New innovation and technology hub to tackle the future of law and the legal profession | Law

New innovation and technology hub to tackle the future of law and the legal profession

Two new strategic alliances between UNSW and Allens and the Law Society of NSW will aim to tackle the challenges of technological change and its impact on lawyers, law and the legal system.

Two new strategic alliances between UNSW Sydney and each of Allens and the Law Society of New South Wales will aim to tackle some of the increasingly complex challenges presented by digital and other technological transformations and their impact on lawyers, law and the legal system.  

The Allens Hub for Technology, Law & Innovation will sit within UNSW Law and work closely with staff from leading law firm Allens to explore the many disruptions facing the legal system now and into the future, such as the reliance on data-driven decision-making, new kinds of biological, artificial and legal ‘persons’ and threats to cyber security.

The Law Society of NSW will collaborate with UNSW to generate a separate stream of research to consider and respond to the recent questions raised by the Law Society’s ground-breaking The Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession (FLIP) report, surrounding the future of the legal industry in the digital age.

Associate Professor Lyria Bennett Moses, whose world-leading research explores the relationship between technology and law, will lead 21 academics as the newly appointed Director of the Hub. She says it will help the university undertake crucial research in this increasingly important area of law and legal practice, and leverage the findings to better equip legal institutions and law students with the knowledge and skills they will need in the future.

"Legal systems all over the world are already working hard to keep pace with the rapid evolution of technological changes happening in our societies. Coming together to consider the kinds of technologies that will shape the environments in which we live and how they will impact the laws and governance of our communities is an important first step in addressing these challenges," Associate Professor Bennett Moses said.

UNSW Law Professor Michael Legg, who is a member of the Law Society of New South Wales Future Committee and has a long history of research in the impact of technology on litigation and dispute resolution, will lead the FLIP Stream of research within the Hub. That work will explore some of the questions and issues raised in the Law Society’s FLIP report, including cutting-edge issues such as artificial intelligence and the practice of law, technological solutions to access to justice, unbundling of legal services and alternative fee arrangements.

"Technology presents both challenges and opportunities for the legal profession. Consideration needs to be given to how the legal profession and legal system will evolve while preserving core social and legal values, rights and protections," Professor Legg said. "The $250,000 per annum over five years from the Law Society will hugely benefit the legal system by aiming to provide answers to some the questions posed in the FLIP report."

UNSW Law Dean Professor George Williams AO said the benefits and opportunities for students, the university and industry that would flow from the new Hub and FLIP Stream were enormous.

"This is incredibly important and necessary work that will have an impact upon some of the most important debates facing the community and the legal profession. The key is driving meaningful change and policy development for the real world.

"I would like to thank Allens and the Law Society of NSW for their generous sponsorship which will see UNSW Law continue to set the standard for Australian legal education, research and public engagement,” Professor Williams said.

Anna Collyer, Partner and Head of Innovation at Allens, said the firm was delighted to be working with UNSW on this market-leading work to address the impact of disruption on the legal system.

"Technological advancements are causing significant disruption at all levels of our economy, with the law in many cases unable to keep up with the pace of change. We are seeing major impacts on the regulatory landscape, the challenges faced by our clients and the way lawyers do their work," Ms Collyer said.

"The response of the law and lawyers to innovation will play a huge role in defining the benefits Australian businesses derive from new technologies and ways of working. It is essential that the law strikes the right balance between helping and hindering in this period of disruption.

"We look forward to connecting academic thought leadership with the insights and experience of our clients."

Chief Executive Officer at The Law Society of NSW Michael Tidball said technology was speeding up the drive for greater efficiency in the practice of law and legal services as well as making access to justice easier, cheaper and more effective.

"The development of low-cost or free solutions will also resonate with future generations including Millennials who turn to the digital world first for products, services and support," Mr Tidball said

President of The Law Society of NSW Pauline Wright said technology could be deployed to fill the "access to justice gap" for vulnerable and disadvantaged people in the community, including Indigenous people and those living in rural, regional and remote areas.

"Supporting initiatives like this are important to ensure that any innovative new solutions embody ethics and design principles that are premised on improving access to justice for the needy," Ms Wright said.

More information on the Allens Hub for Technology, Law & Innovation, including research and study opportunities, is available here.

More information on the Report on the Commission of Inquiry into the Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession is available here.

About Associate Professor Lyria Bennett Moses, UNSW Law

Lyria is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law at UNSW Sydney. Her research explores issues around the relationship between technology and law, including the types of legal issues that arise as technology changes, and how these issues are addressed in Australia and other jurisdictions. She is a Project Lead on the Law and Policy Program of the Data to Decisions Cooperative Research Centre, exploring issues around the government’s use of data and analytics for law enforcement and national security purposes. She teaches courses that compare legal and policy responses to new technologies in different jurisdictions and that teach law students how to build tools to enhance access to justice. Associate Professor Bennett Moses is the Academic Lead of UNSW’s fourth Grand Challenge, Living with 21st Century Technology. She is also Chair of the Australia Chapter of the IEEE Society on the Social Implications of Technology and a PLuS Alliance Fellow.

About Professor Michael Legg, UNSW Law

Michael Legg was a member of the Law Society of New South Wales Future Committee that conducted the Inquiry into the Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession (FLIP). He has an extensive research record in relation to the impact of technology on litigation and dispute resolution. Michael also has significant practical experience having been admitted as a solicitor in New South Wales and as an attorney in New York. He is also the Director of the IMF Bentham Class Actions Research Initiative at UNSW Law and was named Academic of the Year at the 2017 Lawyers Weekly Australian Law Awards.