Neota Logic recently sponsored Legal Cheek’s “Future of Legal Education and Training” conference. Shaz Aziz, Director of Client Solutions and Engagement at Neota, sets out some key takeaways from the event.
- Law must embrace design thinking
Adam Curphey, head of innovation technology at BPP University Law School, talked about the growing intersection between design, law and technology. As legal services become more like discrete, packaged products, the focus must rest on the experience of the recipient of the service – and doing so will require some fundamental shifts in perspective.
There is a wider momentum around human-centred design in tech, and the legal industry is no different. Artifacts of the profession which are clearly not aligned with customer interests (like the billable hour) have existed and persisted because it has been historically difficult to systematically capture the value provided to a client. Technology offers us an opportunity to properly measure such value.
- Technology is revolutionising access to justice
A 2018 Access to Justice survey by the World Justice Project found that only 7% of individuals surveyed in the UK who experienced a legal problem in the previous two years actually turned to an authority or third party to resolve it – and this shortage is often more acute in developing economies.
Technology is already being used to narrow this gap. Andy Unger, Head of London Southbank University’s law faculty, talked about how the university has embedded the Neota platform into its curriculum to provide technological assistance to those in need. Students are paired with local advice centres, law offices and non-profits and are tasked with building a functioning app to assist their clients with the delivery of their services.
Richard Susskind, delivering the keynote, also talked about how the development of online courts has perhaps the greatest potential of any technology to revolutionise access to justice – and with the UK having committed close to £1bn to build online courts, the timeframes are shorter than we might imagine.
- The SQE will widen access to the profession, but can’t resolve the legal bottleneck
From September 2021, the Solicitor’s Qualifying Examination (SQE) will replace the LPC and GDL as the primary route to qualification, and has raised uncertainties for universities, law firms, students and course providers. Aside from questions around cost and curriculum, the SQE will mean that there will be a much broader set of routes into the law. Some universities may start providing combined LLB-SQE courses; some law firms will inevitably produce their own bespoke SQEs; some students will self-teach the course content and take the exam independently.
Although we should celebrate this access, there is no guarantee that the SQE will do any better a job of putting law students into legal roles. There is a growing pool of law students and a relatively stable number of training contracts. There are concerns therefore that the SQE will effectively replace the existing bottleneck of LPC graduates, with a bottleneck of newly qualified solicitors – the same individuals looking for the same jobs.
Solving this problem means employing more of a philosophical perspective in respect of the legal profession, and perhaps rethinking what it means to be a lawyer.
- The lawyer of the future looks very different to the lawyer of today
A number of panelists talked about the importance of lawyers becoming multi-disciplinary practitioners. Although this doesn’t necessarily mean teaching lawyers how to code, it does mean teaching them new ways of working: whether it be analysing their own work processes, using design thinking principles or just being able to “speak the language” of technology. Richard Susskind echoed this in saying that the next generation of lawyers will spend less time on actually providing advice, and far more time on building and maintaining the systems that provide such advice.
A few big firms are now seeking to plug this skills gap with new tech-focussed training contracts. By bringing together coders, lawyers, entrepreneurs and marketers (and everyone in between) the strength of each domain could sharpen and improve the delivery of legal services as a whole in the future.