Georgia State University College of Law graduates William Hale and Brett Sanders were the first to earn the Certificate in Legal Analytics & Innovation. The certificate program is centered around the use of computational techniques to unlock insights from large groups of text, which is becoming more prevalent in the practice of law.
“Computers aren’t going anywhere,” Hale said. “They’re going to continue to make jobs easier, quicker and more efficient. That’s the way the law is too. I knew coming in [that] lawyers were facing an uphill battle with technology threatening to take away jobs. I wanted to put myself in a position where I avoided having outdated skills that weren’t needed. I always wanted to take my law degree and leverage that into something that can be a part of my career for a long time.”
The program, offered through the College of Law’s Legal Analytics & Innovation Initiative, offers students a chance to combine their interests in statistics and coding with their interest in the law. Hale and Sanders both said the unique chance to merge those interests drew them to Georgia State.
“Professors within the program are very passionate about what they do and actively work to promote what the program offers,” Sanders said. “I witnessed things from one professor individually meeting students for lunch during the professor’s off time to get to know each student in order to help them get the most out of the program – all the way to multiple professors showing up to workshops that are offered not only to GSU law students, but to anyone interested.”
The certificate program provides students the opportunity to take part in research projects through the Legal Analytics Lab in collaboration with Georgia State’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business.
Certificate students are required to take nine credits of legal analytics courses, including six hours of experiential courses, and at least one course in the Robinson College of Business to deepen their analytical skills and to learn to work in an interdisciplinary environment.
“By the second semester, when we combined with Professor (Charlotte) Alexander, everything started clicking in to place,” Hale said. “They had us doing some pretty intense coding and some sprint work. It was pretty similar to the kind of work we’ll be doing in our careers.”
Through the work, both Sanders and Hale got first-hand experience in both the type of work that exists in the field and the diversity of the subject matter.
Hale’s lab used statistics to evaluate the application of the death penalty in Florida, while Sanders focused on the government response to the Convention on the Rights of Child.
“You really see all the things you can do with it,” Sanders said. “You can put something together and use it to look at a wide range of topics with it. We looked at things ranging all the way from criminal law to governmental outreach and legislation.”
Sanders and Hale both sat for the bar in February, and both say they are eager to begin their careers in fields that allow them to use their legal analytics skills.
“Pay attention to the coding classes,” Hale advised future program students. “It’s not going away. If you can talk computers, you will always have a position, especially in law. Lawyers are seemingly afraid of math, numbers and computers. If you can bridge that gap, somebody will always want to hire you.”
Feature image: Brett Sanders
Written by Alex Resnak