Law & Technology Master Programs in European Union Universities
The evidence on the need of tech-literate lawyers in a tech-dependent world is overwhelming. However, a lot of legal studies are still organized according to the conservative model. Usually it requires a lot of space for classical law studies, leaving relatively little space for the studies (as an integral part) of certain other fields - philosophy, information technology, economics, and others. Therefore, issues of identification of the gaps in current legal education; methods of infusion of technology-related outcomes throughout the curriculum; exposure of the best practices and optimal architecture of Law & Tech study program; and others, form an important interdisciplinary research agenda of legal education’s future. Recognizing these novel challenges, the “Future of Legal Education” research project has been initiated at Vytautas Magnus University (Lithuania). Full pilot research report is available here.
The purpose of this research is to develop a conceptual model of legal education, integrating Law & Tech related skills into legal curriculum, to prepare future generation of lawyers for a future practice environment. Under the methodological framework of this main research, two interlinked pilot researches were constructed to refine research questions and to test data accessibility and quality for the main research on the future of legal education. This (first) pilot aims (i) to review systematically the Law & Tech master programs in selected EU universities and (ii) to provide content analysis of the Law & Tech curriculum in selected single EU state.
The systematic multi-stage sampling process led to the list of 38 Law & Tech master programs offered by 35 leading universities in 11 high-tech EU member states used for extraction and grouping of almost 600 subjects offered in these programs. Based on the names and descriptions of these subjects, they were grouped into 29 topicality groups and sorted by the frequency of appearance within the analyzed programs:
Figure 1. Frequency of topic appearance within the selected Law & Tech master programs
Although limited in scope, Systematic review of Law & Tech master programs revealed that relatively small part (16,5%) of leading EU universities offering specialized Law & Tech master programs in high-tech EU countries signals either the gap in legal training or the dominant existence of alternative practices infusing technology-related outcomes throughout the curriculum. Presumably, the majority of the excluded universities offer separate subjects or cover tech – related aspects within regular curriculum, or employ the benefits of research and clinical practices. The conclusion was made that further research should consider mapping these choices and questioning the reasons behind them. Therefore, this systematic analysis has revealed the need for further inquiry into (i) the alternative practices of technology-related skills’ infusion into the law curriculum; and (ii) variables that impact the choices of Law & Tech program’s structure and curriculum. Presumably, quantitative analysis of external and internal variables will enable to construct the model of optimal Law & Tech program and to set the key performance indexes.
Content analysis of Law & Tech master programs has been carried out in the leading Netherland universities. The analysis of the publicly available descriptions of these programs, key pitch arguments, sub-categories and categories have been extracted from this content. This led to the list of 5 categories for key arguments and considerations supporting the offering of specialized Law & Tech program. That is, when modeling the optimal Law & Tech program, the variables of (i) complexity of technological progress; (ii) knowledge and skills, (iii) structure and curriculum of programs (iv) student benefits and (v) teachers’ and students’ behavior.
Paulius Astromskis, Universitat Pompeu Fabra