Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Rise of Technology in Law or Why Susskind Didn't Look Far Enough into the Future...

Today I was at the City University of Hong Kong. It is celebrating its 50th anniversary and the Deans are holding a series of Deans' Summits.

The Law School Dean, Christopher Gane, held his summit on the Global Challenges of Legal Education, which also happened to be the topic of my paper. We had a wide group of contributors from China, Taiwan, the US, Europe, Canada, Australia, the UK (are we part of Europe?), Singapore, and more.

One of the recurring themes was the role of technology in law and legal education, which I said would play a larger role but not necessarily take over. I think I was wrong. See below for why.....

(with thanks to the New Yorker)


Thursday, October 17, 2013

New Book....

Now immediately in Kindle format available at and Hardback and paperback due out very soon.

A legal scholar and sociologist, John Flood spent years observing a large law firm from the inside—much like an embedded journalist, but with the perspective of a researcher on the theory and practice of legal organizations. What he found and analyzed resulted in a study that has been cited by many scholars over the years as the ultimate account of the inner workings of a corporate law firm, including its relations with clients, employees, and the broader profession. Further, using four detailed case studies, he showed how the construction of legal information and problems depended heavily on the role and specialization of the lawyer and the power of the client. 

Now in its Second Edition, with updated references and account of the radical shifts in legal practice over the past few years in the U.S. and U.K., Flood's pathbreaking book continues to be a fascinating resource for scholars of the legal profession, as well as interested readers who want to see exposed the inner sanctum of private, big-money law practice. 

This edition also adds a new, reflective introduction by Lynn Mather, the SUNY Distinguished Service Professor at the University at Buffalo. She writes that, compared to litigators, prosecutors, and public interest attorneys, "far less is known about exactly what business lawyers do." However, "Flood’s brilliant ethnography of a corporate law firm helps to fill this gap, providing an in-depth analysis of corporate lawyers at work and addressing significant issues of professional work. Originally done in the late 1980s, this classic study has now been updated and still stands as a singular contribution to the field for its insights into the work of corporate lawyers. ... The themes it raises—differences between office lawyers and litigators, ethical decision making in the context of legal work, change in corporate practice in relation to the economy and professional regulation, and the role of law in what lawyers do—remain crucial for understanding the role of lawyers in society." 

A classic resource from Quid Pro Books is now readily available worldwide, in print and ebook formats, for scholars, researchers, lawyers, and other interested readers. The new digital edition features proper ebook formatting, active Contents, linked footnotes, all original tables, and active cross-links for references to tables.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

One Size Doesn't Fit All in Legal Education

(Image: thanks to Morgan Linton)

After digesting the Legal Education and Training Review report (LETR) for three months, England’s largest legal regulator, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), has delivered its response. This is important because the big legal regulators—SRA, Bar Standards Board, Ilex Professional Services—shape the structure of the qualifying law degree, and they commissioned LETR.

Without revisiting the LETR report in detail,[1] it recommended no radical change. Instead the SRA, according to its chief executive, Anthony Townsend, is to propose a radical programme of reform.
It has three elements:

1. No one size fits all to becoming a lawyer. There should be many routes into practice where the SRA sets only the “day one skill requirements.” These could be provided by the academy, through apprenticeships, or in job cumulative progression. Adopting their “principles-based, outcomes-focused” approach to regulation, the SRA intends not to prescribe but allow a thousand educational flowers to bloom within the legal market.

This will give the universities and colleges plenty of scope to innovate, should they choose to do so. Unfortunately, the British academy is slow in this area, not always recognising that change has occurred. I wouldn’t be surprised if the private legal education providers don’t surge ahead here as against the universities.

2. Continuing professional development (or continuing legal education) must stop being a tick box exercise and in its place there must be an emphasis on substantive competence. CPD has always been a joke among practitioners who, as the year ends, scrabble to find ways to complete their quota of CPD points via self-assessment articles in legal magazines.
One line in Townsend’s speech I specifically like is, “the onus will be on firms to ensure that their whole workforce is competent.” This means nonlawyers as well as lawyers should demonstrate competence where they are providing legal services to the public. This recognises that the legal services market is a varied and pluralistic one.

3. There must be a “bonfire of education and training regulations.” Without doubt legal education is over-regulated. In countries where law is primarily an undergraduate degree, as opposed to a professional degree, there is little justification for the tight scrutiny that regulators have held over legal education. As many as 50% of graduating law students these days don’t enter the legal profession, so there is little justification for subjecting them to unnecessary protocols. The SRA rightly sees that as the territory of the education regulators. Moreover, the SRA wants to stop prescribing the content of the training contract.

The SRA intends to lighten regulation by the end of 2014, which is light speed for the legal profession. It has only been 40 years since they last looked at legal education.

Soon after I wrote this, Nigel Savage, supremo of the global University of Law (too many titles to list them all), warned the SRA to ‘get clarity on standards to avoid dumbing down legal training.’ A couple of points occur to me here. One is he is frightened of other for profit legal educators undercutting his market which is built on premium product. The other is his use of "legal training" rather than education and training. Maybe he's right to be scared. It's not the academy that threatens him but the vocational apprenticeship trainers who will be starting up. They will offer routes into the legal services market at much less cost than the University of Legal Cosmology (see our new campus on Mars--free one-way tickets--end of lawyer surplus....).

[1] I let the reader peruse its 350 pages as ideal bedtime reading.