LAWSG168 The Future of Legal Practice

Credit value: 30 credits (15 ECTS, 300 learning hours)
Convenor: Richard Moorhead
Other Teachers: Richard Susskind;
Other guest speakers
Teaching Delivery: 20 x 2-hour weekly seminars, 10 seminars per week, Term One and Two
Who may enrol: LLM students only
Prerequisites: None
Must not be taken with: None
Qualifying module for: LLM in International Commercial Law;
LLM in Litigation and Dispute Resolution
Introductory video
Practice Assessment: Opportunity for feedback on one practice essay
Final Assessment: One 6,000-word coursework essay (100%)
Module Overview
Module summary:

The premise of this course is that you cannot fully understand the justice system or the future of legal practice without understanding the business of law, how legal services are delivered within it, and how that is likely to change.

The way in which legal services is being provided is changing and the potential for further change is great.  This may transform legal services, the nature and role of lawyers, and the courts and the broader dispute resolution system.  It may even transform law itself.  If you plan to practice law, it is very likely to transform the kinds of jobs you can do, and what you will want to do.

The module will develop your understandings of issues underpinning the delivery of legal services, especially the economic pressures and technological developments reshaping legal services.  You will be encouraged to critically examine the potential for innovation in lawyering; to challenge received wisdom about the delivery of law; and, to consider the potential impact of change on the professional status of lawyers. You will explore these changes against normative frameworks: are legal services of appropriate quality, do they deliver access to justice, and are they ethical?

We will engage with the academic literature, practitioner literature, and practitioners working at the cutting edge of developments in the field. We will expose you to new technologies and ideas in legal services and encourage you to think critically about their possibilities.

Module syllabus:

The Field

  • Professionalism, Theories of Value and Change
  • Disruption and Design in Commercial Law
  • Stabilities and instabilities in Big Law Firms
  • Regulatory Change and new business models in law
  • Technology, Disaggregation and Redesign

The course provides you with in-depth knowledge of the legal services field. We look at the importance and contested nature of professionalism and what value (and values) underpin the delivery of legal services through a professional model. The strengths and weaknesses of current and developing business models (especially Big Law and so-called Alternative Business Structures) will be examined. We consider what theories of change suggest for lawyers and clients: how do ideas such as creative disruption, disruptive and sustaining innovation, and competitive, global and technological forces impact on the field? We examine how design-thinking is beginning to reshape some lawyers work and how disaggregation and technology will (or may) reshape the practice of law.

Core concepts

  • Understanding Quality and Needs in Legal Services
  • Understanding Fees and Incentives in Legal Services
  • Understanding what is possible with AI in law?
  • Thinking Quantitatively and Algorithmically about law
  • Thinking Ethically About Innovation

Having gained a good knowledge of the field’s ideas, and challenges, we will look more closely at core concepts to enable in-depth evaluation of this changing world. What challenges are faced in understanding the quality and need for legal services, the foundations of being professional and successful? How should legal services be priced? What are the possibilities with Artificial Intelligence in Law (I’ve arranged for a demonstration by a specialist machine learning and artificial intelligence provider)? With data analytics and ‘robotic’ lawyering on the rise, how possible is it to think quantitatively and algorithmically about the law? Is it possible to reduce law’s art to a science? What are the ethical challenges posed by such innovations?

Key Practices and Problems

  • Technology in an Adversarial Context: E-Discovery
  • Access to Justice and Systems Thinking
  • Technology, Design and Digital Divides
  • Online Dispute Resolution
  • Online Dispute Resolution and Ethics

The third section of the course focuses on key practices and problems.  You will learn about practical applications of technology: e-discovery and online dispute resolution, both gaining increasing significance worldwide. You will have the opportunity to consider how and whether technology can solve access to justice problems, and the problems of the digital divide. And you will have opportunities to examine the ethical challenges posed by things like online dispute resolution and artificially intelligent judging.

Recommended materials:

It is recommended that you read the legal press and blogs on innovation in legal services to familiarise yourself with current developments.

Module reading lists and other module materials will be provided via online module pages, once students have made their module selections upon enrolment.

Preliminary reading:

  • Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind (2017) The Future of the Professions, OUP