Keep Calm and Carry on: Why the Increasing Automation of Legal Services Should Deepen and Not Diminish Legal Education
In, The Future of Australian Legal Education (Thomson Reuters 2018)
10 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2018
Date Written: January 1, 2018
The legal profession is not immune from the impact of rapid technological advances. Today, it is difficult to locate anyone who has not reached some level of acceptance of that truth. These advances are not limited to the way that information is stored, accessed and retrieved – though the speed at which vast amounts of material may be searched and sorted is radically transforming (most obviously) the laborious process of discovery. Certainly, technological developments have increased the pace and efficiency with which traditional legal services are provided. However, the more drastic changes are those that threaten to displace or rival the provision of those services themselves by the introduction of Artificial Intelligence and the development of platforms for cheap and easily obtainable automated legal advice. Depending on your perspective all of this may be highly attractive and liberating or perhaps a little anxiety inducing. But it cannot be ignored. That is another truth which it is hard to find anyone deny. Legal educators are as attuned to the need to respond to these changes as those in legal practice – indeed possibly more so given that we work on the frontline of intergenerational change as students show us entirely new ways of ‘being’ in the world, of connecting and working with others. So calls for changes in what and how we teach in law schools have long since passed the point of being cutting edge or revolutionary. The need to respond to so-called ‘digital disruption’ is unarguable. But there is a risk that legal educators will react in an alarmist and unmediated fashion to the future challenges of a changed legal services market – losing sight of what makes legal education distinctive and, we believe, will continue to be valued. We suggest in this article that we should appreciate the changes bearing down on us as creating opportunities. These are not only for an embrace of all that is new, but also for the enrichment of those traditional and defining features of legal education that may be expected to endure, if not actually increase in value, as legal practice continues its transformation.
Keywords: Automation, legal education, technological advances, legal services, law schools, teaching, digital disruption
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