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Future of legal services and the implications for legal education and training

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Academic and Professional Development Committee Scholarship

Oluchukwu Obioma
The University of Nigeria Nsukka, Enugu
oluchukwu.obioma@un.edu.ng

Introduction

Legal services include the rendering of any service in the conduct of any proceedings before a court and the giving of advice in a legal matter. Currently, in most places, there exists the traditional law firm structure. Notwithstanding this, technology has become a part of legal life and has profoundly changed the delivery of legal services. The global legal practice environment is rapidly evolving with the introduction of technology as it has increased the scope of legal practice, diversified client services, rendered some lawyers’ tasks obsolete, altered the ways lawyers compete in the industry to attract clients, has altered work life and the way legal work is approached. More so, non-law firm legal services providers are increasingly taking work away from law firms,[1] part of the reason being that they tend to concentrate more on technology integration with clients.[2]

Although the legal industry is known for sticking to tradition, there is a spectacular pace of change in global legal practice driven by technology. Therefore, for global legal practice to thrive, lawyers must be abreast with technology in their legal service delivery and this ought to start from making necessary changes to legal education and training.

Future of legal services

The legal services environment is undoubtedly undergoing radical changes, and lawyers need to know how to build sustainable and competitive legal enterprises that can dominate the new market for legal services. There is a rapid evolution in the legal market and there are various forces and trends driving the changes in this environment.[3] Also, the way that legal services are delivered is fast changing due to advances in technology and business model innovation. This era of rapid disruption has resulted in a gradual shift towards affordable, standardised services and efficiencies in how law firms deliver services.[4] The disruption in the legal industry has led to more in sourcing of legal work, clients’ use of technology tools that reduce the need for lawyers and paralegals and a situation where non-law firms provide legal and quasi-legal services. The business of delivering legal services is expanding as clients are demanding efficient, predictive, cost-effective, accessible, scalable, and agile delivery of legal services.[5]

Lawyers are useful and capable service providers but without efficient and effective models of delivering legal services, they will be unable to adapt to changing client requirements.[6] This calls for new approaches to the delivery of legal services. Some of them include:

  1. The use of technology and artificial intelligence to help lawyers in legal processes. This will help lawyers deliver more efficient and timely services to clients in the future. Technology will be used to capture and analyse data and give better information to clients. It can also be used to deliver low-cost document review services. Lawyers are increasingly able to rely on a host of digitised programs to perform a variety of legal tasks.
  2. Delivery of legal services through a collaborative mix of lawyers, knowledge engineers, innovation specialists, legal tech experts, and marketing and business professionals. Here, agile multidisciplinary teams will partner with clients to help them achieve their corporate goals by delivering empathetic user-centric legal solutions.
  3. The use of new business models that are flexible in meeting clients’ needs. There is a need to standardise business processes and ways of working. This could include alternative resourcing. Here, instead of the traditional pyramid-based resourcing model used by law firms for delivering legal work, which is becoming increasingly outdated and inefficient, work is unbundled into its component tasks and each task is allocated to the resourcing lawyer most appropriately equipped to handle it, based upon their skills, experience and efficiency. This provides greater flexibility and options to clients.[7]
  4. Implications of the new approaches to delivery of legal services for legal education and training

With the disruption in the legal industry, lawyers and others who deliver legal services need technical knowledge, business expertise and other skills to be ahead of the curve. This underscores the importance of legal education and training adapting to accommodate these new approaches to the delivery of legal services. It is important to note that there is a whole host of systems ready to take on the tasks that we have historically thought could only be done by lawyers; this could lead to a diminishing market for law graduates. Therefore, it is critical to the legal industry that legal educational organisations, professional bodies, in-house teams and law firms collaborate with one another to ensure technical skills and capability development are provided to enable lawyers to thrive in the disrupted legal environment.[8] Most law schools do not appreciate the difference between the practice of law and the delivery of legal services, hence they continue to prepare students for the traditional law firm model – one with high salaries to help defray education costs and partnership opportunities that have all but vanished – that is rapidly being replaced.[9]

Legal education and training should adapt to accommodate these new approaches to the delivery of legal services by expanding the mandatory curriculum beyond the fields of substantive law. Students should be taught business, project management, and general tech skills; case management processes and legal technology should also be introduced. More so, specific legal-tech skills (such as database management, statistics, analytics, and digital communications) should be taught.[10] Law schools need to figure out how to deal with the changes occurring in the legal marketplace and prepare the students to think outside the box and consider employment beyond the legal sector, such as in consulting, big business, banks, international organisations, and the policy sector – where legal education and skills are welcomed and useful.[11]

Global education

This examines how globalisation impacts legal education globally. The ways in which people learn and work within the legal profession across the globe are changing; hence it is important that universal standards for international legal education be developed to ensure all lawyers receive the right training throughout their careers.[12] There are different ways legal education can be globalised and it involves the inclusion of more international or comparative courses and concentrations to the law school’s offerings and international dual-degree programmes in two or more jurisdictions.[13] Law is taught and understood everywhere as a national subject and most legal training is focused on national laws, institutions and traditions, however globalising legal education will facilitate students’ development of international law and comparative perspectives on the law.[14] It prepares lawyers to become solvers of global problems and equips law students to compete in the international legal marketplace or to serve domestic clients whose legal problems are taking on an increasingly global character.[15]

Seeing that the legal services industry has been globalised, globalisation of legal education should be a priority for law schools.[16] Law schools should integrate a clearly defined learning outcome for global or international content into its curriculum and possibly Bar exams.[17] The future of legal education, therefore, must include the goal of producing graduates who are both ‘intellectually and culturally flexible’ and are exposed to comparative and international perspectives to a wider range of law subjects.[18]

Conclusion

This paper has looked at the future of legal services and changes in the delivery of legal services. Much of this is occasioned by technology, which challenges firms to capitalise on automation efficiencies while never losing sight of the importance of building relationships and recognising how to deliver the most value. Globalisation has played a critical role in defining the future outlook of legal services as this would enable them to provide legal services to multinational customers. To prepare lawyers for this, legal education and training should be globalised and adapted to accommodate the new approaches to the delivery of legal services.

 

[1] Blane Prescott, ‘5 Top Trends Impacting the Legal Profession Now’ American Bar Association [October 2019] https://www.americanbar.org/news/abanews/publications/youraba/2019/october-2019/a-management-consultant-on-how-to-navigate-5-trends-buffeting-la/ accessed 9 May 2020.

[2] Ibid.

[3]Jordan Furlong, ‘Strategic Analysis of the Global Legal Market: Envisioning the Future of Legal Services’ Law21 [2016] www.law21.ca/about accessed 9 May 2020.

[4] Shay Namdarian, ‘7 Leaders Share Their Thoughts on the Future of Legal Services’ Collective Campus www.collectivecampus.io/blog/7-leaders-share-their-thoughts-on-the-future-of-legal-services accessed 9 May 2020.

[5] Mark A Cohen, ‘How Will Legal Education and Training Keep Pace with Change? Forbes [10 September 2018] www.forbes.com/sites/markcohen1/2018/09/10/how-will-legal-education-and-training-keep-pace-with-change/#7f9b2a7b7055 accessed 9 May 2020.   

[6] Chew Seng Kok, ‘New Approaches to the Delivery Of Legal Services – Embracing Innovation to Manage Disruptions to the Legal Profession’ ZICO [21 July 2016] 27. See www.otago.ac.nz/law/news/otago618471.pdf accessed 9 May 2020.

[7] Iain Brown and Mark McAuley, ‘Alternative Resourcing: Efficient Alignment of Resources using Global Alternative Resourcing Capability’ ASHURST, see www.ashurst.com/en/innovation/ashurst-advance-delivery/alternative-resourcing accessed 9 May 2020.

[8] See n 4 above.

[9] Mark Cohen, 'Legal Practice and Legal Delivery: An Important Distinction' LegalMosaic, seewww.legalmosaic.com/legal-practice-and-legal-delivery-an-important-distinction accessed 9 May 2020.

[10] See n 6 above, 33.

[11] Ibid, 39.

[12] 'IBA and LSGL Launch Project to Create Blueprint for Global Legal Education’ Law Schools Global League, see https://lawschoolsgloballeague.com/iba-lsgl-blueprint-global-legal-education accessed 9 May 2020.

[13] Ibid, 922-923.

[14] Carmel O’Sullivan and Judith McNamara, ‘Creating a Global Law Graduate: The Need, Benefits and Practical Approaches to Internationalise the Curriculum’ [2015] (8) (2) Journal of Learning Design 53 at 55.

[15] Rosa Kim, ‘Globalizing the Law Curriculum for Twenty-First-Century Lawyering’ [2018] (67) (4) Journal of Legal Education 905 at 906.

[16] Ibid.  

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid, 913.

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