What is FLIP Stream?
A strategic alliance between the Law Society of NSW and UNSW Law, FLIP Stream aims to tackle the challenges of technological change and its impact on lawyers, law and the legal system. 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 will undertake research into an annual topic that will then be disseminated through the academy, the profession and society. Topics covered so far include:
Building trust: Lawyers’ relationships with clients and colleagues online
Trust has a special place for the lawyer as the archetypal ‘trusted advisor’. It is fundamental to professional work, which is premised on the specialised knowledge of the professional and comes with substantial legal, fiduciary, and professional ethics obligations (to the client, the courts, the profession, and the justice system) – all designed to support that trust. Trust drives and enables ‘not just the professions, but our economy and our society’. When there is high trust, procedures and transactions are quicker and less costly.
This primer on Building Trust explores trust and the client relationship online and how to manage (hybrid) workers from home.
The future of legal service delivery
In 2017, the Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession (FLIP) Report noted that new forms of law firms were emerging in New South Wales, indicating the early stages of a flourishing and innovative market. Interest in whether and how ‘NewLaw’ and law firm business structures might impact innovation led to the current study. The project interviewed 24 partners or their delegates in legal practices which held themselves out as utilising innovative practices in their organisation. The research questions for the study were:
- How are business structures perceived as supporting strategic and innovative goals?
- What are the core beliefs and ideals underpinning what innovative law firms provide their clients?
- What is the value that innovative law firms are providing to their lawyers?
Law firms have distinguished themselves based on the business model that they have adopted and business structures have been established with the aim of providing value to clients. Discussion around this value centred not only on the introduction of new technology but also focused on pricing, communication, and legal advice. Furthermore, law firms were looking to build an organisational culture that supported their lawyers.
All these themes, highlighting sources of innovation, are discussed in detail in this primer.
The sustainability of law and lawyers
Legal design has recently been making its way into lawyers’ consciousness. Yet legal design is still ‘nascent’, and there is not always consensus as to what it means, what it looks like, and what it can achieve. Perhaps the best-known advocate of legal design is Margaret Hagan, Director of the Legal Design Lab at Stanford University. In Law by Design, Hagan’s online book on design thinking, she says that the benefits of legal design are:
1. Improved Problem Solving
2. Client-centred Services
3. Better Communication
4. Richer Legal Profession
5. Better Legal Organisations and Worklife
6. New Products and Services.
This Primer provides background on design thinking and its key ideas, sets out Hagan’s legal design process and gives some additional examples of legal design projects.
In case you don't have time to read the full primer and would just like a quick overview, we've pulled together a two page Quick Guide to Legal Design.
The future of legal costs and legal fees - time based billing and alternative fee arrangements
Central to sustainability are lawyers and law firms that are economically viable. Consequently, legal fees have been singled out as the lifeblood of the legal profession, crucial to the livelihood of the majority of lawyers. Time based billing, or the billable hour, has been the source of law firm vitality for at least the past 30 years. However, increased competitive pressures on law firms, changes in client demand and advances in technology has seen law firms put forward innovative methods of charging.
In this primer, Dr Michael Legg of UNSW Law examines the new methods of charging to assist solicitors in understanding how each operates and the advantages and disadvantages of employing them. It also sets out how alternative fee arrangements can be structured and developed to create a win-win for both the lawyer and the client and explores whether there is a bias towards the billable hour that hampers the adoption of creative forms of fee arrangement in suitable situations.
Change leadership for lawyers - webcast available on demand
In the current climate, understanding how to manage change – whether transformational or crisis-driven, planned or emergent – is even more vital. How do you bring in innovations that address real problems faced by the profession? How, in the process, can you create a change-ready culture where lawyers are interested in, and ready and rewarded for those changes?
Dr Justine Rogers and Dr Felicity Bell of UNSW Law present their research findings on the 2019 FLIP Stream topic: Change leadership for Lawyers. As part of this research, Drs Rogers and Bell interviewed change leaders from across the legal profession, and these findings will be presented during the webcast. The Change Leadership Primer - now available below, will provide an in depth exploration of the research conducted by the FLIP Stream team and will serve as a valuable resource to help you thrive as a change leader.
Artificial Intelligence and the legal profession
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.
About the authors
The FLIP Stream is primarily conducted by Professor Michael Legg, Dr Justine Rogers and Dr Felicity Bell:
Prof. Michael Legg,
Dr. Justine Rogers,
Dr. Felicity Bell,
Background to FLIP Stream
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. The Law Society is encouraged and excited by this alliance, knowing that our members and the people we serve will be the ultimate benefactors.
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, rights and 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 disadvantaged 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.