Tonya Evans is the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor of Law at UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law, and the former Chair of the Intellectual Property & Technology Online Programs. These programs include LL.M., Master’s and Graduate Certificates in Intellectual Property and Commerce and Technology. Dean Evans also created and directs the school’s Blockchain, Cryptocurrency & Law online professional certificate program and developed its world-class instructor pool and curriculum.
Earlier this year, she spoke on the creation of the “new collar industry”, and how law schools need to adapt to the changing work environment. Here is an edited transcript of the podcast.
Could you define what a “new collar industry” is and especially how it compares to the traditional blue or white collar industry.
The new collar job is a combination of our traditional notions of blue collar and white collar. If you think of blue collar, and it tends to focus on skills, and white collar as being more “professional,” the idea of the new collar job is the skilled professional.
The education realm is really changing in the sense that there are a number of companies, and we’ll talk about that, that are no longer requiring a formal or traditional four year education. And in that way they’re focused more on the skills and credentials and certifications than a four year degree at a liberal arts college in that sense.
What sort of specific jobs out there would you consider to be new collar?
So when I think of this, I also think of the jobs that exist today that did not exist five, let alone 10 years ago. So social media manager, anything related to data, product manager, a project manager on the data side, anything relating to artificial intelligence and machine learning, blockchain technology, anything involving smart contracts or crypto currency, crypto assets, both on the technology and the non-technology side because not everybody necessarily knows how to code.
But there’s this uptake of a lot of jobs and careers and industries, I should say, that require those with web 3.0 knowledge on both sides of the proverbial screen, to be sure.
How is the both the traditional undergrad and legal industry conforming to this changing industry?
You see, and our law school is a great example offering certificate programs that are professional and not focused on a Juris Doctor degree. Not everybody is going to go for a legal education per se, but they want to know about the legal and business aspects of technology.
So, for example, our blockchain, cryptocurrency, and law online certificate program, I have some lawyers and certainly law students, but more often there are people coming from the business world who want to understand how blockchain technology and crypto assets are impacting their industry, their customers, their clients, what it means for their business.
And so in that way, we want to prepare the next wave of lawyers and certainly those in business and the legal world to understand how to converse with the technology world to make anything that we’re doing on the legal side or the business side, to do it better, faster, and cheaper by leveraging technology.
How are schools handling that? And employers, for that matter because they want to make sure they get someone that they’re actually going to be able to perform well in that industry.
How do they have the assurance? Well, digital badging and certification is a great way. So for example, with the online certificate program we have digital badges that represent specific skills, and those who earn all of the badges in the certificate, they earn a mastery certificate. So not only will they say, “I learned about crypto economics and blockchain governance” [but also say] “I learned about data privacy insecurity, I learned about intellectual property and blockchain”. The combination of all of those things makes a mastery certificate that can be connected to LinkedIn and all the other online platforms.
An employer can go to those platforms and they don’t have to rely on a paper resume or CV to say this person did it. They can look at the specific skills run by an online digital badge partner and be assured that that took place.
This seems like a fantastic way for employers to make sure they’re getting someone that has very specific skill sets.
That’s the reality of where education is now an education across all areas, both at the probably associates level, the bachelor’s level, and postgraduate professional levels as well. What specific skills [do people have] above and beyond just the love of learning?
I am a lifelong learner so I love that too, but people want to come out of traditional educational environments knowing that they can get a job.
In what ways can you make yourself more attractive in the business and employment landscape? Even if you’re working for someone right now, up-skill, figure out what your next move within your organization might be or what skills and credentials you will need if you want to lateral out or move up or start your own business.
How do you foresee this directly impacting the legal industry?
Well, there’s a really interesting move in the legal industry to prepare lawyers to have conversations with technologists in the IT department and those who are coding to leverage the existing master contracts that we have in order to figure out ways that we can automate certain functions.
To give you an example of my time as a literary law specialist. I had contracts involving escalating royalties, for example: Sell 5,000 units and on the 5,001 escalation of royalties from 10% to 12.5% or from 12.5% to 15%.
Those are things you shouldn’t have to pay a lawyer $300 or $400 an hour to do. That should be automated. That could be connected to what we call an Oracle outside information that informs the script. And you know, it could be tied to Amazon sales records and once [you get] 5,001 [in sales], it would automatically update the contract.
Essentially, there are master agreements underneath that lawyers do, and there’s coding the coders and IT specialists do. They need to be able to talk to each other. This is an area that’s ripe for innovation on the law side.
Lawyers won’t go away, but the way that lawyers are interacting with business people, and in terms of our advice and how we work with them is going to certainly change!
(This interview was first published here)