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Liberty Mutual brings design thinking to Suffolk Law

Story by Sammi Elefant JD ’18

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Dean Andrew Perlman, Robert Taylor, Lauren McNelley, Zhuxiao Jason Deng, Samantha Lebrun, Jeff Marple, Professor Gabe Teninbaum

Liberty Mutual Design Challenge event at Suffolk University Law School.

On November 17, 2017, Liberty Mutual hosted their first ever design challenge at Suffolk University Law School. Students were asked to identify a problem faced by the modern legal industry and present creative solutions to a panel of three judges—for a top prize of $1000.

The competition focused on digital law, preventative law, and legal data products within the Am Law 200, the U.S. court systems, and corporate legal departments.

Jeff Marple, Director of Innovation at Liberty Mutual described the purpose of the challenge as a “way to expose the next generation of law students to product and service development using design thinking techniques. We find that these techniques help us stay empathetic with clients, customers and users. In exchange, Liberty Mutual is exposed to fresh perspectives on the challenges that legal departments and law firms are facing in this new digital age.”

Jordan Bigda JD ’18 expressed how crucial these design thinking techniques were to her group’s process: “It was a great experience as it forced me and others to think outside the box about the integration of technology and the delivery of legal services. Bob Taylor and Jeff Marple from Liberty Mutual were particularly helpful in giving my group tips on how to use storyboards to consolidate our many ideas into one feasible model.”

Students performed with topic constraints and time pressures, a process that Marple believes enables people to think more creatively. “Having some constraint is actually helpful,” he said. “It spurs creativity and decreases development time. If you are given an unlimited budget of time and money….you will spend an unlimited amount of time and money. Creating new things is not a painless process. A little pressure can help people find a new way of looking at things.”

Lauren McNelley JD ’19, Zhuxiao Jason Deng JD ’19, and Samantha Lebrun JD ’18 were the first place team behind their creation Lawggle, an education-based application that law firms can customize to meet both their business and client needs. “At first our team seriously struggled to identify a problem to address within the preventative law domain,” says McNelley. “With guided instruction and time constrained brainstorming, our team worked through many disagreements and various issues to solve.”

Lawggle acts as a non-billable resource for clients, by demystifying legal issues through short videos that explain legal principles using hypotheticals. The benefit to the firm is an informed client, which reduces frivolous litigation and promotes a more productive conversation between attorney and client.

The newly conceived A.R.M. Project placed second. Ted Thomas JD ’19, Taylor Ferrara JD ’20, and Anthony Moccia JD ’18 created a client portal that specializes in attorney-client relationships. The client portal gives the attorney a personalized look, while still having the required information necessary to answer billing and case issues. The system also envisioned predictive analytic review of meeting notes allowing for the ability to predict documents and prepopulate them for clients ahead of their meeting time.

“I think that the tools, if used correctly, can help me to modernize and refine my information gathering methods in order to deliver a more unique product to my professors and in the future my employer,” Thomas says. In third place, was a preventative law solution for corporate legal departments. The creation called Linnovation Systems, conceived by Jenna Connors JD ’19, Manuel Sarmiento JD ’20, Tony Yu JD ’19, and Samantha White JD ’18 was developed as a way to diagnose legal issues before a cause of action arises.

The proposed technology acts as a diagnostic checklist for unbiased issue detection through real- time nationwide tracking. Linnovation Systems proposes to minimize cost and time for corporate legal departments because it has the ability to build logic and evolve with ever-changing legal standards. “It felt really good to know that all of the work we put in was coherent and innovative, especially given where we started,” says Connors.

An event of this scale could not have been possible without students like Anthony Metzler JD ’19 who both hosted the challenge and spent months coordinating with Suffolk Law and Liberty Mutual. Metzler was introduced to legal technology and design on his very first day of law school by Professor Teninbaum. “As part of Suffolk Law’s mission to be on the cutting edge of the legal landscape, my first day of orientation featured Professor Gabe Teninbaum addressing the 1L’s and telling us a story about a serious gap in access to justice.” Professor Teninbaum’s solution to the problem was the implementation of legal technology and innovation. “I knew that this was the kind of law that was going to really carry our profession into the new age,” says Metzler.

After careful planning, Metzler was pleased with the outcome of the Design Challenge. “The day itself was an excellent display of ambition and ingenuity. Within the constraints, we were able to have students effectively communicate with each other and embrace guidance from active practitioners in the legal operations space.” The energy and each participant’s willingness to try is ultimately what Metzler credits the event’s success to.

Robert Taylor, VP and Senior Corporate Counsel at Liberty Mutual summed up the event by saying, “We were proud to sponsor and co-host such an interesting event. I want to thank the students, Anthony Metzler and the members of the Legal Innovation and Technology Student Association, the judges and especially Professor Gabe Teninbaum and Dean Andy Perlman for allowing us to make it a successful event. We see design thinking as an essential element of legal education and innovation in the legal space. It was great to see the success the students had at learning and practicing these skills.”