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Richard Susskind’s ‘biggest worry’ is the way law schools teach their students

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Graduates “ill-prepared” for everyday legal work, says top futurologist

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Futurologist Richard Susskind has bemoaned the teaching of law in universities, describing it as his “single biggest worry”.

Susskind — an academic, author and speaker who has long predicted legal work will dry up in deference to technology — said:

In many UK law schools, the law is taught as it was in the 1970s. No regard for globalisation, commoditization, technology, AI… Most law professors are not remotely interested in this stuff.

Continuing his lecture at the Society for Computers and Law (SCL), of which he is the president, Susskind claimed:

So many graduates in the UK are ill-prepared for the everyday legal work of today… still less for tomorrow.

The University of Glasgow graduate — who has written extensively about the demise of the profession — said law schools are not only indifferent but positively antagonistic towards the study of the future as a legitimate object of consideration. This, he continued:

[D]ismays me and worries me more than anything I’ve discussed tonight.

Elsewhere in his speech — which included an introduction by the Lord Chief Justice — Susskind predicted humans would one day emotionally connect with robots. These, he said, are being programmed to act as “helpers” that can detect human emotions and respond to them. Continuing, the top professor said:

I have little doubt we will have affection for and will have feelings for the generations of robots that will be our helpers and companions.

Susskind’s comments come in the same month as scientists at UCL and the University of Sheffield unveiled a new robotic judge. The high-tech AI software — which scanned over 580 human rights cases in order to create its algorithm — can now, according to its creators, predict the outcome of similar cases with 79% accuracy.

22 Comments

Anonymous

If that’s his single biggest worry he’ll have fit when someone tells him about ISIS and AIDS.

(30)(3)

Anonymous

This is a first year law student’s mistake – taking a quote out of context.

(6)(5)

Anonymous

Seriously, why does this man merit so many column inches. He’s the Nostradamus of the legal profession.

(11)(1)

Not a top professor

because he is a “top professor….”? Thanks Katie

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Chicken little of the legal world

(7)(0)

Buha

Does that mean UK law schools produce good acorns?

(0)(1)

Anonymous

The assumption implicit in this piece is that Law Scools are only there to train future members of the profession. This surely is not correct. The study of law in its own right is an equally meritorious aim. It is the focus on “employability” as a rating mechanism for assessing the quality of university teaching which is the confounding factor.

(21)(0)

Hard of Hearing

Pardon?

(2)(7)

Tyrion

Spot on. I think this Susskind chap is dining off this A.I. thing a bit too much. To be a solicitor in the UK takes 6 years of studying and training. There is no expectation that at 21 when you graduate with your LLB you know anything about anything. However by 24 after the LPC and two year training contract you should be more clued up about the office environment and how to practice in a commercial firm in the 21st century. At that stage you then specialise. Susskind’s only achievement is getting his two boys into Oxford. Everything else is smoke and mirrors.

(11)(0)

Anonymous

It’s so embarrassing when people write like they swallowed a dictionary. Just make your point and move on.

(3)(3)

Anonymous

The assumption implicit in this piece is that Law Scools are only there to train future members of the profession. This surely is not correct. The study of law in its own right is an equally meritorious aim. It is the focus on “employability” as a rating mechanism for assessing the quality of university teaching which is the confounding factor.

(2)(1)

Hard of Hearing

I wish I hadn’t asked now. Yawn.

(1)(3)

Anonymous

Surely the universities are there to teach the theory and it’s up to students to gain practical experience for more of a holistic learning experience. If so I can’t imagine a student leaving university is ill prepared if they do both

(2)(1)

Mr Not-Susskind

My single biggest worry is that the way English Literature students are taught today makes them unsuitable to write the novels, plays and screenplays of the future. They are not taught about the globalisation of the publishing industry, the commoditization of thinks like e-books, and they are not taught how to use the latest word-processors. Instead, they are taught useless core skills like how to critique writing styles and analyses themes, Which will all be done by robots in the future.

Said No-One, ever. I was prepared to listen to him all the time he made sense. Now he is just a Chicken Little for hire, preaching about the end of life as we know it to anyone prepared to pay £50 for a ticket.

(13)(1)

Not Amused

I would have assumed that his biggest worry was that the increasingly small number of people who think he is not an idiot and a charlatan would diminish to the point of irrelevance.

(12)(2)

Lyle o

A past modal verb. Most excellent High English Not Amused.

English students please compare to could have and should have.

(0)(3)

Anonymous

Man makes statement in support of an organisation he is a member of SHOCKA!

(6)(0)

Anonymous

I think chances are you will all be eating your comments within your own lifetime.

Change occurs all the time. The pace of change is continuing to increase. Money, and human lust for it, will principally continue to drive technological innovation in almost all sectors, including – if not especially – law.

Today’s most junior lawyers stand to lose the most if they fail to grasp the opportunities which currently exist. Conversely, if they seize them now, they stand to benefit – at least financially – more than anyone else by using IT systems to save money for stakeholders, all the while charging them a lesser premium for that benefit.

AI may or may not within the next 50 years bring about the fundamental changes Susskind et al predict. But AI is only one way in which IT can be used to “do law better”: more quickly, accurately and cheaply than it is today.

There are plenty of very basic ways in which budding lawyers – whatever their motivation for pursuing a career in law – can improve existing processes right now. All it takes is a bit of thought and a can-do attitude.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

I disagree with Susskind. A law degree is the study of law not the legal profession. Save your technology for the professional courses. And anyway we already cover portal claims etc on that course anyway so what’s the argument?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Can somebody stop the Susskind kind of crap, please? This is just a money talk and nothing else. Trying to scratch client’s money from the bottom of their wallet or ready emptening their wallet for e-walhalla (which as we all know does not exist). Students in law school: dream, embrace the wealth of developing thinking and get rid of these efficiency assholes.

(1)(0)

Anon

My biggest worry is what society will do with the types of people who have all commented on this post, once computer science unbundles their industry.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

“So many graduates in the UK are ill-prepared for the everyday legal work of today… still less for tomorrow”

Not the most intelligent thing to say. An academic degree by definition ‘academic’ and not intended to prepare a student to simply walk out of university and into “legal work of today”.

It is only when a student is armed with the skills to understand law academically, that they can then be trained as a ‘lawyer’. In the case of a barrister, we are talking about the bar course followed by pupillage; for solicitors, its the LPC and then a 2 year training contract.

The irony is that this chap appears to be an academic as opposed to someone who has actually practised law – so one treat what he says with extreme caution.

(0)(1)

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