Digital Law and Innovation Society hopes to shape future of law and technology

New student group partners with UAlberta Law to launch Digital Law Cohort for fall 2020

Sarah Kent - 27 June 2020

Students at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law will have the chance to be at the cutting edge of law and technology thanks to the Digital Law and Innovation Society, a new student group that has partnered with UAlberta Law to launch the first Digital Law Cohort for fall 2020.

“You can be ready for technology or you can be caught behind,” said Hero Laird, ‘22 JD, who has been instrumental in laying the groundwork for this launch. “The Digital Law Cohort is a chance to be proactive.”

The Digital Law Cohort is a learning initiative in which law students are offered both courses within the curriculum and extracurricular opportunities to expand their knowledge of how technology may influence the rule of law and how technology can change the legal profession.

In Laird’s first year at UAlberta Law, they were looking for initiatives fully dedicated to digital law and legal tech. Laird saw an opportunity and reached out to other students to create the Digital Law and Innovation Society (DLIS).

Laird, who brings a wealth of knowledge from their time with the federal government and non-profit organizations, believes it is a responsibility to the profession to have a base of knowledge in legal tech for an increasingly digital world.

The student group saw an opportunity to capitalize on UAlberta Law’s expertise in law and technology by launching the Digital Law Cohort.

The Digital Law Cohort quickly took shape through a design phase that received the sponsorship of Interim Dean David R. Percy, QC, and the support of Assistant Professor Jennifer Raso, an expert in law and technology, and Professor Eleni Stroulia of the Department of Computing Science.

As members of the Digital Law Cohort, students will have the chance to work with experts in legal tech, pursue digital law projects, and be on the front lines of creating change, all while taking UAlberta Law courses with a digital law focus.

Coding the Law, taught by Jason Morris, and a new core Digital Law course, taught by Professor Péter Szigeti, are highlights of the curricular opportunities for cohort members, who will also be eligible for external placements with partner organizations.

The Digital Law Cohort is launching at a time when there has already been profound change in the legal system due to COVID-19.

“Looking at how the profession is responding to COVID, this year DLIS will be asking about the best uses of technology,” said Laird.

Interdisciplinary collaborations between UAlberta Law and Computing Science students have been a priority for the new group.

It hosted a “language exchange” in November, where participants discussed what privacy means from both legal and tech perspectives, which emphasized that “privacy” takes on very different meanings in these fields.

These are important conversations both for computer scientists and lawyers, said Laird. “We can’t regulate and use technology well if we don’t understand it.”

The group’s connections also reach beyond the university, including collaborations with the federal and provincial governments, legal tech professionals, and non-profit organizations.

The cohort is open to any incoming 2L or 3L law students interested in digital law regardless of their prior knowledge, and applications are due by July 21, 2020.