Exclusive: Richard Susskind tells law schools to future-proof students with tech modules

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By Katie King on

Tom Connelly and Katie King interview the legal profession’s foremost technology expert


Professor Richard Susskind, a top legal technology academic and author, has told Legal Cheek that universities should offer law students tech modules to help them better prepare for future practice.

Speaking exclusively on our Facebook livestream (embedded below), Susskind told Tom Connelly and Katie King that law school teaching hasn’t changed much since the seventies, yet the profession has. In his words:

It’s not about John Grisham, or Rumpole of the Bailey, or Suits, or the Good Wife (all of which I do love, actually), but that’s not what 21st century law is going to look like.

Law students are graduating ill-prepared for the challenges of modern legal practice. To combat this, he says:

In an era when almost every student is paying, and paying handsomely, for their legal education, I don’t think it’s too much to say every law school should offer a couple of options.

While the top law firm consultant does not advocate scrapping core subjects like land law and tort (these are “terribly important”), he believes universities should offer optional unconventional LLB modules, such as data science, that focus on the future of legal services. “The challenge for a young lawyer looking ahead to the 2020s is, ‘do you want to compete with machines or build the machines?'” he adds, urging law schools to help them develop the skills to do this.

Elsewhere in our latest Legal Cheek Talks, when asked by King whether he believes there’s still room for more arts-minded technophobes in the profession, Susskind issued this warning:

I do want people to be very clear this is a different era we’re moving into, and not complacently think ‘if I float through my law degree I’m automatically employable.’

The advisor to the Lord Chief Justice on IT also expressed his excitement about the potential of online courts, which he believes can bring about major improvements in the delivery of justice. The other area piquing his interest at the moment is artificial intelligence — the topic that he wrote his doctorate on in the 1980s.

Susskind — who is soon to release the second edition of his bestselling title Tomorrow’s Lawyers — thinks there is too much hype around the technology right now, but warns against underestimating it, concluding:

In the short term, people are overstating what AI will achieve, but in the long term they’re understating it.

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