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A Tipping Point: Across Four Pillars

Part 3: The Institutions

This week I want to explore what is happening with the current crisis and its implication for Institutions, what is worth considering and how it carves a path to the #futureoflaw.

The Institutions

The most obvious challenge arising here from COVID is the lack of on-campus access by students and staff alike. The Universities who relied heavily on their marketing efforts to improve the prestige of the brand without working on transforming the delivery of their education are reaping the rewards of their behaviour. On the other hand, those Institutions who have spent years experimenting with online models and built capabilities (and options for their students) to deliver remote classes will be better positioned to adapt.

In a parallel motion, those Institutions that built with an online-first mindset such as Massively Online Open Courses (MOOC) and Online learning Platforms like Coursera and Udemy, will thrive in this changing environment. These efforts have been raising the threshold for universal access to education for some time and as a result of current circumstances, I believe their recognition and place in the education industry will emerge into ubiquity as some time-old Institutions will fail to maintain among changing expectations.

Law at University

For the study and qualification of Law at university, The challenge has always been balancing:

  • The requirements for qualification set by The Regulators,

  • The inertia towards creative divergence and updating curriculum from the Administration and Leadership of the University, and;

  • Remaining current and effective in building the capacity of students who have enrolled within these parameters (actually doing what their marketing budget convinces us is being done - “preparing us for the future”).

Typically the move for University has been to generate an innovation arm to respond to faster moving Industry and explore ways in which the University can engage Industry and equip its students. Equal efforts to actually change the curriculum (at this point could be as little as allowing “future lawyer” type electives or making introductory subjects involve “lawyers in the digital age”) are being made though this has been a laborious process. Some accounts I’m aware of included 18-24 month bureaucratic process of development and approval. The net-effect should certainly be praised as there would have been sizable challenges to achieve this (shout out to all those who have fought to move the needle forward in any discipline within the University environment, It is indeed a daunting task!) But from a systemic viewpoint: if the posture of Institutions matches the current posture of the Market (i.e. looking to the past), Institutions will always be behind the times.

One caveat: Unless the goal was to build into the innovation arm and transfer the University out of its current shell into this new and agile format - something that might be an option now, but is yet to be seen as a pivot - this will be a losing game of catch up.

The Institutions: COVID Implications

This then is a crucial time for The Institutions. I think there needs to be a first principle approach and there is an opportunity in these circumstances to do so. Of course, change is never going to be immediate - but movement towards a #futureoflaw for Law Schools is critical.

Here in Australia, the biggest challenge is how Education is treated as a major export. Most Universities use their fees supplied by international students to maintain strong revenue positions. With the current COVID situation, the resulting global market crash and geopolitical fallout this revenue source may no longer be relied upon. Coupled with a declining economy, the question on every student and parent’s lips - as much as it’s been a given in the past - will now be: “what value does this education provide?” Without due attention to a new reality and significant changes put in motion, the gap between the relevance of what is taught at Institutions and what happens in the Market will increase.

As a side note, The current USA student debt (which you cannot claim bankruptcy against) currently sits at well over USD 1trillion! What will be the sentiment of those students who’ve invested so much to realise that they need to make their own way after such drastic change in an economic downturn?

Focus needs to be drawn back to what is needed for the Legal Industry - and Institutions should not maintain their passive posture on the subject of change. Certainly, they should not wait on The Market where there is a real opportunity to prove the utility and efficacy (once again) of Education, in whatever form it stands in society today. That form will also need improving and Institutions need to be at the helm of the ship of Pedagogy and empowerment. Isn’t that, after all, the reason we hold Institutions in such esteem?

Movement back to a meritocratic approach to learning, rather than ideological and brand based approach is what is needed. Above all, Institutions need to quickly develop more agile models and transition into them - if they wish to survive. I believe only a few prestigious Institutions will remain and much like the Market, it will be those who’ve invested in change and being as agile (and therefore relevant) as possible.

University education is valuable, but its value has been distorted by the weight of a business model that battles between the merit of a narrow focused grading system and requiring enrollment to maintain its revenue, while also holding on to high value real-estate. The copycat syndrome of the majority of institutions that have blindly followed the business model with no strong connection between their alumni and their impact on society will be laid bare in due time. There are some institutions that have remained agile (relative to the education industrial complex) but it is largely accepted that for the new and fringe to permeate into the University curriculum it can take up to a decade.

This has precisely been the problem for Institutions: as the pace of change increases or upon change-events such as we are experiencing now, the cracks not only show - they become crevices.

One, Big (happy?) Family.

Can we see how interconnected this ecosystem is within the Legal Industry? Institutions are waiting on Market demands and restricted by Regulators. The Market is influenced by the needs of their clients and make do with both the capacities built by Institutions in their emerging workforce and practice according to Regulators. Regulators are in part made up of professionals from the Market - trained into a certain way of practice and thinking over many years, indoctrinated well before they are in a position to decide about the professions movements and future.

And what about LegalTech?…

Next Week

Next week we will explore the opportunity that COVID has placed on LegalTech - no doubt an interesting area which many of you may be exploring now or thinking about.

As always, the future of law is in our hands 🔥


This 4-part Series has originally been published at #FutureofLaw Newsletter

Photo by Changbok Ko on Unsplash


About the Author

Quddus Pourshafie has paved his own way in the Legal Industry after recognizing the traditional pathways were failing to align with the future practice of law. Since his admission, he has dedicated to solving the Legal Industry’s biggest problem: transitioning into a future of law brought about by technological disruption.

Known for his ability to think laterally and connect the dots, Quddus has positioned himself to bridge the various protagonists in the legal industry to bring about the necessary transformation, making it his mission to assist those who are ready to tread that path. Quddus also believes it is the first time in recent history where young graduates can change their value proposition in the market as a digital native.

Lending from his creative DNA as a musician and various entrepreneurial ventures, Quddus continues to grow and its projects with partners around the world to accompany Firms, Universities, LegalTech companies and Regulators of the Legal Profession and prepare them for the Future of Law.

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