Creative student minds at Suffolk University Law School volunteered to compete with scholars at four other law schools last week, brainstorming new ways to innovate a popular piece of legal software for a chance at glory and cold, hard cash.

The Product Design Challenge, hosted by Thomson Reuters and Evolve Law, asked students to brainstorm ways they could improve “Practice Point,” a legal software suite developed by Thomson Reuters.

The program integrates existing Thomson Reuters legal research software with some newly developed features, providing transactional attorneys and in-house counsel with “intuitively organized, comprehensive legal content and tools, all in one place,” according to an informational video:

Students at Suffolk worked in four teams, each familiarizing themselves with the software, brainstorming ways to improve it and then developing a quick presentation to make a pitch for their proposals.

The group with the winning pitch at the campus level then made their case to national judges, via a webcast viewed by all the participants. Other competing campuses included Duke University School of Law, University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School, Brooklyn Law School and Legal RnD at Michigan State University College of Law.

Students got a chance to hone the problem-solving skills that they learn in legal tech and innovation courses at the school–but in a real-world environment, Professor Gabe Teninbaum said. Teninbaum directs the school’s Law Technology and Innovation Concentration as well as its Institute for Law Practice Technology and Innovation.

“Coming in, they had little understanding of Practice Point, and no real sense of the challenge they’d be asked to complete,” he said. “They not only had to work creatively—they also had to work fast! There was little time for them to learn about a new-to-them tool, and propose ways to improve it.”

“Their creations were inventive, clever, novel, and most of all, useful!”

Students also learned design-thinking principles at the event that helped them conceptualize their innovation, Teninbaum said.

“Those methods help groups work together to come up with creative solutions that can be tested and improved upon in ways traditional methods of innovation can’t,” he explained.

Judges for the Suffolk competition named Suffolk Law students Andrew Peerless, Anthony Metzler, Robert Marin and Corby King the local first place winners on Friday.

Their proposal? Expand the capabilities of Practice Point to “Practice Point Plus,” an extension that would integrate the software’s legal research tools with a project management and workflow system.

Team members cited their own experiences interning and working at law firms, adding that communication between lawyers, paralegals and legal assistants is often the “biggest problem” facing law firms today.

Their hypothetical proposal would incorporate automated task tracking to help employees, management and clients follow a project’s progress, students said. Students also proposed a new “law student” portal for the software suite, aimed at both helping familiarize newcomers to the software and other specific tools.

Another unique idea came from one of the teams: opening the app to legal consumers as a sort of “LinkedIn” social network that would connect those in need of legal services with relevant experts: “LawyeredIn,” the group quipped.

 

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