The Law Society of New South Wales Report on the Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession (The flip report)

Released 28 March 2017, The Law Society of New South Wales Report on the Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession (the flip Report) is about as current as we can get in reviewing developments regarding the future of legal education and the profession in Australia. The purpose of the report is to shed light on the changes that are taking place within our profession, how it is adapting to those changes, and to make recommendations on the way forward.

The flip Report is an important contribution to the conversation about the legal practice and education. Consulting widely, the Commission of Inquiry heard from over 100 individuals as well as the Law Society’s Regional Presidents and the Law Society’s Legal Technology Committee on eight different topics – Drivers of change (Part 1) Clients’ needs and expectations; Drivers of change (Part 2) Technology ; New ways of working; Legal education, information systems and training; Community needs, courts and funding; Diversity, new processes and managing change; Globalisation; Regulation.

The report is organised in 10 chapters that roughly correspond to the 8 topics canvassed:
Chapter 1 drivers of change: clients’ needs and expectations
Chapter 2: legal technology
Chapter 3: new ways of working
Chapter 4: community needs and funding
Chapter 5: the courts and tribunals
Chapter 6: legal education
Chapter 8: diversity
Chapter 9: globalisation
Chapter 10: regulation of the legal profession

KEY FINDINGS:

  • Consumers of legal services are seeking value and competition is increasing.
  • New ways of working are proliferating.
  • In house corporate lawyers are driving change, seeking client-focussed service, using legal technology, re-engineering work processes and monitoring costs.
  • Changing cultures, consumer pressure and lower prices are driving increased use of legal technology.
  • New areas of work and new roles are likely to emerge with technology.
  • Artificial intelligence raises regulatory and ethical issues that require investigation and guidance for solicitors.
  • There is an urgent need for funding for legal assistance and a role for technology and innovation to aid access to justice.
  • The law graduate of the future needs a range of new skills and knowledge.
  • Change can enhance personal wellbeing if its introduction is appropriately supported.
  • A variety of emerging, flexible work arrangements (eg freelancing) could promote diversity.
  • Connectivity and globalisation raise new and great opportunities and threats for lawyers.
  • Globalisation is challenging domestic law reform.
  • Innovation and changing consumer behaviour require practical guidance for solicitors and raise regulatory questions that require further investigation.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

  1. Help solicitors share information about new ways of working.
  2. Establish a centre for legal innovation projects to research and support change.
  3. Investigate setting up an incubator for tech-enabled innovation.
  4. Broaden consultation with the profession, raising awareness about innovation
  5. Sponsor an annual hackathon for community legal assistance.
  6. Advocate for appropriate funding for community legal assistance.
  7. Augment consultation with courts tribunals and stakeholders on innovation.
  1. Communicate findings to Council of Law Deans, LPAB and Admissions Committee of Legal Services Council as to research and consideration to the seven areas of skills and knowledge identified as necessary for law graduates (See Chapter 6 of the report legal education).
  2. Incorporate considerations on mental health and well-being in change management (See chapter 7).
  3. Investigate appropriateness of well-being as part of CPD.
  4. Empower solicitors to better plan and implement change within practices.
  5. Promote diversity and monitor impacts of flexible work arrangements.
  6. Offer CPD on practical topics in private international law.
  7. Seek ALRC reference on laws that affect cross-border disputes.
  8. Research efficacy of online legal documents and investigate regulating legal information.
  9. Investigate bringing legal Information within regulatory fold (See chapter 10)
  10. Raise awareness of the value of legal advice.
  11. Draft guidance for lawyers as entrepreneurs and businesspeople.
  12. Continue supporting solicitors and innovation by investigating how to reduce regulatory barriers.

The chapters are concisely presented with valuable embedded video in the online version. You can also download a pdf version here or order a print version to be mailed to you in the post. With respect to the key findings, the first four points, in sum that we’re dealing with a dynamic and competitive workplace, maybe not fresh news, but good to keep at the forefront of what we are thinking about. The impact of technology is also front and centre, including AI and other tech driving change –e.g. flexible work arrangements. The Report reminds us also we should be managing change so as to enhance well-being and promote diversity. Access to justice is a problem – ’twas ever thus and as urgent or moreso than ever. Funding and tech can help, but we need to cast our net more widely. The law graduate of the future needs new skills and knowledge. Chapter 6 on education canvasses the skills that law students ought to acquire:

  1. tech skills
  2. practical skills including teamwork and collaboration, writing and drafting, interviewing, presentation, advocacy and negotiation
  3. Business skills/basic accounting and finance
  4. Project management
  5. Internationalisation
  6. Interdisciplinary experience
  7. Resilience, flexibility, and adaptability to change

I’ll be taking a closer look at the sections on connectivity and globalisation raising new opportunities and threats for lawyers, and challenging domestic law reform. Innovation and changing consumer behaviour require practical guidance for solicitors and raise regulatory questions that require further investigation.

With respect to Recommendations, the biggest theme here is innovation, as Recs 1-5, 7,11,12 all deal with innovation. Particularly interesting is the proposed centre for legal innovation projects. Other important Recs to watch are #6 funding for community legal assistance, #8 research and consideration re seven areas of skills and knowledge identified as necessary for law graduates; #9 & #10 mental health and well-being, #13 & #14 international & cross border, #17 & #18 value of legal advice & guidance for lawyers as entrepreneurs and businesspeople and #15,16, and 19 Regulation.

So that’s the overview – we’ll get into talking about the Report a bit more in future posts. For a thoughtful comment on the Report check out Kate Galloway’s excellent post.

Of course we welcome your comments and observations here.

One Response

  1. Ken Yin

    I did indeed read Kate Galloway’s great post. Thank you very much. Being a law lecturer, I was particularly interested in the chapter on legal education so that is where I went. I found a series of thought provoking, informative vignettes – and, true to the title of the book, they were presented in a technologically advanced, easy-to-follow format. I’m looking forward to reading the rest but the legal education chapter itself is worth the price of admission (it’s free)