The legal industry is changing now more than it has in the last few centuries; we’re seeing the emergence of AIs and automation breaking into the legal-sphere, as well as the growing sector of Alternative Legal Service Providers. Change, as we know, almost always carries with it a ripple effect, one that we’ve seen applied to Law Schools and their curriculums.
The Outlier Breaks Through
In 2018, the Law Society of Ontario endorsed Ryerson University’s Faculty of Law, ushering in a new Law School in the midst of Toronto’s highly competitive legal ecosystem. The Law School is due to open in the Fall of 2020, marking its presence among Toronto Law Schools like Osgoode Hall Law School and University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law. This is huge news, especially considering that before Ryerson decided to open a Faculty of Law, there were only two law schools in all of Toronto. If we’re considering the downtown core, there was only one.
On Ryerson’s Faculty of Law website, a slogan appears next to poised, yet modern looking, young professionals, “A new kind of law school has arrived”. The values of the Law School seem to be hinged on innovation, offering future students a chance to collaborate on ventures at the world’s first legal tech incubator. Legal tech is a burgeoning facet of law, companies like LawGeex and LegalUp have now automated the customization of legal documents and document review. Ryerson’s Faculty of Law would be among the first Law Schools in the world to integrate the teachings of legal-tech into its DNA, as the School’s website says, “We think tech-first, and our graduates will too.”. The JD program aims to equip its students with knowledge in AI, virtual reality, machine learning and more.
“Going to law school no longer implies that you will be a lawyer when you graduate.”
But that’s not all. The legal industry is now home to a new type of legal entity–and no it’s not another law firm–it’s a law company. Companies like LawFlex, Axiom and Elevate are law companies that operate with the mission to make law more accessible, more efficient and to ultimately transform the legal profession itself. A law degree means something entirely different than what it meant 20 years ago. Going to law school no longer implies that you will be a lawyer when you graduate. Ryerson’s law school preaches “Entrepreneurship is at the core” of their curriculum, that “graduates will gain the experience required to be nimble and business-minded.”.
Apart from its altered legal-tech focused DNA, Ryerson’s Faculty of Law differs from others in another crucial way. Its JD program is designed as an Integrated Practice Curriculum (IPC), meaning that students who graduate from the program will not be required to article or complete the Law Practice Program in order to be licensed as lawyers.
Ryerson’s Faculty of Law will attempt to merge tech and law in a cyborg-esque fashion, whether its innovative qualities hold up and benefit its students in their careers–only time will tell. For now, Ryerson’s Law School will remain an outlier in its uniquely modern curriculum, but perhaps it won’t stay an outlier for long. The legal-sphere is shifting, and many are shifting with it.