Law Society of Ireland among global leaders in professional education technology.
Today’s client is more plugged-in and digitally literate than ever before, and savvy clients require savvy solicitors to meet their legal needs.
Recognising the solicitors’ profession’s to help meet the challenges of an increasingly digital world, the Law Society of Ireland has transformed its professional practice course to become a global leader in educational technology.
Proud of tradition, prepared for the future
The law, and particularly legal education, may be thought of as being firmly rooted in the old-fashioned leather-bound book, dense with complex information and ancient principles.
“Classical legal principles are still vital, but a modern solicitors’ profession is also equipped with 21st century skills. This includes collaboration and digital literacy. The Law Society has devoted much time, energy and expertise over the last 20 years to ensure our trainee solicitors bring these skills with them into the profession and pair them with grounding legal principles in service of their clients and communities,” says Law Society of Ireland Director General Ken Murphy.
Leading the legal professional education field for use of technology
The Law Society’s commitment to continued development in its digital education technology is a key aspect of the recommendations contained in the Peart Commission Report, launched in November 2018.
The Peart Commission was convened to develop specific actions following an independent root-and-branch review of the Law Society’s pre-qualification training by a team of international experts.
That review, conducted by Professor Paul Maharg (York University, Ontario), Professor Jane Ching (Nottingham Law School) and educational consultant Jenny Crewe, was commission in anticipation of the Section 34 of the Legal Services Regulations Act 2015 relating to legal education.
The Maharg report found many aspects of the Law Society’s current educational model to be impressive on an international level and found that “some aspects of initial professional education provision are ahead of the field in legal services education.” The Maharg Report also found that the Law Society’s use of webcasting on Diploma and Certificate courses and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) was “particularly innovative”.
The Law Society also holds the coveted status of ‘Apple Distinguished School’, which is given to outstanding schools and programmes worldwide who have incorporated Apple technology into their teaching model to become centres of innovation, leadership and educational excellence. The Law Society became the first professional educator in Europe to receive the award in 2016 and was recently re-accredited until 2021.
“The Law Society introduced its 1:1 iPad programme for trainee solicitors in 2013. Since then every trainee received an iPad at the beginning of the professional practice course alongside hands-on tutoring to assist them throughout and after their professional education.”
“The programme gives trainee solicitors access to case law, legislation and course materials remotely at a time and place that best suits their own study needs.”
“Building on these independent endorsements, the Law Society is committed to expanding its focus on innovation in line with government policy and with global developments in law and across all areas of global business.”
Blended learning example: employment law
For example, employment law is a compulsory subject for all trainee solicitors and is an example of a module that is technologically innovative and student-centred. It has been a ‘blended learning’ course since 2013 - trainees learn new content online at a time and place of their choosing through e-lectures delivered via a virtual learning environment. This is followed by carrying out assignments or tasks in a classroom setting with facilitators who offer guidance in the application of legal principles.
The employment law course materials are published in the form of a multi-touch, interactive eBook, which provides easy access to legislation, case law and other relevant material.
“Since the introduction of the new blended learning course, trainees have consistently performed very well in the traditional written examinations, with examiners reporting that trainees have a better understanding of the practice of employment law. Trainees themselves have also reported that the format of the course prepares them well for practice in a law firm setting.”
“Furthermore, we are able to more closely monitor engagement and performance. For example, we are now able to demonstrate that those trainees who engage well with the e-lectures are more likely to succeed in the examination. This benefits course managers as well as trainees in many different ways.”
Progress and personal learning connections
The Law Society is also acutely aware of the need to keep up with developments in education in its feeder institutions. “Teenagers now have devices in their hands almost constantly and expect to be able to access information immediately and intuitively,” Mr Murphy noted.
“We are constantly improving our courses and related materials to optimise accessibility and move towards a ‘blended learning’ model, with more courses available online. This must always be carefully balanced with ensuring the personal connection between trainee and teacher is not lost. One of the ways we achieve this is through small group conferencing technology for tutorials and workshops.”
“For our trainee solicitors, it means their learning materials are always up-to-date, engaging, interactive and available to them 24/7 on their iPads. The technology we use here helps trainees connect with their teachers and collaborate with their peers like never before. It also means access to learning resources far beyond what would be available in a traditional professional education setting.”
It also enables a much freer flow of feedback and communication generally between trainees and Law Society staff, who can immediately respond to trainees’ needs and suggestions.”
“All of these educational innovations align with the Law Society’s mission to train 21st century solicitors who will meet and exceed the exacting requirements of their clients and their firms to leverage future technological advances in the practice of law.”
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