Published: 05th July 2021
Legal education needs to be digitised, but lacks trained teachers: Why an AI-powered moot court may be the future of law schools
The study pointed out the discrepancies of the current system and asked experts from various aspects of law to compile a list of suggestions that can be used as a handbook to start the digital journey
India has been discussing the revamp of the education system at length ever since the National Education Policy came out in 2020. But are we paying enough attention to professional edu-curriculums like legal education? New age lawyers, today, are practising law in a digital world but their education is still based on the same old syllabus. There is an urgent need to revamp, redesign and digitise the legal curriculum, said a study by the BML Munjal School of Law and legal consultation firm, Vahura.
The study pointed out the discrepancies of the current system and asked experts from various aspects of law to compile a list of suggestions that can be used as a handbook to start the digital journey. But how will the digital aspect come into the curriculum? Dr Nigam Nuggehalli, Professor, School Of Law at the BML Munjal University said that the study looks at the impact of different kinds of technology powered by software, and augmented by AI and machine learning. "We would like law students to first understand what technology is all about, what its role in our society is, culture and the economy, and then consider legal responses to technology. Consequently, we propose that the law curriculum approach the integration of technology and the law in a progressive fashion, starting from technology basics and culminating in a more in-depth study of the interplay between law and technology in various sectors such as healthcare, biotechnology and social media," he added.
The study also suggests something cool. An AI-powered mock trial where one can practice their arguments. But a major part of a courtroom is human interpretation and the ability to convince. Will AI be able to ape that? Dr Nuggehalli said that it ideally should be a transparent process without emotions being involved and the AI will be able to do it seamlessly. "The idea of an AI-powered court is enticing because it will lead to a more transparent, less cumbersome process, and at least for decisions that do not require complex legal reasoning, it will help the judges in arriving at decisions more quickly," said the professor. "However, AI, while bringing with it certain efficiencies, will also bring in its wake its own set of unique issues and concerns and we must be mindful of that. We must be careful to avoid AI and machine learning-based platforms inheriting the biases that are already present in the system relating to sexism, class, caste and other factors," he added.
To integrate tech in the law syllabus and for a complete overhaul to be successful, the institutes would also need teachers and trainers who are comfortable with the tech themselves. so, should the journey start with trainers' training then? "I think we are headed towards a situation where law schools must undertake this kind of training themselves. We will need people who understand technology, and who are comfortable with an integrated application of a wide variety of legal issues (property, contract, tax, corporate). Such experts are not readily available. All law schools are going to face a shortage of faculty who can seamlessly integrate tech issues into the law syllabus," said Dr Nuggehalli.
The study also talks about gaps in personal development skills. Dr Nuggehalli said that the study suggests that personal development skills are all the more important because technology will take care of the routine back end legal work leaving the part that needs to talk to clients and interact with people to the humans. "So it is extremely important that law students graduating in a tech-dominated world understand the values of teamwork, empathy and emotional intelligence. How personal development skills can be taught in law schools is an incredibly difficult question to answer. I don’t have a ready answer. I am also scouting around for technology-led teaching and learning platforms that enable students to work together and help them learn to be more effective team players," he added.
Dr Nuggehalli accepted that what they are proposing, like any other systemic change, will take some time to take shape. But he also said that law students should widen their reading in tech law and policy in the meantime and help themselves. "There are some excellent blogs on the net and lawyers like Rahul Mathan (one of the panelists at the BMU Law Conclave) write regularly on tech law and policy issues. Law students should try to obtain internships in the legal departments of tech companies and with civil society groups devoted to tech policy issues. Above all, law students must try to understand why technology is disrupting business models and try to understand the underlying trends and patterns in the tech revolution," he added.