Drexel professor Karl Okamoto believes that to continue Philadelphia’s entrepreneurial growth, the city will need smarter lawyers.
“Most lawyers who walk the street are very poorly trained on how to help entrepreneurs,” he says. “Law school does a poor job training people how to practice, particularly when their clients are doing business as opposed to suing each other.”
To help young lawyers be better educated, he’s launched ApprenNet, a site that hopes to solve this problem in Philadelphia and elsewhere by directly connecting legal professionals with young lawyers. The site has four employees and is currently searching for beta testers says Okamoto, who sits on the board of Cosi and teaches transactional law at Drexel’s Earle Mack School of Law.
The site allows lawyers to participate in an online web-based simulation. When students hit a roadblock, they are immediately connected with a mentor to help the student break through the difficult issue or problem.
Additionally, when the student has completed the simulation, a mentor will be able to comment and correct any errors. Recognizing that lawyers a busy, ApprenNet asked them to give small blocks of time throughout their day, roughly 15 minutes. The hope is to build a strong enough network of mentors that there is always one readily available.
“It’s our biggest assumption to test,” admits Okamoto, “and that’s what we’re doing right now. We want to know how willing a 55-year-old is willing to use iPads and other technology for ApprenNet.”
Okamoto is beginning by charging students $500 a year and has funded the site thanks to a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Science Foundation and hopes to launch the site’s beta in August. In the meantime, lawyers who would like the mentor and students interested in learning can sign up via the service’s Launchrock form for more details.