This year’s Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession (flip) inquiry heard from over 100 witnesses – both from within and outside of the legal profession – by way of separate interviews and written submissions, which allowed the society to uncover a total of 12 key findings as well as put forward 19 recommendations.
The purpose of the report is to help lawyers better understand and tackle future challenges and opportunities facing the profession.
NSW Law Society president Pauline Wright said lawyers are not immune to rapid changes brought about by globalisation, new technology and the evolving needs and expectations of the public and clients.
“The Law Society was determined to better understand the forces at play in our profession and help arm our members with the insights, knowledge and skills needed to succeed and thrive in the future,” she said.
Past society president and chair of the Future Committee Gary Ulman echoed this sentiment, saying that the year-long project was ambitious but necessary for the legal community.
“We weren’t afraid to set ourselves an ambitious task – our inquiry aimed to not only investigate key trends shaping our industry, but also develop practical recommendations to help future-proof our profession,” he said.
A copy of the final report reveals that the first recommendation is for the NSW Law Society to actively facilitate information sharing across all sectors of the profession about developments in legal technology, work process improvement and client-focused service.
The second recommendation is that the Law Society establish a centre for legal innovation projects to assist the profession in embracing new and emerging ideas and technologies.
The third recommendation is that the Law Society consider setting up an incubator in the state, which is dedicated to technology-enabled innovation in the law.
The fourth recommendation is that the Law Society help solicitors share information about new ways of working, while the fifth recommendation is that the Law Society sponsor an annual hackathon for community legal assistance.
The sixth recommendation is that the Law Society advocate for appropriate funding for community legal assistance, in light of the suggested reductions of Commonwealth funding for the matter due to take effect on 1 July this year.
The seventh recommendation is that the Law Society augment its participation in consultations with courts, tribunals and community stakeholders to ensure that innovations are carefully designed and implemented.
The eighth recommendation is that the Law Society communicate the report’s detailed findings to the Council of Law Deans, Legal Profession Admission Board, NSW, and the Admissions Committee of the Legal Services Council. The recommendation noted that this will help further research and consideration that should be given to the seven areas of skills and knowledge identified as necessary for law graduates.
The ninth recommendation put forward is that the Law Society bear in mind the risk of adverse mental health impacts when crafting strategy, delivering training or drafting material to assist members with change.
Adding to this, the 10th recommendation is that the Law Society integrate wellbeing into CPD and change and innovation projects.
The 11th recommendation is that the Law Society empower solicitors to better plan and implement change within practices by educating and disseminating information developed by appropriately qualified and experienced experts. The inquiry noted that this will help solicitors make informed decisions about organisational strategies and manage change within their business.
The 12th recommendation is that the Law Society promote diversity and monitor impacts of flexible work arrangements.
The 13th recommendation is that the Law Society include regular short courses that cover practical topics on private international law in CPD offerings.
The 14th recommendation is that the Law Society write to the Attorney-General to seek that the Australian Law Reform Commission be asked to identify any domestic laws that hamper Australian courts and arbitrators being able to efficiently and effectively deal with cross-border disputes and to suggest reforms.
The 15th recommendation is that the Law Society research the efficacy of online legal documents, including analysing complaints made by consumers.
The 16th recommendation is that the Law Society investigate in bringing legal information within the regulatory fold, while the 17th recommendation is that the Law Society actively raise awareness among the public of the value of legal advice.
The 18th recommendation is that the Law Society draft guidance for lawyers to operate as entrepreneurs and businesses.
Meanwhile, the 19th and final recommendation is that the Law Society assist solicitors by continuing to investigate strategies to reduce the impact of regulatory barriers.
The flip inquiry is a product of the NSW Law Society’s Future Committee, which has been established last year.
NSW Law Society chief executive Michael Tidball said that the flip inquiry produced something not seen before in Australia, offering a way forward in response to the many emerging challenges hitting the legal profession.
“Through extensive research and stakeholder engagement, the society’s Future Committee has been successful in producing a report which will help guide the future of our profession for many years to come,” he concluded.