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Changing Dimensions Of Law School In India
The Legal landscape has changed dramatically during the pandemic period. The deadlock situation created by the lockdowns forced the extremely reluctant, technophobe legal fraternity to seek solutions that were based on their nemesis - technology. Judges and lawyers who were apprehensive to use technological tools started relying on technological tools and online mechanisms to continue legal matters. Having said that, it must be noted that this change hasn’t been the result of the pandemic; rather the pandemic has only acted as a catalyst to the inevitable.
AI today is snatching countless jobs across various sectors. It is critical to note that these jobs are the ones that require repetitive, mechanical and easily replicable skills rather than creative, challenging and original ones. The solution lies in the response propounded by Richard Susskind. He stated that the “robotic” part of law practice will be eliminated. A more “bespoke” form of legal practice might become the norm. The “robotic” part of the law is where we have the drafting of conventional, standardised contracts. These will be passed on to Artificial Intelligence-driven technologies. Bespoke lawyering on the other hand will be in two dimensions.
Firstly, where the lawyers will be tasked with creating the algorithms that will help Artificial Intelligence machines carry out robotic tasks. For instance, this is already seen in the e-discovery market of the United States where Artificial Intelligence tools are being utilised to identify relevant documents for discovery. There are also websites that offer standardised tenancy contracts which one can get after answering a few questions.
The second dimension will be where lawyers provide specialised services for complicated negotiations, resolution of conflict etc. Thus, like many professions, although a vast area of the legal profession will be taken over by automated technology lawyers would still survive. These surviving lawyers however would be the ones who can bring to the table what the AI can’t, especially in terms of creativity and originality.
Shaping future lawyers
While this change was predicted by Richard Susskind who said that in the next two decades, the practice of law is very likely to change more than it has in the last 200 years. Thus, are the earlier questions going to become chillingly true, and what will happen to the next generation of law students?
The future of the legal profession demands that the legal education system needs to catch up. Law aspirants should look at institutes that offer technological study as a part of their curriculum. Gone are the days where a course curriculum should be restricted to imparting the meaning of the law. The course has to be directed to moulding the thinking and the personality of a student. As Yuval Noah Harari pointed out the need to train our children to have identities like tents – they need to be multi-skilled. Students who lack these skills would rapidly fade away from the face of the legal profession.
Bespoke lawyering involves a holistic education. One such demand is that of ensuring that lawyers have the expertise to deal with the nuances of the field that the law is operating in. Further, a lawyer who gives a solution that is too expensive or is not feasible is not actually solving a problem but causing one. A lawyer who has management training is always preferable to one who has only focused on law and has expertise only in that area. A student ought to ensure that he educates himself/herself accordingly.
The law schools of today have the ability and power to mould the new generation to the coming future. Looking at the past is important, but living in the past is going to result in unemployable lawyers. Law schools need to carefully evaluate their curriculum, their interventions, their electives while keeping an eye on the developments in the industry whilst ensuring that the dictates of the Bar Council are adhered to. India has a peculiar situation when it comes to legal education. The other sea-change we see in education is that most law aspirants now are first-generation lawyers. Law schools need to take that into account too. With no contacts or “godfather” in the industry, these lawyers will look to the law schools to be the bridge between them and the industry.
The legal profession is now at a turning point. One part of the legal fraternity wants to go back to the “good old days” and the other is preparing for a dramatic change. Specialised legal practices are blossoming with boutique law firms offering unique and tailored solutions for legal problems in a specific area. Technological know-how is going to be key over the next twenty years. Law in India is also changing and moving forward being updated is critical at all times. As a passionate legal educator, I want to tell all law aspirants and young budding lawyers don’t be focused on “what was”, instead prepare for a future where you are focused on “what is”.
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