Chrissie Lightfoot, CEO of EntrepreneurLawyer and author of Tomorrow’s Naked Lawyer, writes, “Artificial intelligence, machines, and quite possibly robots will come to dominate the legal world in the not too distant future.”
As the legal market continues to evolve, it becomes crucial for future law graduates to have a higher level of technological literacy: the ability to effectively use technology to access, evaluate, integrate, create and communicate information to enhance the learning process through problem-solving and critical thinking.
In order to help graduates get there, law schools have to transform their curriculum. As Jörg Heirman, an associate at the global law firm of Ashurst in Brussels stated, “If you are starting in law school now, then you will graduate in five years. Within the next five years the market will have developed drastically, and most lawyers will be working with some type of legal tech. So, if you are a law graduate who wants to deliver from day 1 you will have to be familiar with the opportunities of the legal tech market and universities should help you in doing so.”
More and more law schools around the world are beginning to make investments in technological solutions to ensure graduates are prepared for the future as well as to push for new innovations in the legal field. The Pritzker School of Law at Northwestern University (Chicago) created the TEaCH Law Competence Center to integrate technology into legal education. The Faculty of Law at the University of Copenhagen set up a Digitalisation Hub that facilitates research groups in legal tech and artificial intelligence.
In her book, Lightfoot takes a look at the Miami Law School and University which is not only teaching its students the traditional law school curriculum, but also skills such as project management, technology, social media, creative problem solving, leadership, and cultural competency. The school’s LawWithoutWalls initiative is focused on “tackling the cutting-edge issues at the intersection of law, business, technology, and innovation.” Lightfoot also highlighted the importance of learning computer programming for a future filled with “more complex machines with enhanced computing process power and AI.”
Jack Cushman, a lecturer on computer programming at Harvard Law School, explained how his course applies technology to case studies at a “Tech, Law and Law Teaching” discussion session at Harvard Law School in 2017. For one hypothetical, law students were asked to use the programming language Python to look at a complex immigration bill to see how it would affect immigrants that wanted to become U.S. citizens. The program they had to create looked at the percentage of immigrants who could successfully become citizens using the path described in the bill. The next step was to use the model to find the smallest modification that could be made to the proposed bill that had the largest impact on eligibility for citizenship.
This computation allows for more strategic lobbying and completely changes the legislative process. As Cushman stated, some individuals do have access to this now, but only those who can afford it. For example, tax laws written this way work in the favor of the wealthy. Now imagine more lawyers having this technological expertise to serve more individuals in the fields of healthcare, education, environment, and others all around the world.
In the long-term, this will allow future lawyers to optimize their work and provide their assistance to more individuals who need it. As Daniel Rodriguez, former dean of the Pritzker School of Law affirmed, “If we can help students understand that technology, and specifically AI, can create a much more streamlined, efficacious means of connecting lawyers to consumers of legal services, and reorient or recalibrate what it means to provide legal services by lawyers, then that’s an enormous benefit for us as legal educators in educating our students to the value and capacity of law to provide access to justice.”