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Globalisation and technology are key shapers of legal education, finds IBA and LSGL research

Blueprint for Global Legal Education | IE Law School

A report published today cites internationalisation and technological disruption as the key trends and opportunities in the field of global legal education, as well as the root of many challenges facing legal educators.

The research for the report, entitled Developing a Blueprint for Global Legal Education, was undertaken by the International Bar Association (IBA) and the Law Schools Global League (LSGL), with coordination by IE Law School.

Fernando Peláez-Pier, former president of the IBA commented, ‘There is a need for law faculties around the world to adjust their blueprints to include all the new skills that lawyers require to meet the demand for legal services in the 21st century and to practice law effectively and competitively. The findings of this report are particularly poignant in the context of COVID-19, which has highlighted the importance of technological adoption in the sector.”

Developing a Blueprint for Global Legal Education aims to help legal education institutions navigate ongoing paradigm changes and offer a legal education model that responds to current needs of the legal profession. The research was conducted by eight researchers, with the assistance of four supporters from seven regions around the world – Africa, Asia, Australia, Canada, the European Union, Hong Kong, Latin America and the United Kingdom. The researchers analysed more than 200 articles of relevant literature; scrutinised 420 school websites; received over 300 responses to online surveys; and held interviews with more than 60 law schools and bar associations across the globe.

Soledad Atienza, Dean of IE Law School said, ‘We have seen that only a few law schools achieve a sophisticated level of internationalisation. These institutions include a full internationalisation process to achieve programmes that allow graduates to obtain legal qualifications for more than one jurisdiction, which is hugely beneficial in our interconnected world where students are crossing borders with greater frequency.’

‘There is a need for law faculties around the world to adjust their blueprints to include all the new skills that lawyers require to meet the demand for legal services in the 21st century and to practice law effectively and competitively”

Trends and Challenges 

The Blueprint outlines a range of trends and key challenges, ranked by importance and categorised by region, that law schools are embracing and/or facing, together with existing and suggested responses that some schools are already taking and others could adopt.
The key challenges identified include:

  • Globalisation – the number one trend in legal education. Legal institutions around the world are working on becoming more international. However, they are introducing elements of internationalisation, rather than a complete overhaul to attain the full internationalisation of legal education;
  • Technology is being used in legal practice in ways that were inconceivable a few years prior. The impact of technology in legal practice and in education do not marry. COVID-19 has brought to the fore the requirement for technology to be prioritised as a teaching tool;
  • Regulation is regarded as the biggest challenge to innovation in legal education as frameworks that govern access to the legal profession can also hinder progress, and professional bodies, including law societies and bar associations, place restrictions on curriculum according to jurisdiction;
  • Diversity in all forms – including ethnicity, gender, culture and socioeconomic background – of both students and faculty members is also problematic. Lack of diversity and inclusion limits the experience of all pertaining to diversity of thoughts and ideas and ways of working, that people from different backgrounds, experiences and identities bring to the profession; and
  • Affordability and access to legal education among students have been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with law schools observing the chasm between those who can afford the necessary technology to pursue studies remotely, away from the law school environment, and those who cannot. Access to laptops, computers or smart phones for e-learning is a challenge that law schools currently face.

The results of the Blueprint were discussed on 10 November during the IBA 2020 Virtually Together Conference at the IBA Showcase: reinventing global legal education to address the ongoing transformation of the legal professions: a blueprint for change. A group of qualified experts representing law firms, in-house lawyers, national bars, organisations and regulators will participate in the Showcase, analysing Developing a Blueprint for Global Legal Education recommendations, as well as the key goals of the project, including to:

  • understand how globalisation, technology and the fourth industrial revolution, amongst other drivers, impact legal education globally;
  • identify the challenges that are common to legal education around the world, while recognising the significance of local contexts (cultural, regulatory, historical and so on) that frame these challenges;
  • identify and understand the main responses to those challenges by law schools globally, in particular, in official degrees;
  • identify the main challenges still present as well as the negative consequences of lack of adaptation;
  • develop shared solutions to the challenges while recognising the necessity of locally-sensitive solutions;
  • generate a compendium of best practices per jurisdiction;
  • generate a model or blueprint to assist law schools navigate the paradigm change; and
  • disseminate and implement the model, working with key stakeholders.

The joint initiative forms part of the ongoing research by the IBA’s Commission on the Future of Legal Services into the trends that are shaping the legal profession, chaired by Dr. Peláez-Pier alongside Dr, Soledad Atienza.

Members of the Commission include:

  • Sarah Hutchinson Chair, IBA Section on Public and Professional Interest (SPPI)
  • Amnon Lehavi President, LSGL
  • Gonçalo Matias President, LSGL
  • Ken Murphy Past Co-Chair, IBA Bar Executives Committee
  • Petra Zijp Past Co-Chair, IBA Capital Markets Forum

The International Bar Association(IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world’s bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

The Law Schools Global League (LSGL) brings together 25 law schools with a strong vision about the need to promote a global approach to legal education, research and impact upon society at large.

Download the full report here