571.01 Future of Contracts

Future of Contracts aims to expose students to current issues in the digital transformation of legal services—e.g. harnessing data, facilitating operations and project management with design and technology, applying artificial intelligence to key functions, etc.—in order to “future proof” their approaches to transactional law and contracts practice.

There is no question that a sea change is under way and that new technologies are key forces for change. Legal professionals are increasingly turning to accessible and impactful technologies that help them achieve better outcomes and offer higher value through data-driven analytics and insights, higher efficiency and productivity, and greater and more equitable access. Students interested in preparing for tomorrow should be exposed to this world as much as possible.

Because this world of digital legal transformation of transactional legal practice is wide, in Future of Contracts we’ll narrow our focus with three overlapping lenses: (1) a contracts lens, (2) an AI lens, and (3) an ethics lens.

(1) Contracts lens

While one could focus a future-focused law and technology class on litigation tools, e-Discovery, digital courts and online dispute resolution, etc., this class will focus on contracting practices.

(2) Artificial Intelligence (AI) lens

Even beyond a focus on contracts, we’ll dig especially deep on contracts and AI. AI can be used to increase efficiency in legal practice and access to legal services. Today’s law students—tomorrow’s lawyers—will almost certainly encounter AI in their law firms and other organizations. Students who leave law school with a firm grasp on not only how AI technologies can be used to increase efficiency and efficacy but also a good sense of its present limitations (which remain significant) will have a head start.

(3) Ethics lens

As we explore issues in transactional law, contract practice, and AI & contracts, we’ll focus expressly on ethical issues and challenges. Future of Contracts will explore how AI-facilitated contracting might raise issues of ethics and professional responsibility. We’ll also ask how the rules that guide legal services hinder or help technology’s potential to increase access to legal services. We’ll take these challenges seriously, asking how we can both protect the integrity of legal services and possibly make room for greater innovation and access to the law.

Work product for this course will involve:

(1) Engagement in a Modern Contracting Simulation based on real-world contracting scenarios. For example:

  • How does the legal function of Unilever respond and help inform the company’s strategic decision-making when Covid hits and suddenly makes force majeure clauses in 196,000 supply-chain contracts relevant and necessary to review?
  • How does Accel/KKR manage NDAs among the thousands of potential portfolio companies with which/from which it shares/receives information each year?
  • How does a small LLC doing web design work seek information and appropriate advice before entering into a master services agreement with a mid-sized tech company it hopes to serve?
  • Etc.

(2) Conducting a brief Company Evaluation by exploring a modern contracting tool, offering a detailed assessment of its function, possibilities, risks, etc. in terms of legal practice, organizational/operational needs, ethical risks, etc.

With guest experts and current materials, the focus of all deliverables will be on realistic experiences of being a transactional attorney today and tomorrow.

No textbook required.

Special Notes:


Spring 2023

Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor
Course Credits
Simulated Writing, Transactional
Practical exercises
Jeff Ward
Sakai site: https://sakai.duke.edu/portal/site/LAW-571-01-Sp23
Email list: LAW-571-01-Sp23@sakai.duke.edu
Degree Requirements
Course Requirements - JD
Course Requirements - JD-LLM-LE
Course Requirements - LLM
Course Areas of Practice
Course Areas of Practice