I am delighted to start with Lauren Newell’s paper on Rebooting Empathy for the Digital Generation.  This is the continuation of her work that she started in Redefining Attention (and Revamping the Legal Profession?) for the Digital Generation:

There is a growing preference in today’s technology-saturated society for online interaction via email, text messages, social networks, and instant messaging, rather than in-person interactions.  For today’s young people—the “Digital Generation”—this is more than a mere preference; it is a way of life.  Social scientists have suggested that empathy has declined in recent years among members of the Digital Generation.  Some researchers speculate that the rising prominence of information and communication technologies (“ICTs”) in everyday life may be contributing to this decline.

Today’s young ICT devotees are tomorrow’s future legal professionals.  And when the Digital Generation enter legal practice they will be called upon to counsel, to negotiate, to advocate, and to judge.  To succeed in legal practice the Digital Generation will need to experience empathy.  There are clear negative implications for the legal profession’s future if successful legal practice requires empathy but ICT usage is impeding the Digital Generation’s development of it.

This paper will propose a working definition of empathy and considers the role of empathy in the practice of law.  Then, it will analyze current research linking ICT usage to the decline of empathy in the Digital Generation.  Finally, it will propose strategies to increase empathy among the Digital Generation so that members of this generation may become successful legal practitioners despite—or perhaps even because of—their use of ICTs.

Andrea Schneider is a professor at Marquette Law School teaching ADR, Negotiation, Ethics, International Law, International Conflict Resolution and Art Law. She is the author or co-author of numerous books and book chapters in the field of dispute resolution. She serves as the editor of ADR Prof Blog.