TBA Law Blog

Posted by: Benjamin Barton on Mar 1, 2018

Journal Issue Date: Mar 2018

Journal Name: March 2018 - Vol. 54, No. 3

Fresh Models of Lawyering, Technologies and Business


Tennessee lawyers of 2018, just like lawyers everywhere, live in the midst of the greatest period of change in the legal profession in more than 100 years.

To see any comparable era of change, you have to look at the last years of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th. That period gave us the modern world of lawyers and courts in which we all grew up. In that period, admission to the profession moved from your local court to statewide bar admission. That era also gave birth to virtually all of our modern legal institutions — law schools, bar associations, uniform case reporters, and even law firms. Every bit of that legacy is now up for grabs, thanks to technological change and globalization.

To help us understand better and prepare for these big changes, I convinced the Journal editorial board to invite a national leader in explaining these developments and how we should respond to them, Tennessee’s own Professor Ben Barton of the University of Tennessee College of Law, to guest edit this issue of the Journal. I know you are going to enjoy it.

— Tennesseee Bar Association?President Lucian T. Pera

Ben Barton

About This Issue

Last summer TBA President Lucian Pera asked me to guest edit an issue of the Tennessee Bar Journal discussing some of the many changes in the legal profession. When he asked me, he did not mince words at all: “We want something useful and interesting to our subscribers, aka regular lawyers throughout the State of Tennessee.” I write, speak and teach a bunch in this exact area, and I was not insulted in the slightest at Lucian’s request. To the contrary, I am well aware that lots of the current writing on technology and the future of law is marred by being neither useful nor interesting, and often verges into the truly toxic mix of incomprehensible and frightening. If you’ve read a breathless article suggesting that Blockchain technology is going to replace all commercial contracting or that IBM’s Watson will be sitting in your law firm cubicle next year, you know exactly what I am talking about.

Nevertheless, it is easier said than done to be useful and interesting, especially for a law professor.

If you have read a law review article recently, you will know that I am only partly joking. What I settled on is three different types of articles that give a snapshot of where we are right now.

The first is my article that tries to explain how data and technology can help you have a more profitable legal practice right now. We have all heard too much about the dangers of technology and too little about the ways that technology can improve our professional lives and our bottom lines. The second is a co-written piece that discusses some new models for practicing law by telling the story of three different Tennessee pioneers: Kevin Hartley of Trust Tree Legal, Jane Allen of Counsel on Call, and Haseeb Qureshi of the Morehous Legal Group. The last is a comprehensive overview of the state of the art in artificial intelligence (AI) and the law written by Preston Battle, Nicole Berkowitz and former TBA President Buck Lewis.

There is also more related content available online at www.tba.org/journal/online-exclusives-march2018.

Please take a look. Hopefully taken together these articles will give you a picture of a profession in change along with information about how you might benefit from these changes.


Ben Barton BEN BARTON is the Helen and Charles Lockett Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee College of Law, and a national voice on the evolution of legal technology. He received his law degree from the University of Michigan and is teaching an access to justice coding seminar next fall. He is the co-author of Rebooting Justice and the author of Glass Half Full: The Decline and Rebirth of the Legal Profession. He has worked as an associate at a large law firm, clerked for a federal judge, represented the indigent for 12 years as a clinical law professor, and now teaches torts and advocacy evidence. His scholarship has been discussed in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the ABA Journal, and TIME magazine. In 2014-15 he received a Fulbright Award to teach comparative law at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. He has been named the Outstanding Faculty Advisor for UT Pro Bono three times.