Legal Practice Course Teachers: What Can Their Stories Tell Us (Willis J)

I read this 2010 paper today and strongly identified with the qualitative research compiled by Judith Willis from interviews with LPC tutors.

Although the paper focussed on the personal and professional stories of tutors, there were inevitably many points, questions, issues and opinions expressed about the student experience as a result of the tutors’ background and teaching. I noted one point in particular:

“The LPC aims to instil relevance into the learning process for the students. Barab
and Duffy examined the concept of communities of practice and identified that in fact
formal education, where it seeks to prepare students for work, more nearly resembles
“practice fields” in that they are not linked to society. They lack “authenticity” a
complaint echoed in the student responses to the Law Society study. They argue that Lave and Wenger’s “situated learning” takes place in society and a classroom can only
be a close approximation.”

I wouldn’t disagree with that except that I think we can bridge the gap between society and the classroom if we only stop teaching (or rather training) professional legal practice in isolation. Use of simulated clients for the training of practical legal skills for instance. Allowing trainees to develop skills in a realistic but safe environment which allows legitimate peripheral participation, advanced under supervision, until the learner becomes the expert.  As Willis says, “The LPC could be risking leaving students to sink or swim in the community of practice they enter.” Let’s not do that anymore.

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Professional Doctorate

So, in January 2016 I started a Professional Doctorate course at NTU. A four to seven year quest to obtain a doctorate in Legal Practice and an opportunity to throw myself completely into a subject of great interest to me.

Whilst working as the Academic Lead in Law at the University of Derby Online Learning, I had the privilege of attending a conference where the keynote speaker was Etienne Wenger. I had one of those rare epiphanies when I realised that the concept of communities of practice developed by Etienne was my experience in professional legal practice and yet one that was not the basis of the legal practice course that I had designed and taught. I saw true value and merit in the concept as a pivot for professional legal education for the solicitors’ profession and I was enthused to explore how that could be developed.

This is the story of my professional doctorate. It is a story that is already a year long, had many ups and downs, many highs and lows, but one on which I have a renewed vigour and a determination to succeed. Current state of play is a research proposal that has been accepted: Do LPC students work in a community of practice and does the presence or absence of a community of practice affect the students’ identity with the solicitors’ profession? I have been carrying out a literature review as part of the second document I have to submit and this is where we pick up the story……..

Accountants to dominate Legal Management Service market?

In the past, the threat to commercial law firms from the big accountancy boys may not have been taken entirely seriously. Doubt as to whether the accountants were really interested in becoming legal service main players, or whether they just looked on legal services as part of a one-stop, full commercial advice service, has always been there. A lot of reliance (perhaps too much) was placed on the depth of legal advice that could be offered by law firms in comparison to the accountants. Law after all is the core business of law firms, whereas the accountants, although at a huge advantage in terms of influence through their auditing service, had legal departments that arguably operated more in a support role.

That would no longer seem to be the case if the news from PwC concerning their Learning Management Service (‘LMS’) points to the future of legal service provision.

 

PwC Sets Out Its AI-Powered NewLaw Strategy

The law, commercial law in particular, must now be viewed as data. Data contained in documents, data contained in judgments…data that can be analysed, compared, selected, predicted and assessed. That being the case, the organisations with the greatest amount of data and the resource to process that data accurately will be the major players in the market. As the above article mentions, the big accountancy firms have the greatest reach globally and therefore the best contacts and network among commercial organisations. If they decide to throw their weight behind the use of AI in the provision of legal services then they could easily dominate the LMS market.

This post from Tim Corcoran’s ‘Business of Law’ blog may seem obvious to some but is actually a very good, concise analysis of the way that business should be done. Any business that is, not just the business of legal services.

In my own field of legal education, which (sadly) is itself a business nowadays, the same principles should apply. And yet I’ve seen first hand in a number of commercial sectors that even to this day, in a world where analytics are ubiquitous and more prevalent than ever before, this is not so.

Business would do well to heed Tim’s advice. Transparency breeds trust and trust delivers longevity and perhaps even more importantly sustainability and success.

5 tips to increase writing productivity

I’m determined to write more in future, starting in the new year. I think it the past I’ve made the mistake of believing there isn’t time to write that crafting a piece, an article, a paper, whatever is something that must be undertaken in hermetic isolation. All too quickly you can succumb to to the farmiliar excuse that there just isn’t enough time amongst all the other tasks of the day and that writing is not a priority. That’s why I found this article on the Evernote blog so interesting. 

5 tips to increase writing productivity