The University of Manchester School of Law (UoM) has partnered with global law firm Freshfields and legal AI company, Neota Logic, to launch a new course on legal technology. It will offer participants the opportunity to learn how to build tech-based applications that improve access to justice, which can then be applied in other areas of legal practice.
The course, which begins in January 2019, is called ‘Legal Tech and Access to Justice’, and will be introduced as an optional module for undergraduate students in their final year.
It has been made possible by Freshfields’ sponsorship of Neota’s software licence and provision of course materials.
As part of the capstone project for the semester, students will engage with non-profit organisations that promote access to justice to build an application that is specific to their needs, to drive efficiency in the organisation and free up resources. Through the subject students will learn how technology can be used ‘to provide fast and accurate answers to common legal problems’.
This is one of many legal education projects that Neota has conducted with universities around the world, from Georgetown in the US, to law schools in Australia. The company sees this type of legal tech initiative as a win-win. Students get a chance to learn about legal technology and to build applications using the company’s well-developed expert system platform, e.g. to create a legal Q&A service to help people find out their rights on a certain issue.
This then helps to create a wider pool of incoming lawyers who understand expert systems and how to apply them in the law. Whether they go into the public law or legal aid sector, or aim for a large commercial law firm that might wield Neota Logic’s tech internally, the result is the tech-savvy ecosystem grows bigger.
Artificial Lawyer covered its programme in detail back in March, which sets out many of its other projects and their outcomes. Check it out here.
Meanwhile, Freshfields, the London-based global law firm, has long been a supporter of legal tech and innovation, sponsoring events and being a major user of legal AI and other new tech solutions.
Freshfields hosted a legal apps hackathon last week in Frankfurt, also with Neota Logic.
Isabel Parker, Chief Legal Innovation Officer at Freshfields, said: ‘As the landscape of legal service delivery continues to evolve, an important priority for us is training the next generation of lawyers to be confident in using tools like Neota, which both allow us to support our clients’ digital agendas and to leverage the most innovative technology.’
Neota added that with the introduction of the SQE (the new English pathway for qualifying as a lawyer, which allows a much more flexible way of earning experience), fast approaching, the University of Manchester has been exploring ways to take advantage of the flexibility this new format gives to institutions to offer courses in innovation and technology to law students.
Professor Toby Seddon, Head of the UoM Law School said: ‘We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with Neota Logic and Freshfields on this exciting new course for our undergraduate students. We’re proud that Manchester is leading the way amongst UK universities in introducing legal technology into the LLB curriculum. The world of legal services is changing and law students need to be learning about it.’
Maeve Lavelle, Director of Education at Neota Logic, EMEA, concluded: ‘Legal technology has seen a surge in interest lately, and we don’t see that trend slowing down. Manchester has a robust legal tech pipeline for their students. We’re very excited to be working with them and Freshfields to bring our educational programme to the UK for the first time and give students the opportunity to explore legal careers outside of the traditional path.’