Australia's first specialist undergraduate legal major in legal technologies and future law practices is set to be launched early next year by the UTS Faculty of Law.
Available to all students enrolled in an undergraduate Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree, the Legal Futures and Technology Major aims to prepare graduates for careers in what is a rapidly evolving profession.
The major's unique content will include two capstone subjects, specialist electives and an internship opportunity in the legal futures and technology field. One of the capstone subjects, Applied Project, will ask students to practically solve real legal problems as way of examining how the law and technology intersect.
Associate Professor Penny Crofts, who lectures in the subjects of criminal law and criminology, said that though the major will focus heavily on using new legal technologies, it won't just be limited to looking at how technology has disrupted traditional legal processes.
"We want students to also consider how technology is causing doctrinal changes in law," she said. "Obviously, we know technology can be used to create solutions to certain legal problems, and that it can improve the delivery of legal services – but technology also causes legal problems.
"We don't want to limit the direction students can take."
Set to commence in Autumn Session 2018, the introduction of the major comes at a time when the legal industry is experiencing a period of unprecedented change, and educators are being forced to re-evaluate how to prepare law students for the legal industry of the future.
Dr Philippa Ryan, UTS Law lecturer and convener of the Disruptive Technologies and the Law subject, said that the unique major was an essential step in ensuring graduates were competitively placed in the field.
"The future lawyer must be well-versed in all things legal technology," she said. "Artificial intelligence is being used in writing and data analysis, legal research, and discovery processes. Online apps are managing dispute resolution and access to justice in the courts and in private practice. It's really important that UTS Law students are familiar with these different specialist applications.
"Whether it's a practical or theoretical appreciation of legal technology, the law student who possesses these skills will have a considerable edge in the competition for clerkships and graduate positions," she said.
The introduction of the new major is part of a number of faculty-wide initiatives to encourage engagement with future iterations of law; including the #breakinglaw Hackathon and the Allens Neota Logic UTS Law Tech Challenge for Social Justice.
"The changing nature of the legal profession makes it incumbent on us to reconsider traditional approaches to legal education," said Lesley Hitchens, Dean of UTS Law.
"At UTS, we have a reputation for being future-focused, and UTS Law shares that vision. The Legal Futures and Technology Major was developed out of a commitment to provide students with the requisite expertise to excel in an industry that increasingly values non-traditional innovative skills."
The Legal Futures and Technology Major will accept the first intake of LLB students in their penultimate year as of Autumn Session 2018.