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‘Whilst you’re not working on better ways of working, someone else is’

As technology becomes more and more prevalent within the legal sphere, innovation is important to impart to lawyers early on in their careers, particularly through legal education.

user iconLauren Croft 31 March 2023 Big Law
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Liz Chase is a mentor and lawyer at Leo Cussen Centre for Law, and Noel Lim is the chief executive officer of Anika Legal.

Speaking on The Lawyers Weekly Show, produced in partnership with Leo Cussen Centre for Law, the pair revealed how innovation could solve numerous problems within the profession — and the importance of innovation within education.

For law students and budding lawyers, being able to access more innovative legal education will mean developing a mindset on what is possible, as well as a disruptive mindset, according to Ms Chase, who said that “the legal profession is not serving the community it is designed to serve”.


“With the benefit of innovation and the mindsets and the adaptability, emerging lawyers will be equipped to, I guess, really be part of the conversation in relation to change from a very early stage in their career. And they’re going to learn skills which are highly marketable and valuable to employers, regardless of the area of practice they’re in,” she said.

“Creative problem solving, collaboration, leveraging technology to optimise the way they deliver their services. Empathy is a big one that we teach as part of our course, and really understanding, a big focus on client and user experience, these human-centred models and modes of thinking, which are really very modern and desirable by employers.”

This means that lawyers coming through the ranks will have a number of new and exciting prospects. But for those feeling overwhelmed at the endless possibilities moving forward, Mr Lim said that the best preparation is “doing what a lawyer does”.

“That’s talking to clients, drafting advice, negotiating with the other side. It’s having end-to-end responsibility for the case and feeling what it feels like to actually be responsible for the client outcome. And that is something which theoretical units or placements where you’re not doing casework, those aren’t substitutes for those things. You can only develop those specific skills when you’re taking real cases, when you’re speaking to real people.

“That applies broadly. If you gain experience in talking to clients, you’ll know how to do that in a community setting and a commercial setting. If you take cases end to end, you’ll understand how the law works. And those are the building blocks that the next generation of lawyers will need so that they can, first off, be an effective lawyer and hit the ground running, but also understand things on a level where they can start to form a critical view,” he explained.

“I think that’s the tremendous value that law students can expect when they throw themselves into situations where they’re taking real cases, they have end-to-end responsibility, and that’s the beauty of the legal education technology. These opportunities were previously quite difficult to obtain, but they’re getting easier, and law students are able to get that preparation before they hit the job market so they can hit the ground running.”

In addition, students who take innovative legal education courses will experience flow-on benefits throughout their careers.

“The most important skills that will give law students the main benefits are those around transferable skills. You can pick up the area of law. You’re probably going to need to relearn these anyway if you learn them theoretically at university, and not to mention, it’s a completely different thing applying it in a real-world setting.

“The most important thing is to learn the skills that sit across all the areas of law. It’s talking to your client; it’s negotiating with the other side. What do you do when your client is crying when you’re speaking to them? What happens if the other side is being completely unreasonable and borderline threatening? You don’t get those things in problem questions on your exam, or even in placements where you’re not taking the casework. And so, those are the most important skills,” Mr Lim explained.

“Those are going to reap the biggest benefits for lawyers and make them employable in the future. And if you ask me who I would like to represent me in an area of law, if I have to choose between a student who’s studied the area of law and a student who’s never looked at the area of law but has experience negotiating with the other side, I’m going to choose the one with negotiation experience every time, because I back then to learn how to do a good job, learn the law, and do a good job negotiating. I’d be less confident in the student just picking up negotiation.”

Consequently, the current legal landscape is one that’s “ripe for disruption”, insisted Ms Chase.

“If you’re not adaptable, and if you’re not embracing new ways of working and new ways of doing, you won’t be relevant, and that’s actually, quite simply, a fact. There are, of course, people that are a bit more afraid of change, or not seeing the imperative yet. They don’t see what’s actually on the horizon,” she said.

“It’s been a very busy couple of years. The biggest problem for law firms hasn’t been what we thought, that all the work’s dried up and there’s no money going around. In fact, there’s been an abundance of work, and we haven’t been able to secure talent. So, they’re more worried about being able to keep up with the work, so they’re not really feeling that pressure of being competitive or attracting clients in the way that you might think. But the very fact of the matter is that, whilst you’re not working on better ways of working, someone else is.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Liz Chase and Noel Lim, click below: