Those behind the first-of-its-kind, jointly-taught programme reveal the thinking behind the move “It is both an amazing and daunting time for law students heading towards the profession,” says Jeremy Coleman, innovation manager EMEA at Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF), the firm behind a new law and tech module being run at the University of York from January 2020, “because we don’t really know what the law is going to be like in the medium to longer term.”

Open to 40 third year law and computer science undergraduates (20 from each), the new law and tech module is believed to be the first such course to be taught jointly by tutors from both the computer science and law departments at the university. There will also be masterclasses from NRF. Coleman says: “There is an acceptance of these ‘unknowns’, but also a real interest in them and in the change that is coming.”

Two years in the planning, the development of the inter-disciplinary course was, explains Scott Slorach, director of learning and teaching at York Law School, as a result of “push factors from students and pull factors from firms”.

He says: “We have seen an increased demand and interest among students for such courses.” There is already a University Blockchain Society, for instance, and undergrads are being exposed to “the links between tech and legal services through existing modules on legal services and the business environment”. This module is “the logical next step.”

For their part, firms are increasingly discussing a “non-paper outlook” and exploring what type of thinking they want their future lawyers to have. As Slorach says: “If the watchword used to be ‘commercial awareness’, now, because of the way law firms are resourcing themselves, there is a wider range of skills and competencies needed. There is also greater openness from firms to have people coming from different disciplines.”

The University of York module is a problem-based learning course whereby law and computer science students will work collaboratively in small teams on a real-life access to justice issue. Learning about each other’s discipline, applying design thinking, and putting work in progress before tutors and […]

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