What Law Students Can Teach Us

Relfections from teaching law students about the Monax Platform

In my capacity as legal engineer, I have recently had the opportunity to teach two different law school classes: a Wake Forest University class taught by Raina Haque and a Vanderbilt University class taught by Cat Moon. Teaching is new to me, so it’s been an ever-evolving learning experience. In some ways, law students are not like other populations and pose their own unique challenges. But in other ways, the lessons learned echo our findings from explaining the Monax Platform to other non-lawyers, i.e. the end-consumers of legal services.

In the first class, because the students were studying to be lawyers, I focused on initiating them to the most complex part of our offerings: the Monax Legal Product Studio, where attorneys can build business process models that graphically instruct the parties on how to proceed. It is this tool that best capitalizes on lawyerly skills because it allows the drafter to establish a compliance structure. Naturally, I was excited to let young, inquisitive minds loose in the Monax Legal Product Studio.

In my zeal, I forgot something very important: law students aren’t lawyers and are woefully uneducated about the daily realities of practicing law. It has never occurred to most law students that delivering effective services hinges on the efficiency with which you deliver them. Creating a compliance structure for agreement parties involves nuanced exploration of the client’s competing needs and learning from experience how to meet them most effectively. Worse still, unlike other non-lawyers, law students tend to be rather fixated on ‘getting it right,’ as though ‘right’ were a stable, fixed, easily ascertainable point of arrival.

The students in my first class were bright and well-informed on blockchain. But somehow I had led them down a path where they were focused instead on what they didn’t know, on “getting it right’ and avoiding any ‘wrong’ answers. Their questions were more about trying to ascertain what they did not know than about applying what they do know. I was still surprised by the creativity shown in the models that they built. But because they lacked context for their experiments, they viewed their assignment in the modeler more like a test with a correct answer than like an exercise in creating and evaluating possible options. I needed to find a way to refocus their efforts.

For my next class, I shifted my focus away from the Monax Legal Product Studio. Freshly reminded of law students’ lack of familiarity with the realities of practicing law, I instead walked them through how a lawyer would use the Monax Platform to expand their productivity and to increase the quality of their services. I was also lucky to have some help: two other guest lecturers who are practicing attorneys were also in attendance. Their questions helped orient the students to the unfamiliar context. Direct questions are an effective tool for reaching direct answers, but appreciating the contextual setting for those questions is much less clear. The students gleaned far more from the interactions between the practicing attorneys in the room than they could have learned from asking direct questions. Reframing the conversation helped the students to start thinking about the challenges of delivering effective services, which they rarely think on and need to develop further, instead of arriving at a right answer, which they do to the point of perfunctoriness.

In that sense, law students are not so different from the end consumer of legal services when a product, like the Monax Platform, is so new that it does not yet have a developed market. The learning curve can be daunting rather than stimulating or inspirational. A platform like ours empowers the end consumer of legal services to have a greater understanding of their legal status and a correspondingly greater control over their legal fate. It stands to reason, therefore, that these empowered consumers will also need contextual reframing before they can begin to ask themselves the right questions about what the Monax Platform can do for them.

Special thanks to Cat Moon and Raina Haque!

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