What inspired the Centre for Legal Innovation at the College of Law (CLI) to create this online program for New Law Careers, and what problem were you trying to solve with it?
TM: At CLI, we monitor and analyse trends in the legal ecosystem. We identified early the evolution of allied legal professional roles. In law firms these talented professionals have moved from supporting the business, to leading new business services revenue streams e.g., legal technologists, data analysts, and knowledge managers. Law firms have now also established their own academies to train law grads for these internal roles. At the same time, Legal Operations professional roles moved from nice to have to critical for in-house legal departments. These roles have now also emerged in law firms. We decided to hold the NewLaw Careers Summit in May 2022 to get a better, global understanding of where all of this was at, and we were amazed at the interest and engagement for this and after it. We knew there was interest and a need for more practical, real information on these roles. We wanted to support that and New Law careerists so, we partnered with Forage, a global virtual internship platform, brought together a world class faculty (all of whom we gratefully acknowledge here and on the platform), and created an experience where people can learn about and try out five New Law careers: data analyst, legal technologist, legal operations, knowledge management and family law mediators.
Can you walk us through how this online platform works and what makes it unique?
TM: In the legal world, we have tended to see career options for lawyers as a duopoly – solicitor or barrister and practising in a private law firm or in-house for a corporation/organisation or government. That world has changed. There have always been many ways to work with a law degree but now there are many more and, those options also apply to other specialisms. Today, legal practice is all about collaboration and outputs that draw on the talents of a multidisciplinary team. HOWEVER, not everyone is receiving that information from career counsellors/coaches or through their own career searches. What the Forage platform does, is identify five of those career options and provides you with a real-life example of a typical task someone would undertake in the roles. The tasks were created by professionals who work in these roles, such as Juno's Legal Technologist Matt Farrington, who contributed to the Legal Technologist role. In addition, we have provided a video/podcast resource where more specialists in these roles discuss in depth what they do, the skill sets necessary to do their work, and where the roles will go in the future. This is a free, virtual, readily accessible comprehensive dive into these roles which we hope supports better understanding, excitement about and decision making for the people who engage in the resources on the platform – I don’t know of any other resource like this in New Law careers.
Have you received any feedback from attendees or the industry so far, and if so, what have been some of the most common comments or suggestions, or success stories?
TM: It’s still early days but we are really excited about what we have seen so far. We have people connecting with us from around the world (most of our customers are from Australia, South Africa, India, and UK), are women, and are towards the end of their university/college studies or early career professionals. We have above average completion of our tasks and an overall rating of 4.6/5. People tell us that after taking the program, they know more about New Law career options and feel they have built their practical skills. We continue to monitor feedback and content. It’s important we keep this program practical and up to date, so we have every intention of changing this up as and when needed.
What future developments do you have planned for the programme, and how do you envision it evolving to continue meeting the needs of the legal industry changes over time?
TM: We need to run the program for a bit so we have a solid data set from which to make our future decisions but, also make mid-course corrections as and when needed. We review the entire program every 3 months with Forage, and we do likewise every month internally. I can foresee us changing the New Law career roles we focus on to match the changing legal marketplace. For example, in response to the global focus on generative AI, I could see us developing a task that helps people understand and describe the role of a prompt engineer. We might also find that the tasks for existing roles are too easy or too hard and we will make adjustments there too. We are laser focussed on the “new” part of New Law careers and making sure this is a helpful resource so, it is incumbent on us to continuously improve the program to meet those objectives and, most importantly, so it continues to be relevant for our customers.