Legal Innovation and Education Workshop

March 8th, 2018

Offices of Thomson Reuters, Toronto, Ontario

The legal world is changing. Technology is augmenting – and often disrupting – the way in which legal services are being delivered. The pressure to provide “better, faster, and cheaper” legal services in a time of fiscal austerity is mounting, both in private firms and in the public administration of justice, while at the same time, it has been widely recognized in Canada – as well as many other jurisdictions – that we are dealing with an access to justice crisis. Getting legal help is expensive; lawyer fees amount to hundreds of dollars an hour; and, if one does end up in court, even a short proceeding can cost thousands of dollars. As a result, self-represented litigants are now the norm rather than the exception, and clients are demanding new and alternative ways to access and use legal services at a wider range of price points.

To address the changing expectations of justice users and make the justice system more accessible, innovation in how we deliver legal services is a must. However, to truly reimagine the justice system for the 21st century, innovation must take place within the legal profession generally, but also in legal education more specifically. To steal a phrase from Richard Susskind, we must think about how we educate “tomorrow’s lawyers” today. Tomorrow’s lawyers will need an additional set of skills, not only to succeed in the profession, but to thrive in it and change it.

Key among these critical skills:

  • An entrepreneurial spirit
  • Technological proficiency
  • An understanding of data – how to collect it, analyze and use it to make evidenced-based decisions.
  • Strong emotional intelligence
  • Knowledge of how to design services that are more flexible, versatile, efficient and cost-effective. In short, services that are designed for the user.

How do we prepare the next cohort of lawyers to enter into a rapidly evolving legal landscape? What new skills will they need? What tools can we provide them with to help them navigate what will likely be nontraditional career paths? How can we prepare them to not only feel comfortable using technology, but empowered to embrace it in ways we haven’t yet considered? Finally, how can we ensure that access to justice becomes a core lens through which our students view their legal practice?

These are the questions that preoccupy us. They drive us to think innovatively about legal education so that those who graduate do so as agile and creative thinkers with a deep commitment to access to justice that will make them innovators in the new legal marketplace. Over the past three years, the Winkler Institute for Dispute Resolution has worked in collaboration with Osgoode’s Experiential Education Office to develop a Justice Innovation and Access to Justice Program (A2J Program) that explores these questions. This workshop was the capstone event of this project, and we were excited to gather leaders in the field in Toronto to talk about and collect some best practices on how we might innovate in legal education to best train future lawyers.

Please see below for Daniel W. Linna Jr., Director LegalRnD, Michigan State lunchtime talk at the event. As well, we have assembled a collection of best practices and next steps to guide us along the continuation of this journey.

Conference Background Materials