By Gabe Teninbaum

Can you format a pleading in Word, or create a formula in Excel? Think it doesn’t matter for lawyers? Think again.

I’ve noticed in my years of teaching that many law students aren’t always very good at using the tools they’ll use every day in the practice of law. I admit, it’s not the most exciting thing to be a wiz in Excel, but it’s absolutely a necessity. Why? Because clients are paying you for your time, and when a lawyer fumbles to do something for 20 minutes that should take him 2, he’s ripping off his client. Not only is this an ethical problem (in fact, the most recent version of the ABA Model Rules requires that attorneys maintain tech competence), but more and more, clients are getting wise to this, and simply refusing to hire lawyers who can’t show that they’re working efficiently.

In response to this need (and apparent deficiency), I helped develop an online tool for law schools and law students to test and improve their tech skills. The legal tech audit was first developed by corporate counsel D. Casey Flaherty, who theorized that outside law firms were often billing too much because their lawyers were not using software tools efficiently. Flaherty ultimately collaborated with my law school, Suffolk Law, to create a version of the legal tech audit for lawyers. We also formed a collaboration with TutorPro to build a separate, free version for law students.

So what is it? It’s an online tool that has several units, including both learning and assessment modules. Students work inside live documents to test their knowledge and learn new skills that they’ll use regularly in their careers as lawyers. Knowing this information in advance of starting a clerkship or new position is part of the professional skillset that will get you going off the right track.

Requesting access is easy: ask a professor or school administrator to click here to request free, school-wide access. From there, any student, faculty, admin or staff member will get free access.

Gabe Teninbaum is a professor of legal writing at Suffolk University Law School, where he also serves as Director of the Institute on Law Practice Technology & Innovation.