Law Schools Are Changing Thanks To Legal Tech
New digital skills courses are rapidly being added to undergraduate law degrees in the UK. While the first students are currently studying the digital skills course, it’s expected that further students will take part over the coming months. Here, we explore what digital skills courses in law schools are covering.
The future of law
Technology is changing the way we live and work, and this too is having an impact on the legal sector. Just like any other profession, being a lawyer has changed drastically over the years and legal tech lies at the forefront of this. It boosts efficiency and productivity, but technology can also be used to record information, keep data safe, and save time with legal document automation. Thanks to legal tech, tasks like creating business agreements and setting up share options schemes for companies can now be completed much more efficiently. This saves a lot of energy that lawyers can rather use on more complex tasks.
In the last year alone, 35% of law firms have brought in new technology and 55% have improved their use of existing technology. If students want to keep up in the industry, they need to show a willingness and understanding to adapt to these innovative times.
It’s not just external materials and processes that are benefiting from new technology either. The legal work environment as a whole is being improved, thanks to technology that is only likely to benefit students when they graduate. Now, a lot of training and resources are easily available online and a number of PLC law firms are using technology to boost the employee experience. This includes easy-to-use internal systems for HR, project management and remote work and collaboration. Naturally, these are all aimed at making the lives of employees easier and there’s likely to be more developments in this area in the near future.
Mainstream legal tech
Depending on whether you’re specialising in a certain field, a typical law degree in the UK covers academic studies of legal theory with the application of law in real-life situations. This includes courses on public law, criminal law and company law, as well as those legal issues relating to property, human rights and the environment.
Up until now, optional digital courses relating to law degrees have been available. Most notably, in 2018, Manchester University revealed the first legal technology course that combined classroom study with an app-building course that was to be used by legal non-profit organisations. Fast forward to the present day, however, and hundreds of students are now studying a digital skills course, which will be a requirement as part of ongoing undergraduate law degrees.
While CILEX Professional Qualifications, which enables students to qualify as lawyers without a legal degree, introduced a compulsory technology course last year, this digital skills course is new for Manchester Metropolitan University. Talking about the first partnership between a UK law school and the US training firm Procertas, Manchester Met’s strategic lead for education, Dr Kryss Macleod said the course would mainstream legal tech.
As one of 13 compulsory courses for undergraduate law students, the course combines practical training with theory and analysis of current legal tech. Students will be taught how to use Microsoft Word’s contract features, as well as Excel and Powerpoint for law. All students will have to achieve either qualified or expert status in order to pass.
Legal tech gives students the opportunity to think about future practices of law, the business of law and how law firms work and behave. Not only does it allow students to get to grips with technology and processes that support and replace traditional legal methods, but it could help to improve overall operations – both internally and externally.