Michigan Law Professor Michael Bloom says that learning to work with contracts is like learning any language. “So if software can help you learn Spanish or Python, why can’t it help teach you to read and write contracts?”
Bloom, a clinical assistant professor and director of Michigan Law’s Transactional Lab & Clinic, has changed that paradigm through his startup, Praktio, an online tool that teaches the practical skills of contracts through interactive exercises. Originally, Bloom designed the software for his clinic students, to help them jump from classroom training to live-client work. “Their experience was uneven,” he says. “Although they all had taken Contracts, many hadn’t examined a real-world contract.”
Bloom taught himself the technology to develop Praktio and wanted it to be more than a talking-head online video. For Bloom—who holds leadership roles in the Association of American Law Schools sections on teaching methods and on technology, law, and legal education, and serves on the Institute for Continuing Legal Education’s Technology Law and Training Advisory Board—real learning comes from an unthreatening pause to consider why an answer is right or not quite right. “You got it wrong? Awesome. You’ve created a learning opportunity,” he says.
Praktio is part of the seminar component of the Transactional Lab & Clinic. Students work through the online training, and then in-class simulations build on the material. “From my first day in the Transactional Lab & Clinic, Professor Bloom highlighted a gap between traditional legal education and preparedness for corporate practice,” says Andrew Alvarez, ’15, now an associate in the New York office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. “My experience with Professor Bloom, the clinic, and Praktio gave me the seasoning I needed to excel as a first-year associate.”
Skadden is one of more than 10 top firms that use Praktio to train new associates. Praktio currently offers two courses for firms: Contract Fundamentals and Precision Training. Firms can purchase unlimited seat licenses and receive reports on users’ progress. As firms and law schools continue to navigate how “practice ready” new associates should be on day one, Bloom wants Praktio to continue being a place where lawyers in both can test the waters. Praktio’s tagline is, “Make Mistakes.”
“On the first day of class, I tell students they will make a ton of mistakes,” Bloom says, “and if they don’t, I’m wasting their time.”