Future of legal education

Kritika Padode Bhandari– Kritika Padode Bhandari, Trustee, IFIM Institutions

A shift from an analog to digital world, rapid technological advances, emergence of big data and easy access to all kinds of information are some of the many macro-environmental forces changing the legal landscape. With the hiring of the world’s first artificial intelligence lawyer by a US based law firm in the year 2016 we have initiated a tectonic shift in the legal profession. As path-breaking technologies like machine learning, artificial intelligence leave a larger footprint in the professional world, we are heading towards a changed and evolved role for lawyers in the years to come. This change is bound to create a ripple effect on content, pedagogy and emphasis on legal education.

With the onset of complete automation being a key characteristic of Industrial Revolution 4.0, the focus of legal education will have to transform completely. Digitisation of the legal profession will make it easier for lawyers to perform research functions in a fraction of time. No longer will chambers or law firms need human resources to perform research based tasks to ascertain the legal position on various propositions thereby wiping out a large function performed by junior lawyers. Using artificial intelligence, at the tip of their fingertips lawyers will have available a detailed legal analysis with predictive outcomes of the legal matters they are working on. But will this mean lawyers will be redundant?

Absolutely not, but there will be a need for the future lawyer to focus on developing a humanistic approach, solution providing skills and effective communication skills to work parallel with machines and not be redundant. Law Schools need to move away from solely focusing on the knowledge component and instead focus on building skills like critical thinking, effective communication, being empathetic and following a solution based approach. To facilitate learning of these skills, we need to change our approach- application based assessments, assessments to include simulation exercises, more open book examinations, structured courses on communication, client handling and opening the eyes of students to practical problems.

We need to break the silos based approach we possess and instead encourage collaborative teaching between legal academics and professionals. Involving legal professionals will give students a good grounding in pragmatic issues in Court and being dealt with by professionals.

Through structured interventions in Law School we need to focus on skilling students in client counselling, mediation and being empathetic communicators. With the advent of virtual hearings, briefings and arbitrations students must also be adept in interacting over virtual platforms. Complexities in the intersection between law and business with the digitisation of businesses will require the new age lawyers to be solution providers. To be effective solution providers, legal education will have to be comprehensive- expose students to multiple disciplines, perspectives and by instilling a good sense of nationalism and societal interest at heart. There has to be a pressing need to include many more courses from areas such as business, humanities, sciences and technology to make them adequately informed legal professionals.

The vision is very clear- in the new decade we need a lawyer who is well rounded, empathetic, an effective communicator with societal and national interest at heart. To create the same legal education needs to change its focus from knowledge based education to a combination of skills and attitude based education.

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