How is the future of work - the gig economy, AI, automation and machine learning - disrupting traditional professions like law and finance? Meet Yasmin and Louis, the first two students to complete a Westpac internship as part of a new UTS Legal Futures and Technology Major, opening their eyes to the future changes affecting the industry, now.
Taking lessons from the startup ecosystem and applying them to more corporate worlds such as finance and legal isn’t always easy to do.
But the next generation of compliance professionals, lawyers and company secretaries will need to contend with factors such as the rise of the gig economy, and emerging technologies like blockchain revolutionising the way business and legal transactions are conducted. So what does that mean for how law is taught, particularly when studying it is typically based on case law developed from centuries past?
Westpac company secretary Tim Hartin, who has been exploring opportunities for innovation within the Compliance, Legal and Secretariat (CLS) division at the bank, is championing a fusion of academia and industry. Students should experience first-hand how large corporates approach technology, he suggests.
The core elements of legal training will always remain. However, students now need additional arrows in their quiver. Lawyers will need a deep understanding of the tools and technology that will deliver excellent customer service, and desired business outcomes.
- Tim Hartin, Westpac
Embracing technology in law
It’s a philosophy echoed by Lesley Hitchens, Dean of the UTS Faculty of Law, who recently received the Financial Times’ Innovator of the Year award in recognition of the faculty’s commitment to embracing new technologies and the challenges they present for the law.
“Our graduates need to speak the languages of other professions to understand the new ways lawyers need to work,” she says. “We have a responsibility to students to reflect what’s happening externally.”
As a result, Westpac and UTS have teamed up to create a first-of-its-kind program designed to future-proof law graduates. One part of this is the new Law in Technology major, available to later-year UTS law students, where they spend one day a week over a semester undertaking an unpaid internship with the Westpac CLS team, which completes a subject for the students.
From students to change agents
UTS’ move has created a curriculum that produces well-rounded graduates who can think beyond the legal profession to add value in their careers.
“On the one hand students gain a clearer understanding of the complex operational realities of working in a large organisation through the program,” Hartin commends. “But, on the other hand, they also become change agents at Westpac.”
Yasmin Frost, one of the first two interns to take part, is a case in point. The student, who is in her third year of a double degree in Law and Science in Information Technology, got to work with the Westpac compliance team on the use of artificial intelligence, one of the technologies experts claim could have the biggest effect on all companies.
“Every week we were doing something different. It was both stimulating and challenging to adapt my mind-set to a new issue or problem in the area of legal technology,” the 20-year-old says.
My experience at Westpac helped me conceive how the future of the legal profession will be shaped by disruptive technologies; automation, machine learning, artificial intelligence, just to name a few. It’s really clear that legal technologies are driving change in the finance industry.
- Yasmin Frost, UTS Law/Science student
Louis Bridle, a fellow intern in his fourth year of a double degree in Law and Communication, says the program provides a “holistic” view of the application of legal knowledge and gave him a unique insight into where his degree might lead.
“Doing this internship has made me realise there are so many different ways to pursue a legal career,” the 22-year-old comments.
“I’ve learnt how each issue that comes to the CLS team is not strictly legal – you’re encouraged to think from different perspectives to find an outcome that works for the business, and ultimately, the customer. An organisation like Westpac operates in a highly regulated market and it was fascinating to see how new technologies are incorporated into their legal and compliance systems.”
Not only do the students get to look at what they are studying through the eyes of a large organisation striving to adapt to changing technologies, but Westpac also benefits from their fresh perspectives and tech know-how to solve old problems. In that sense, it’s a win all-round.
Reimagining what’s possible through technology
Yasmin and Louis’s experiences echo Hartin’s vision of the future for CLS professionals at Westpac. Like any profession, lawyers must take advantage of digital advancements or risk being left behind.
“Future careers in law, compliance or corporate governance are going to be multifaceted,” predicts Hartin. “Each of us will be required to constantly translate between our core disciplines, business needs, and technology. We must know the right questions to ask and to remagine what’s possible through technology.”
By Kerrie Douglass, UTS Law, and Vicki Copeman, Westpac.
Find out more about the new UTS Legal Futures and Technology Major.