By the SMU Social Media Team
Today’s legal system is undergoing a major shift with the rise of technology and digital business models. As such, legal practices are required to embrace innovative technologies that can support changing sectors, as technology, big data and artificial intelligence become a greater part of our daily lives.
In recent years, due to disruptions brought about by the pandemic and digital innovation, the alternative legal service provider (ALSP) sector has also experienced rapid growth. This dynamic industry is propelled by tech-driven tools and services, providing a unique value proposition that meets the complex needs of fast-evolving businesses.
Asst Prof Lim How Khang, Director of the Bachelor of Science (Computing & Law) Programme, and the Centre for Computational Law at SMU
“The rise of ALSPs means that computing and law talent will be in demand as ALSPs rely on technology as a key driver for competitive advantage,” says Lim How Khang, Assistant Professor of Law and Information Systems; Director of the Bachelor of Science (Computing & Law) Programme; and Director of the Centre for Computational Law at SMU.
With this in mind, SMU School of Computing and Information Systems (SCIS) has launched a new Bachelor of Science (Computing & Law) degree to groom IT professionals adept at bridging technology and law. It will equip students with skillsets in IT and business innovation, operating IT and business innovations within a legal framework, and employing IT in legal practice. Beyond a solid foundation in Computing and Law, students will specialise in advanced technology tracks to become future-ready for Business and Public Sectors, Consulting and Finance Sectors, as well as the Legal Sector.
We speak with Asst Prof Lim to learn four ways lawyers of tomorrow can benefit from a practice set in a digital context:
1. Specialise in advanced technology tracks
Whether it’s a smaller startup, Big 4 accounting firm or industry disrupter, technology-enabled legal services are experiencing a huge growth in demand in this digital economy. The legal professionals of tomorrow will have an edge with the ability to leverage the power of computing, connected data and artificial intelligence to enhance one’s value proposition.
“ALSPs are generally process-oriented, more tech-enabled, and can provide better-packaged services around legal-related work for lower costs,” says Asst Prof Lim.
Compared to law firms, according to Asst Prof Lim, ALSPs are better set up to bank on data, technology and a more diverse pool of talent to accumulate and deliver process expertise that better suits their clients’ needs, especially in areas involving repeat transactions where bespoke legal services are not required.
At SMU, students have the choice of choosing a Second Major from options offered by all the SMU schools. This includes BSc (Computing & Law) students who can either add to their computing knowledge by pursuing a Second Major in Computing Studies, or choose some other area altogether. As Asst Prof Lim explains: “This gives students the flexibility to tailor their degree according to their interests and market demands.”
2. Demand for multidisciplinary, tech-savvy lawyers in a digital economy
As digital technologies permeate more organisations, the need for lawyers with a deep understanding of global data and cybersecurity protection issues, as well as intellectual property is on an uptick.
“Law firms themselves have also started to spin off their versions of ALSPs to capture a part of this growing market,” observes Asst Prof Lim, who also notes that in-house legal departments are coming under pressure to reduce legal and compliance costs and, like all other corporate functions, are increasingly expected to leverage technology to achieve efficiency goals.
He also shares that widespread data collection and the increasing deployment of technologies such as AI and machine learning have given rise to issues involving trust, privacy and responsible use of technology.
“Governments and companies need to urgently address these issues and risks, and will need to rely more on interdisciplinary expertise to deal with them,” adds Asst Prof Lim.
3. Enhance employment outcomes
With so many opportunities for growth, legal technologists will find themselves suited for a range of career tracks. These include positions in multinational organisations, for example, with a need for global compliance and cyber protection; government sectors tackling changing demands of a digital society, and financial institutions with a strong commitment to fintech.
The public sector will also see increased demand for policy roles involving technology, while technology companies will require legal specialists with a background in data science, risk management professionals, ethics and compliance experts and contracts managers who deal with technological services like data storage, machine learning and artificial intelligence.
4. Legal tech tools to increase automation and productivity and drive down costs
The current pandemic has upended many industries, building up demand for legal tech due to increased cost-consciousness, a need to optimise digital workflows triggered by working from home legal teams, and online court procedures. Such tools may become part and parcel of the post-Covid legal framework.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has also accelerated the rise in demand for tech-savvy legal professionals because the delivery of legal services will need to be updated to meet the demands of the digital economy,” says Asst Prof Lim.
Furthermore, flaws in entrenched methods of delivering legal services like hard copy data storage and billing systems, manual due diligence tasks and unproductive in-person meetings became apparent during the pandemic, highlighting how future legal providers will require multidisciplinary capabilities to align with changing business structures. Besides virtual court sessions, e-filing of documents and remote notaries, lawyers of tomorrow need to be armed with the technological know-hows to lead the digital revolution—a key step towards increasing efficiency, productivity and transparency in the legal world.
The SMU Bachelor of Science in Computing and Law is a unique blend of two intellectually demanding disciplines that will prepare graduates for a fast-changing world. Ready for the challenge? Find out more about the programme here.