On Friday, November 4, UMKC School of Law students won the first-ever Thomson Reuters Product Design Challenge, where they went up against Duke University School of Law, Brooklyn Law School, Suffolk University Law School, and Michigan State University College of Law.
Thomson Reuters hosted the competition in conjunction with Evolve Law, an organization meant to help escalate the adoption of legal technology and provide a means of bringing together legal technologists, companies, entrepreneurs, law schools, and in-house counsel.
The day started at 8:30 a.m., where four teams of five UMKC Law students were introduced to the product, Practice Point, and provided guidelines for the redesign. Practice Point is an expert resource for lawyers, uniquely organized by practice area and task. After a two-hour work session, the UMKC Law teams competed against one another for an opportunity for one team to compete against the other four law school teams.
Each UMKC Law team presented various ideas for improving aspects of Practice Point, from helping lawyers predict how the jury would see their case to creating opportunities for lawyers to share perspectives.
The team comprised of Rebecca Burney, Steven Brookreson, Chase Cook, Andrew Gnefkow and Erin Steward proceeded to the final round. The group focused on the user-experience in the Client Folder on Practice Point.
“We were presented with a unique challenge,” says Gnefkow, “and it was exciting to give our take on a truly innovative product.”
The team suggested touch-screen tiles including options such as Search, Documents, Forms, Export, Calendar, Search Updates, and Billing, so the client and lawyer(s) could work efficiently within the folder. Documents would be protected with an access code, much like you could find in Dropbox Professional or Google Docs, to provide options to share documents and the ability to edit, view, and/or download documents. The billing portal would also provide the current billable rate and the attorney’s progress throughout the case. The team also offered that the calendar could sync with the user’s phone calendar so they would be updated on deadlines and meetings.
After a swift re-grouping session with the judges, the UMKC Law team then presented via Zoom video conferencing to the other judges at each respective law school and watched the teams from Brooklyn Law School, Duke University School of Law, Suffolk University Law School, and Michigan State University College of Law present their solutions to make Practice Point more user-friendly.
UMKC Law was declared the winner of the competition and the students were awarded a $5,000 check. Duke University School of Law was the runner-up, with a similar proposition to make Practice Point a more personalized experience with a Practice [User] Profile, tailored news and documents, and the ability to show users next-steps.
The competition also offered an opportunity to several individuals to become Product Advisors for six months to Thomson Reuters.
The winning team expressed that they enjoyed the challenge and knowing that their brainstorming and suggestions could later be implemented into the final product. In addition, Rebecca Burney says her interest in the competition stemmed from the challenge being out of the norm.
“In law school, classes and the day-to-day legal stuff can be monotonous,” she says. “It was cool to see the business side of things and meet the challenge of turning nothing into something.”
Back in January, UMKC Law established 2016 as the Year of Technology. Led by professors such as Michael Robak, Tony Luppino, Paul Callister, and Dean Ellen Suni, UMKC Law offers applied learning opportunities and technology-based courses, top-of-the-line technology, and events and conferences to connect legal experts, faculty, students, and the community. UMKC Law continues to train the lawyers of tomorrow and winning the Thompson Reuters Product Design Challenge demonstrated the law school’s ability to best prepare their students.
“This competition proves we have tech-forward-thinking students,” said Michael Robak, professor and organizer of the competition at UMKC Law. “It shows that the [technology and law] courses we have in place are effective and that fact is demonstrated by this win.”