Oxford PPE student warns that Oxford law students risk being ‘left behind’ because their degree is too traditional

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By Katie King on

Law schools need to adapt, even the best ones

The University of Oxford

A tech-savvy University of Oxford Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) student has rung the alarm bell on the future careers of aspiring lawyers.

Writing in student newspaper Cherwell under the headline ‘Oxford lawyers, quit your degrees. Now’, forward-thinking first year Michael Shao — whose CV includes a committee post at the Model United Nations — argues that software systems and artificial intelligence (AI) are beginning to encroach on lawyers’ turf. Not only can these systems now review documents “with increasingly higher levels of accuracy than their human counterparts”, Shao also thinks they are refining their legal prediction skills. The keen coder, who is originally from New Jersey, notes:

Researchers at Michigan State University and South Texas College of Law constructed a statistical model that was able to predict the outcomes of 71% of United States Supreme Court cases. Forget about Neil Gorsuch.

Though developments in technology are good, Shao concludes his piece — which *trigger warning* includes a photo of a gavel — by saying it’s important to think long-term and prepare for these developments. “When it comes to law”, he says, “there is no debate that some form of adaptation needs to be made.” While American high schools, for example, are teaching mandatory computer science courses, the law curriculum at the University of Oxford is not following suit. His piece finishes:

I do expect certain forms of law, like litigation, mediation, and negotiation that require a living-breathing lawyer to do something in person, to survive. But, if that’s not the case for you, young, budding, aspiring Oxford law student, then you’re out of luck… Welcome to the fourth Industrial Revolution, Oxonians. Don’t get left behind.

Shao’s thoughts bear similarities to Professor Richard Susskind’s. The top legal technology academic and author spoke to Legal Cheek during a live Facebook broadcast, during which he argued that law students are graduating ill-prepared for the challenges of modern legal practice. He urged law schools to future-proof students by offering unconventional tech modules on their LLB courses.

You can watch the video in full here:

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