Fazlur Kahn, often called the greatest structural engineer of the 20th century, created the “bundled tube” structural method when designing the world’s tallest office tower for the Sears corporation. He described his innovation to a colleague by tapping several cigarettes out of a pack and showing how the many “tubes” could be staggered and bundled for aesthetic effect and structural strength.
Inspired by Kahn’s design, in addition to the Delta and “T” shaped skill set models of modern lawyers, the skill set of Legal Engineers mirrors the bundled tube structural method, but with disparate academic schools of thought representing the structural tubes.
We should not strive to break down academic silos, as there are definite advantages to vertical integration. Instead, we should aim to tightly bundle the silos together, allowing interconnections between repositories of different types of thought “grains”. It is worth noting that this model looks skyward, in that there is no upper bound on any one type of skill, and depending on a practitioner’s field of work, one “tube” of knowledge may vastly exceed the others (and it might not necessarily be law).
To explore how one might build a Legal Engineer, this post lays out my one-year track in the Master of Science in Law (MSL) program at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law. An MSL degree is one of the direct ways to become a Legal Engineer, and is not yet offered at many law schools (which are in general slow to change and modernize).
The MSL is open to students with a STEM background and no JD degree (sorry current lawyers), and is offered in full- and part-time formats. The program is new, with my class (only the 6th cohort) graduating the spring of 2020. There are three general focus areas: Entrepreneurship, Intellectual Property and Regulatory Strategy. I combined them all as a generalist, with the intention of launching a career in the legal services industry. Classes are intensive and short, running 7 weeks each in four quarters, divided by four separate ultra-short “powerweeks” in between. For an example of what might make for a good Legal Engineer training program, this is a list of all  of my 2019-2020 classes, in order:
- One-week pre-program orientation (how to read cases and critically analyze fact patterns)
- Business formation and structure (required)
- Contract law and design (required)
- IP fundamentals (required)
- Legal and regulatory process (required)
- Research in law, technology and business (required)
- Visual communication for systemic change
- Data in society
- Entrepreneurship law
- Negotiations (required)
- Financial accounting
- Innovation diffusion in the legal industry
- Legal and regulatory issues in emerging industries (cannabis law)
- Patent law
- Public persuasion (required)
- Regulatory strategy and communication
- Entrepreneurship and venture capital
- Litigation Ops and eDiscovery
- Patent landscape analysis with Natural Language Processing (NLP programming in Python)
- Data science in a business context (including data ethics and visualization in Tableau)
- Ethics (required)
- IP strategy
- Strategic Decision Analysis: Gaining Competitive Advantage in an Uncertain World
- Cases in new venture strategy
- IP licensing
- RegTech: Transforming the interaction of regulators, regulated enterprises and markets
- Business combinations (mergers, sales, acquisitions and defense strategies)
- Law in the time of Corona (COVID lockdown popup online class)
- IP valuation
- Innovation lab (building legal tech tools with computer science students)
- Business torts (required)
- Patent preparation and prosecution I
- Patent preparation and prosecution II: advanced topics and office actions
- Advanced contracts
- Patenting software inventions
I followed up my graduation with a certification in Industrial and Systems Engineering, which honed my skills in process analysis and design. It was an exciting adventure, but certainly not the only way to become a Legal Engineer. Lawyers who practice in legal technology and innovation, in addition to “non-lawyers” working in legal operations and legal service providers can join the profession.
We welcome all who are interested in improving their own skills and any part of the legal ecosystem with scientific thought and methods.