Technology is impacting how law is taught, as well as how it is practiced. LawFuel’s interview with The College of Law’s Centre for Legal Education, Terri Mottershead.
The technology revolution is rapildy changing the way lawyers are taught, as well as client expectations around what lawyers can or should deliver for them.
The “ticket to entry” by way of legal qualification only goes so far in terms of making lawyers of real value to their clients, Terri Mottershead says.
The internet has made the law available to anyone and the various legal apps and other devices that permit easily. the law to be delivered more
“Lawyers need to embrace, lead and manage change; be resilient; collaborate; work with different people in different ways – embrace diversity and the new and emerging specialisms in law in things like data analytics, cryptocurrencies, cybersecurity; adapt and be flexible; demonstrate an ongoing personal curiosity and commitment to continuous improvement.
“These are the capabilities that legal education needs to focus on.”
Expectation on Lawyers
It is experience that lawyers have that adds value to legal services, she says. However clients are now also requiring that lawyers have some understanding of the impact of technology in terms of the delivery of legal services, among other matters.
“any undergraduate or post graduate study that does not emphasise the importance of application, experience and experimentation is missing the boat.”
She notes the major changes occurring with the impact of tehnology on routines matters like document management, due diligence, document review and the like.
Predictive analytics is fueling the growth in online alternative dispute resolution centres like those operated by eBay
One of the changes in the profession has been expectations as to what is required of lawyers, both at the commencement of their careers and further down the career path.
“The definition of “entry level” has changed, law graduates now need to be closer in capabilities to a first or second year lawyer. If undergraduate courses are graduating law students with the same capabilities, acquired/taught in the same way as it has always done, then those graduates are not now, and increasingly will become less, work ready.”
Apart from the use of tools like ROSS Intelligence which can greatly speed up legal research, there are other factors at play.
“We have also seen that learning assist in predicting legal outcomes, and, consequently, changing how we view risk and manage it personally and professionally. Predictive analytics is fueling the growth in online alternative dispute resolution centres like those operated by eBay or platforms like CODR as well as becoming an alternative to court proceedings in places like the UK. This is the world law graduates are entering and it’s changing daily.”
Technology, she says, will be one of the “contexts” in which law is taught – “not as a bolt on or a capstone subject or an elective course or clinical course divorced from all others – technology is pervasive in our lives as it needs to be in subjects that prepare us for work.”
Legal education is by no means a static event, unchanged by time or technology. Innovative work is being undertaken by law schools in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Courses taught using gamification and virtual reality are being used in some schools to connect students to the real world and, the increasing array of experiential based subjects like the clinical and incubator courses out of the US (and elsewhere).
‘Gamification’ is a technique involving the use of game elements and game-design in non-game environments with the view of educating and motivating the participants. It has been used increasingly by some law firms, as described in a 2014 article by Reuters.
It is some of these tech tools and learning platforms that are being used both by law firms in their internal education programmes, and also by CLE providers.
“I see this continuum of legal education from high school to university/other education providers to continuing professional development being just that, a continuous need to learn, upskill, gain experience with legal education no longer being neatly divided into segments like pre-university, academic, legal skills acquisition and CLE.”
Coding as a Law Education Norm
“We have students in junior school learning how to code, when they graduate in 5 years, we won’t be debating whether or not lawyers should learn to code, it will be the norm, just like typing your own correspondence is the norm for lawyers now but wasn’t 10-15 years ago. Tech teaching in junior school is now preparing you for legal practice.”
There is also a likely trend towards joint degrees or “intermingled law subjects”, as Terri Mottershead describes it, which will be taken by other profession and is due to the demand for cross-over skills like law and technology and new specialty areas that are emerging in the law profession, focused on law, privacy, security, data and the like.
And recently The Guardian reported on how algorithms, ‘robot law’ and other technologies are changing the role of lawyers and paralegals, as well as transforming how legal disputes are settled.
Andrew Murray, a law technology professor at the London School of Economics believes that algorithms will eventually replace judges, with documents written in machine-readable code, such as self-enforcing smart contracts. The lawyer will move from litigating the dispute to programming smart contracts from the outset.
Alternative Law Providers
And then there is the rise of the alternative law provider who provide legal services and products via a tech platform.
“Thinking “just” like a lawyer or being an “I” versus a “T” lawyer won’t be enough – it’s already not enough. Law schools and legal educators need to deliver curricula that is relevant in this reality and if they do not, then we will continue to see applications to law school drop around the world and law schools close.”
The Law Game is Changing
There is nothing more abundantly evident than that the law game is changing and that complacency will not be winning any races for law firms seeking to meet their market.
But it is an issue extending beyond just “law technology.” She says that legal education right now is in the same place that legal practice was 5 to 10 years ago, with changed expectation from the client/student/market requirements and expectations.
“There is an urgent need to rethink, re-imagine and re-engineer legal education – technology is one but not the only catalyst for this.
“We have been taking a band aid approach to the need for systemic change. The sort of change
needed won’t be achieved by any one group – the process will need to identify all stakeholders, be inclusive and encourage diversity of approach, thought and viewpoints.”
Meeting these changing requirements also requires that the law profession learns from others who have met the pervasive changes demanded by technology, such as finance with fintech and cryptocurrencies, the health/medicine and insurance industries and others.
“We need to review what we are regulating, why we are regulating and ensure that this does not stifle but rather encourages innovation. What must happen to legal education is a profound change to how, why, where, when and what we teach law students and, in the process,
we will also redefine who is or is not a “law student.”