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Dean of IE Law School discusses the future of legal education at enlightED

Javier Cendra | IE Law School

Javier de Cendra led a discussion panel on "Reinventing Legal Education in the Era of the Tech Revolution" at enlightED in Madrid. Leading experts discussed the main challenges faced by legal education, including technology, globalization and ethics.

“Law schools have forgotten what it means to train lawyers… Law is a vocation designed to help others.” This is how Javier de Cendra, Dean of IE Law School, opened the eye-opening discussion entitled Reinventing Legal Education in the Era of the Tech Revolution at enlightED in Madrid.

The talk, which took place on the massive enlightED stage, included three expert panelists: Almudena Arpón de Mendívil, Secretary-General of the International Bar Association (IBA); Jorge Cerdio, from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México; and Gonzalo Matías, representing the Católica Global School of Law and Co-President of the Law School´s Global League.


Law and innovation

Javier , who is focused on transforming legal education to adapt it to the present and future global challenges, opened the discussion reviewing the current state of legal education—specifically in the United States—claiming that the field has been resistant to change. While panelists were all in agreement on this, they each had their own interesting theories and insights as to why.

According to Jorge Cerdio, “Many law school programs in the US have remained the same for 50 years. They are not incentivized to innovate because of the prestige that many traditional law schools carry with them.”

Gonzalo Matías agreed and identified three factors forcing the legal education sector to awaken from its stagnation: globalization, technology, and ethics.

“First of all, globalization, because law has always been national or state-specific. We can no longer teach law in this confined way.

“Second, technology, because we used to train lawyers to accumulate knowledge. That’s no longer the case. The database that was formerly in the brains of lawyers is now in a computer. That changes the way we train lawyers today.”

The third factor, he explains, is ethics, “because the lawyer is someone who collaborates with justice. When you replace lawyers with technology, the ethical element is brought into question. A machine can never replace ethics, because it’s part of the human judgment. So, it’s crucial that we train lawyers to be compassionate and ethical.”

“We are working to create a global blueprint of legal education for law schools to follow. The key to achieving this is to find a common thread and implement this model across the board. We need to gather law schools from around the world and compare practices, develop benchmarks, and raise awareness of standards”

Almudena Arpón de Mendívil agreed on that front, adding that “there is a mismatch in the skills that are increasingly required and what is taught at university. The capacity for passion, compassion, and ethics are human traits that we need to focus on. The focus should be on what lawyers can add to technology.”

Javier responded to these insights by posing the ever-present question: how, then, should we as legal professionals respond to technology moving forward?

Almudena posited that, as a society, we should take a step back and determine law’s importance in modern society. “Politicians, stakeholders, universities, and businesses must consider the importance of law today,” she explains.

However, Jorge placed more importance on being tech-savvy. “Lawyers need to design legislation to respond to technology… and in order to do that, they need to know how things work at the technological level,” he told the crowd. He also warned that lawyers must be prepared for the inevitable automation of certain law processes, and have a plan in place to respond to this shift.

Almudena Arpón de Mendívil, Secretary-General of the IBA, shares her vision on the main challenges posed to the evolving legal industry and how best to address them, in a discussion with Javier de Cendra.

The key reason why innovation is so important is that modern legal education models are fit to train legal professionals for the industrial revolution of the XIX century rather than for the technological revolution of the XXI century

Not the why, but the how

The speakers made it clear that technology will impact the legal field, and law schools must adapt to the change. The question is, what is the right way to do it? How can we ensure law schools don’t churn out lawyers who are no trained to practice law in the digital era?

In response to this, Gonzalo restated the importance of training law students globally and giving them extensive exposure to technology, which “requires a much more demanding and holistic legal education.”

Nonetheless, while certain schools are already making this shift, not all are—especially not across borders. This led on to Javier’s final question for the panelists: “How do we standardize legal education at a global level to ensure law moves in the same direction and without inconsistencies across jurisdictions?”

As Secretary-General of the International Bar Association (IBA), Almudena had a lot to contribute on the topic. Associations like the IBA, with collaboration of the Law School´s Global League, are working to create a “global blueprint of legal education” for law schools to follow. The key to achieving this, Almudena tells us, is to “find a common thread and implement this model across the board.”

Gonzalo agreed with this notion, elaborating: “We need to gather law schools from around the world and compare practices, develop benchmarks, and raise awareness of standards. The Law Schools Global League is already making headway with this across Europe, LATAM, and Asia, and members of the league such as IE Law School and the Católica Global School of Law are already setting an example of what modern legal education should look like.”


IE Law School’s involvement in enlightEd, South Summit and other international conferences is part of its ongoing commitment to driving innovation in the legal education sector. Learn more about our school here.