WHAT IS FLIP STREAM?
A strategic alliance between the Law Society of NSW and UNSW Law aims to tackle the challenges of technological change and its impact on lawyers, law and the legal system.
In 2016 the Law Society of NSW established the Future Committee and, in turn, the Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession (FLIP) Commission of Inquiry. In March 2017, the inquiry culminated in the Law Society’s ground-breaking FLIP Report, which discusses the future of the legal industry in the digital age.
The Report recognised the legal profession is undergoing change at a pace never before experienced and in unforeseen ways. This change has major ramifications for not just the legal profession, but for clients and society more generally, particularly in relation to access to justice.
In November 2017, the Law Society entered into a strategic alliance with University of New South Wales (UNSW) Law to generate a stream of research to consider and respond to the issues raised by the FLIP Report, such as legal technology, clients’ needs and expectations, new ways of working, community needs and legal education, artificial intelligence and the practice of law and technological solutions to facilitate improved access to justice.
This dedicated research stream will also tackle some of the increasingly complex challenges presented by digital and other technological transformations and its impact on lawyers, law and the legal system.
This strategic alliance, forged between a world-class university, UNSW, and the Law Society is a milestone of progress for both institutions and for the entire legal profession.
Our organisations are meeting the challenges and opportunities presented by technology and innovation in our operating environment head on, driven by a shared mission: to help equip Australian lawyers with the tools they need to confront the future with confidence and ease.
Each year the FLIP Stream, as it has become known, will undertake research into an annual topic that will then be disseminated through the academy, the profession and society. In 2018 the annual topic was Artificial Intelligence and the Legal Profession, led by Professor Michael Legg and Dr Felicity Bell. The 2019 topic on Change Management is led by Dr Justine Rogers. The FLIP Stream will also engage in and respond to other areas of research and law reform.
The Law Society is encouraged and excited by this alliance, knowing that our members and the people we serve will be the ultimate benefactors.
Artificial Intelligence and the legal profession: A primer
A key finding, from the 2017 FLIP Commission of Inquiry, was that legal practices are increasingly interested in and engaging with legal technology. One of those technologies was Artificial Intelligence (AI). However, lawyers’ level of understanding and use of technology was uneven across the profession.
AI has existed as a concept since the 1950s and the idea that AI could be applied to the law has been explored since the 1980s. However, over the years, progress in the development of AI has been cyclical, and interest in and funding of AI research has fluctuated, with a number of AI Winters in which progress stagnated. More recently AI has experienced a new Spring with significant leaps forward that have begun to carry over to legal practice.
This primer on Artificial Intelligence and the Legal Profession seeks to introduce the concept of AI and how it may be used in legal practice to lawyers. The discussion is introductory and aimed at raising the level of understanding of AI across the legal profession.
UNSW Law's Professor Michael Legg, a member of the Law Society of New South Wales Future Committee, has a long history of research in the impact of technology on litigation and dispute resolution, will lead the FLIP Stream of research. Professor Legg will also be joined by the dynamic Dr. Justine Rogers, Senior Lecturer in legal profession and legal ethics, as well as full/time research fellow Dr. Felicity Bell, an expert in the field of family law and legal professional ethics.
"Technology presents both challenges and opportunities for the legal profession. Consideration needs to be given to how the legal profession and legal system will evolve while preserving core social and legal values, right sand protections," Professor Michael Legg said.
Chief Executive Officer at The Law Society of New South Wales Michael Tidball said technology was speeding up the drive for greater efficiency in the practice of law and legal services as well as making access to justice easier, cheaper and more effective. Mr. Tidball has said:
These changes are particularly positive for the disadvantage people in the community we serve. However, the differing levels of skill and education in technology across the legal profession mean some solicitors will need more support and encouragement as new roles and areas of work emerge alongside advancements in legal technology. Technology including artificial intelligence also poses serious ethical and regulatory issues that require greater exploration.
The Law Society is encouraged and excited by this alliance, knowing that the solicitors of New South Wales and Australia and the people we serve will be the ultimate benefactors.