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The digital law: law student visions for the delivery of legal services

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The digital law: law student visions for the delivery of legal services.

In 2015, Matt Roach approached the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Law at Bond University, Professor Nick James, with a proposal. He would draw upon his education at Stanford studying the impact of emergent technologies upon legal practice and his experience as a legal practitioner at a large law firm to develop a subject that focussed upon contemporary and future legal practice in Australia and internationally, with a focus upon ‘digital disruption’.

Nick had recently identified a need to expand the law curriculum at Bond to include just such a subject, and Matt’s proposal was accepted. The new subject, ‘Technology and Legal Practice’ was taught for the first time in 2016. The subject description was as follows:

This subject examines change in the legal services industry and explores a diverse range of ideas about how technology can be deployed in legal practice. The business model of the traditional law firm is under threat by new, technology-driven market entrants. Work traditionally completed by lawyers can be done faster, cheaper and better by increasingly capable smart machines employing techniques such as machine learning, data analytics and natural language processing. Some lawyers and law practices will become less useful, relevant and profitable because of these changes. Others will leverage technology to find new and creative ways to deliver legal services and deliver value, delight their clients and gain a competitive advantage. During this subject, students will develop a technology based prototype to address customers’ legal needs.

Matt and the new subject both received extremely positive feedback from the students who enrolled in the subject.

Since then, Matt has delivered the subject every year to a growing cohort of students. The name of the subject was changed to ‘The Digital Lawyer’ a couple of years ago, and the content has been updated annually to acknowledge the rapid changes taking place within the legal services sector, but the emphasis upon a topical, practical and provocative investigation into the present and likely future impact – both positive and negative – of technology upon what lawyers do has continued to resonate with students.

The approach taken by Matt to the assessment tasks in the subject has likewise remained practical, authentic and engaging. Matt initially asked students to prepare prototypes of a technology-based solution to delivering legal services. However, the students showed an interest not just in adopting new technologies but also in reforming the business model of law firms from the ground up. Accordingly, in 2020, students designed their perfect ‘law firm’ for the next five years, incorporating a mix of new technologies and progressive practices encompassing all aspects of legal service delivery.

The quality of the work done by the students in response to this task was so impressive, we decided to draw upon the resources of the Centre for Professional Legal Education to make the five best student projects publicly available.

  • Assistmatch-me by Dawid Ferensowicz and Julietta Oyediran – A global platform that connects people with personalised professional assistance for all their immigration needs.
  • Virtual Family Law firm for LGBTQ Adoption by Qiaoyu (Penny) Peng – A virtual family law firm to help LGBTQ couples have a child and build families by adoption.
  • CSRguide by Tahlia Dimech – An online legal service that makes it easy for small to medium enterprises to start implementing corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives.
  • Producers’ Cut by Pierce Wilding – An online service that provides production companies with the tools to streamline their contract management
  • Thrive by James Bartlett – A service to help to simplify the intricate and complex requirements of the NDIS and create a fairer and more accessible NDIS marketplace

Click here to read the report. We hope that you find the papers published in the report as insightful and interesting as we did. And if there is anything in this report about which you would like to learn more, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at [email protected].

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