In Summary
  • The future of legal education and practice is full of uncertainties. Ideas, projections and prognostics vary and conflict with each other. No one knows exactly what will happen, but things will surely change; law practice will change and with it legal education too.
  • Change is about to happen. Civil and criminal procedure will become less complicated, IT-compliant, user-friendly, faster and cheaper. Paper-based lawyers will gradually be faced out by these high techies.
  • But most mature, seasoned and successful lawyers become uncomfortable when change is mentioned.
  • Lawyers will not disappear; social relations and conflict will always exist, but law adjudication, practice and learning will change.

The Ironmongers Hall in central London is strikingly beautiful. The carved old shields on its walls and ceilings covered in dark mahogany hide a rich history and plenty of traditions.

The hall had been beautifully arranged for the occasion. The lights had been purposely dimmed, and the bare cedar tables were adorned with candlesticks, stiff napkins and an impressive array of crockery, cutlery and glassware.

I had been invited to give a keynote address at the Slaughter & May’s 8th annual Practical and Legal Exchange African Symposium (PLEASe) dinner. The speech took place at the right time, just between the second course and the dessert. Everyone was silent and all eyes were on the podium. It felt like Harry Potter in Hogwarts School of Wizardry.

The future of legal education and practice is full of uncertainties. Ideas, projections and prognostics vary and conflict with each other. No one knows exactly what will happen, but things will surely change; law practice will change and with it legal education too.

Most mature, seasoned and successful lawyers become uncomfortable when change is mentioned. Everyone has finished the second course. The dessert had not yet come. There was pin drop silence.

Where will change happen? Where will innovation be born?

Developed countries with a more or less stable, though not perfect, rule of law, do not need to think outside the box. For them the box is big; it is their comfort zone where things continue operating predictably as they have always been.

The reality in developing countries is radically different. Our justice system is unpredictable, imperfect, uncomfortable and expensive. Students and young professionals in the justice sector have a very small box and they are constantly thinking outside the box.

In our countries, we have brilliant minds mingled with poor infrastructure, high levels of education hand in hand with corruption and inefficiency. Just the right mixture for innovation to happen.

Our world is changing; I have known young law students and graduates who have created amazing ventures like BarefootLaw.org, WakiliApp and innovation spaces such as the LawyersHub. I have had law students who have created profitable mobile apps like Fundi’s; youngsters like Grace, Nichole or Maria who have taught themselves python; law students who love mathematics, finance, programming and economics.

The fear of math, IT and sciences

In the past, any law student would fear mathematics, IT, science… Today, they are becoming more daring and many can swim comfortably in the deep end, where collaboration happens…where law meets information technology, finance, statistics, etc. They are not afraid of numbers, codes and formulas.

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