Updated: May 10
By Soledad Atienza and Fernando Pelaez.
Global research by IBA and LSGL considers globalization and technology as key drivers in legal education
The International Bar Association (IBA), as the organization that represents the global voice of the legal profession, and the Law Schools Global League (LSGL), that brings together law schools that share a commitment to the globalization of law and to integrating global law in their teaching and research, have joined forces to create the report “blueprint on global legal education”. The report shows the key trends, challenges and opportunities legal educators face and includes as drivers of legal education globalization, technology, and changes to regulatory frameworks.
This global research aims to help legal education institutions navigate the ongoing paradigm change and to offer a legal education model that responds to the current needs of the legal profession. The blueprint identifies the main key trends, challenges, and opportunities emerging in legal education in the current times and brings up best practices and recommendations. The findings of this report are particularly relevant in the context of COVID-19, which has highlighted the importance of technological adoption in the sector. The blueprint outlines a range of key challenges, ranked by importance and categorized by region, which law schools face, together with existing responses that selected schools are already taking or could adopt.
Through the analysis of relevant literature, law schools’ websites, a global online survey and interviews with key stakeholders, the report gathers the trends that are shaping the future of legal education, with a particular focus on the impacts of globalization and technological disruption. The identified key trends include Internationalization, technology and the development of new skills in legal education, while one of the main challenges posed for law schools are regulation of legal education and the profession, an aspect that hinders internationalization and innovation.
The report explores how academic institutions around the world are working in becoming more international, the number one trend in legal education. Although many law schools are introducing elements of internationalization, only few have achieved full internationalization of legal education.
The report also sheds light on the use of technology in legal practice, the impact of technology in Legal Education and its outcomes in the legal market. There is complete new situation under COVID 19, where technology as a teaching tool has become a priority.
A barrier for innovation, as in other sectors and activities, is regulation. The report explores why regulation is usually considered a limitation to internationalization and to increasing the use of technology, a factor that is currently under development due to COVID 19.
Regulation: The biggest challenge to innovation in legal education
Regulatory frameworks that govern access to the legal profession hinder internationalization and innovation, but the good news is that institutions are taking this challenge seriously.
In England and Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) coming into place in 2021 will pose fewer restrictions in England and Wales. In the United States, regulatory frameworks to access the legal profession are a controversial issue, as the federal and local bars, along with the government education departments, establish regulation.
Other challenges law schools face include diversity of their community (students, faculty and staff members) in terms of gender, origin, cultural diversity … The lack of economic resources and growing competition has also shown to be a challenge for many law schools that have participated in the research.
After the COVID-19 pandemic, law schools have also observed a relevant gap in the affordability and access to legal education among the students. Access to laptops, computers, or smart phones for e-learning is a challenge that law schools currently face. Socio-economic and gender inequalities are also a current problem in legal education nowadays.
The need to align legal education with the drivers impacting the legal services market.
There is a correlation between the key trends that are shaping the future of legal education with the drivers of change in the of legal services, and this is not surprising.
Based in a report prepared by the IBA Presidential Task Force on the Future of Legal Services, the drivers affecting the future of legal services are: (i) Emergence of new forms of value creation; (ii) legal technology development and innovation; (iii) regulatory innovation and gaps; (iv) globalization and shift of economic power; (v) skills mismatch and (vi) legal education reform and changing demographics and values.
The conclusion of the report demands a clear and deep reform in legal education generated by the drivers impacting the legal services which have transformed the market demands and expectations and which have been accelerated since 2020 by the impact of the pandemic. It is necessary to point out that in addition to raising awareness in law schools around the globe to incorporate and work on the report's recommendations, from globalization to diversity and the need to convince regulators to support such change in legal education and the practice of law, it is also necessary to emphasize in the need to include the new skills that lawyers must have to be able to provide their services with the added value that the client expects. Among them are the knowledge and management of new legal technologies for the provision of legal services, finance, management of the firm as a business, mediation, management of intelligence emotion, etc., to mention a few. Finally, we must be aware that the client is the center of the business and law schools are the primary responsible in the formation of law students but also practicing lawyers through special programs focused on new skills and abilities.
About Research Methodology
The Blueprint for Legal Education, which I have co-chaired together with Fernando Pelaez Pier, former president of the IBA, has involved the work of eight researchers and four supporters from seven regions around the world. Academics from UK, Canada, EU, South East Asia & Australia & Hong Kong, Latin America, Asia and Africa, have analyzed relevant literature (over 200 articles), and schools websites (420 web sites), conducted online surveys (more than 300 responses worldwide) and interviewed more than 60 law schools and bar associations around the world.
This initiative forms part of the ongoing research by the IBA’s Commission on the Future of Legal Services into the trends that are shaping the legal profession. The full report can be downloaded here, or read it online here.
About the Authors
Dr. Soledad Atienza is the Dean of IE Law School and Fernando Pelaez, Senior Consultant FPelaez Consulting