| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter RSS Feed

Innovation & Job News

Transforming the law school experience with ApprenNet out of Drexel

Students graduating from law school may be well versed in the doctrine, but have no idea how to put together an angel funding package or negotiate a divorce. Drexel University law professor Karl Okamoto is changing the way law is taught through his startup ApprenNet.

Okamoto, a Professor of Law and Director of the Program in Business & Entrepreneurship Law at the Earle Mack School of Law at Drexel, has already rolled out his engaging and gamified instructional program to about 20 law schools nationwide, thanks to initial grants from the National Science Foundation totaling $180,000 so far, with a potential million-dollar grant on its way this summer. Okamoto is assisted by recent Drexel law grad Emily Foote and developer Paul Tzen.

ApprenNet, currently in beta, is an interactive website that augments and expands on the classroom experience by redefining legal education as an apprenticeship. A student watches a client pose a question on a legal topic, then posts a video answer, finally getting to see an expert answering the same question. Others can view student answers, and the budding attorney gets a portfolio of video responses which can be shared with potential employers.

By the end of this semester, Okamoto estimates that a quarter of U.S. law schools will be using ApprenNet. "Professors struggle over how to insert practical training," says Okamoto. ApprenNet is hands off. All the instructor has to do is send a student to the website. The startup grew out of Okamoto's LawMeets program.

"The whole system relies on practitioners' participation," says Okamoto, who has been most heartened by the discovery of a huge pent up demand to provide teaching and feedback among practitioners the world over. Usually, in a guest lecture, students are surfing or sleeping, and are not engaged. The way ApprenNet works, says Okamoto, it takes only 10 minutes to record an expert video, and students are eager to get feedback from the experts.

So far, Okamoto has not sought revenue outside of sponsors who are excited to be in front of law students, like Practical Law Company and Bloomberg. "We have not yet charged any user for the exercise, but have been collecting data on what people are willing to pay," says Okamoto, who is building in the ability to charge users a small monthly subscription fee.

There is also potential to create ApprenNet for many other disciplines, like training food service workers, teachers, or even musical training. "We'll take care of law first, says Okamoto, "and then use it in lots of different places. Why can't we crowdsource violin?"

Source: Karl Okamoto, ApprenNet
Writer: Sue Spolan
Signup for Email Alerts
Signup for Email Alerts