of entrepreneurial communities. Too few lawyers have the skills to perform these functions well. Neither law schools nor law firms offer effective training in entrepreneurial lawyering skills. As a result, society fails to capitalize on the full potential of technological innovation. The project is a disruptive innovation to the existing educational model that shifts its center of gravity outside of the classroom by reintroducing senior practitioners into the education of novices. Its essence is ?crowd sourcing? expert participation. By distributing the work of mentoring, the platform multiplies the opportunities for higher order apprenticeship learning that previously depended on non-scalable, face-to-face interactions.
The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is to create a low cost, leveraged means to improve the ?practice readiness? of recent law graduates in entrepreneurial lawyering skills. Law schools have launched various experiential learning initiatives, including clinical offerings and simulations. Law firms have experimented with similar training programs. While improving learning on the margin, none of these efforts has had a fundamental impact. All rely at their core on the traditional, high-cost model of student-teacher interaction. Various on-line tools offer resources for acquiring substantive knowledge but lack the interactive component that leads to the development of the cognitive capacities that make up true expertise. None of the solutions has attempted to tap the reservoir of expertise found among the community of senior practitioners. Using social networking and distributed work strategies to overcome the obstacles to their participation, this project capitalizes on the desire of seniors to share their expertise.
July 30, 2012 ApprenNet built and launched LawMeets™, a web-based platform that teaches entrepreneurial lawyering skills through virtual apprenticeships. The skill and experience of an entrepreneurâ€™s lawyer have a significant impact on the success of the entrepreneur. Consequently, lawyers are critical architects of bringing innovation to commercialization. However, it takes an enormous amount of time, money and people to train effective lawyers. LawMeets™ provides law schools and law firms the tools to scale apprenticeship learning at low cost. ApprenNet does this by providing the tools to create Meets. Meets are three-step learning challenges that encompass learning by doing, learning from peers and learning from experts. See how a Meet works below: [See Diagram] Step 1: Students or associates visit www.LawMeets.com. Step 2: Students or associates watch a hypothetical client video. Step 3: Students or associates research a solution to the clientâ€™s issue. Step 4: Students or associates submit a performance to the platform. Step 5: Students or associates review and rate pairs of performances. Step 6: Top rated performances are funneled to an expert panel. [See Diagram] Step 7: An expert panel reviews and rates performances. Step 8: Experts leave written feedback for each performance. Step 9: Experts post video demonstrations. Step 10: All participants have access to expert feedback & demonstrations. Step 11: All performances are saved in individual LawMeets™ Portfolios. Law School Pilot Results Between September 2011 and June 2012 LawMeets™ launched 36 Meets. 1,010 performances were submitted. The number of participants per Meet ranged from 14 students in a small seminar-style class in Administrative Law to 76 students in a large, lecture hall class in Business Organizations to 115 students from 11 law schools in a national, interscholastic event. 15 schools used Meets as a selection tool for two live, interscholastic law school competitions (also called LawMeetsSM) that ApprenNet organizes. 91.33% of students surveyed asked to participate in additional Meets. 15 professors from 9 schools piloted the LawMeets™ program. To date, 58 professors from 32 schools have registered to use the LawMeets™ Library for the 2012-2013 school year. 38 experts participated as judges from national and international law firms including: DLA Piper, Woodcock Washburn LLP, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, Morgan Lewis & Bockius, LLP, Cozen Oâ€™Connor and Oâ€™Melveny & Myers LLP. 100% of expert judges asked to participate in future Meets. LawMeets™ Benefits A robust library of LawMeets™ that provide practical skills exercises. The ability to scale significant predictors of skills acquisition, including: observation, social capital and mentorship: Observation: LawMeets™ offers students and associates the tools to observe 1) their own performance, 2) performance of their peers and 3) best practices from senior attorneys multiple times throughout the year. Social Capital: Meets provide common legal experiences that serve as starting points for meaningful, asynchronous discussion between professors, students and the practicing bar. Mentorship: Meets encourage the practicing bar to provide young lawyers with frequent, meaningful feedback when and where they want, just minutes at a time. LawMeets™ uses technology to bring a community of new and veteran lawyers together in order to foster more frequent knowledge sharing without the high costs that traditional apprenticeships entail.