Thursday, October 1, 2020

LegalTech News: Law schools are not doing enough to provide students with the tech skills they'll need in practice

From LegalTech News:

Bridging the ‘AI Skills Gap’ in the Legal Industry

Artificial intelligence (AI) technologies are fast becoming the industry norm, and in this tech-enabled world, a new breed of lawyer is in demand.

A recent survey we ran at Luminance found that over 80% of senior lawyers viewed AI and machine learning as critical for the future success of their firm. And as leading organizations charge ahead in their AI adoption, the demand for a broader educational system which embraces new ways of working and underlines the importance of today’s technology is growing. There’s just one problem. Law schools are still not doing enough to prepare their graduates for the increased use of technology.

The good news for young lawyers entering the profession today is that adoption of AI means that late nights sifting through endless piles of documentation in search of a potential ‘smoking gun’ is becoming less of a required initiation to the world of law that it was when I started out. Instead, an AI-enabled document review can be completed in a fraction of the time and with greater confidence that you haven’t missed something, allowing lawyers to allocate more time to client relations, pitching, strategic thinking, and providing the valued advice that clients expect. After all, these are the tasks and activities that motivated us to become lawyers in the first place.

The need for practical knowledge and experience across legal technologies is all the more pertinent in the current climate of budget cuts, hiring freezes, workforce reductions and disruptions in normal working practices. Indeed, the pandemic has catalyzed firms’ technology adoption plans, as legal teams seek platforms that facilitate remote working and collaboration and allow for greater efficiency.

But in this increasingly digitalized legal world, a new breed of lawyer is in demand, and expectations are higher than ever. One recent study by management consultant Robert Half Legal found that more than 6 in 10 employers filling open positions said their hiring decisions are influenced by a candidate’s technical abilities. In a job landscape that is more competitive than ever, lawyers need to be ready to hit the ground running when they begin at a firm. But the legal education curriculum has been slow to adjust. In addition to statutes and case law, schools should be equally focused on equipping the students of today with the skills they will need for tomorrow, pairing a deep understanding of the law with practical, technical skills that will allow them to get to the crux of a review quicker, deliver higher-level legal advice and ultimately improve their work-life balance.

This isn’t to say that law schools need to radically overhaul their legal curriculum. Today’s advanced technology is so intuitive and easy-to-use that it operates as a seamless extension of the lawyers’ review process, making work more efficient and productive. This is not dissimilar to the way an accountant might rely on Microsoft Excel to analyze data, or how a mathematician might use a calculator to get an answer to a problem quicker.

Some law schools are absolutely pushing this agenda—just not enough of them. Positive examples include the University of Glasgow, which has introduced a practical legal technology course to provide their students with the opportunity to learn how they can apply AI to real legal matter and thus develop and advance these skills. Similarly in the U.S., Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law has worked to elevate technology within the classroom by establishing a TEaCH Law hub to help integrate tools into the teaching experience.

Educating young lawyers on how to best utilize these tools is fundamental in ensuring that they are able to thrive in an era where technology meets human expertise, as well as forcing them to be more commercially minded and proactive in adding new clients and winning new business.

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