Links I Liked [Legal Edition]

1. Wither LPC? Apparently the Legal Practice Course is on its last legs. Not surprising and frankly in my view very overdue. When former students tell me that the level of detail is similar to what was achieved in one of my modules, that indicates me there is no real need for the course. As for the argument put forward by the Law Society that with mandatory exams instead of the course "poorer students will be worse off" can someone please explain me how not having the expense of the LPC (and eventually accompanying debt) would make life more difficult for disadvantaged students. My father studied for both his law degrees while working odd jobs and was not exactly well off during that time. Not having the expense of an LPC certainly helped his career.

Contrary to what people might expect I am actually in favour of the Competence Statement of Solicitors which calls for no approved pathways or required courses. This forces Law Schools to be more competitive, innovative and justify their own existence based on merit instead of privilege.

2. Solicitors and barristers among professionals least likely to be replaced by robots, research reveals. Possibly true, but we certainly won't need as many. It would be interesting to see how the profession ages in the next few years, i.e. checking the age of the average barrister/solicitor. Is it going up or down? If up, faster or slower than the average population? 

3. ...Related with the previous one: Too many graduates, not enough jobs (in the US at least)? As I was told recently by a Head of School when everyone claims their numbers are going up we are either at the peak or post-peak with people window dressing and hiding the holes in their recruitment. Recruitment numbers in the US went down over 30% in a few years and it is a question of time until it starts happening in the UK as well. A 30% drop in the UK legal education market would mean 6,000 fewer students per year. In other words, probably close to 50% of law schools would become unsustainable.

4. Fascinating write up on smart and not-so-smart contracts. For the technically inclined. Particularly valuable for the comment about teaching programming language(s)/basic computer science in law degrees, something which mirrors my views on this.

Sentences to ponder [Law firms and procurement]

Honeywell uses reverse auctions to procure legal services by law firms:

"Using reverse e-auctions to procure legal work isn’t entirely new, but companies have typically limited bidding to high-volume, non-critical workHoneywell General Counsel Katherine Adams is using e-auctions on a larger scale, even for litigation. Law firms, Adams said, were initially “kind of shocked by this.”

“We might e-auction a litigation matter and set certain parameters. We might say, okay, assume you have to take the case through trial, assume there will be summary judgment motions, assume there will be some number of experts — all the variables that might go into the case,” Adams said. “Then the firms bid against each other.” "

More here. So much for the "but we're different argument" presented by the legal lobby for years justifying their inclusion in the Part B services section of Procurement Directives and now on Social and other specific services exception under Article 74 of the Directive 2014/24/EU. Which, coincidentally will be the topic of today's entry in my public procurement tennis match with Albert.

This willingness by the legal profession to be treated as any other service when in private procurement needs to be taken into account in the next revision of the Public Sector Directive.

Public Contracts Regulations 2015 - Regulation 10

Regulation 10 - specific exclusions for service contracts

Regulation 10 provides us with a list of services that are excluded from Part 2 rules. Its content is straightforwardly similar to Article 10 of Directive 2014/24/EU. The list can charitably be described as a roll call of service sectors with strong lobbying in Brussels or well established industries, as the old "Part B" services list in Directive 2014/18/EC used to be. Article 10 and Regulation 10 replace a good chunk of the old "Part B" services. Effectively, we 'abolished' "Part B" without really touching the bulk of exclusions contained in it.

Not all in the list are senseless however. For example, land acquisition, employment contracts, central bank services and operations connected with the European Stability Mechanism and European Financial Stability Facility make perfect sense. Most of the others, however do not.

Two industries are clearly apparent in the list of excluded services: legal and financial. Having worked in the first, I refuse to accept the "legal work is different" line. It is not. It is just mental, creative, draining work like many others. What is the difference between a lawyer and a designer? Or the legal and medical industries? Why does legal need to be treated differently? We all know what the lack of transparency tends to lead to in public procurement...

The same logic is valid for financial services. Are they not relevant for the internal market? Are they not cross-border by definition? If the answer to both is yes, then why excluding them from the rules all other industries are subject to?

The truth is that both industries are yet again free from most EU related regulation in public procurement for contracts that would otherwise be covered by said rules. 2014 was another missed opportunity to expand the reach of the internal market by subjecting both industries to the full might of regulation, which have been given another 10 years of protection. Directive's 2014/24/EU procurement procedures and tools are good enough for so many other service sectors, so they cannot suddenly be inadequate* when the service being procured is legal or financial.

I am not a fan of exceptions and would prefer them not to exist but if they were to exist I would prefer very specific exceptions perhaps for upcoming industries (digital; criptocurrencies; Internet of Things; etc) but not for established legacy ones such as legal, financial or rail passenger transport for that matter. I am still trying to figure out what is the substantive distinction between "rail passenger transport" that differentiates it say from bus, taxi or ferry services and justifies the exception.

Albert's entry is here. Judging by the cartoon at the bottom of the post I suspect we share similar concerns.

* There is a wider discussion to have about the procurement tools and procedures being fit for procuring services in general as they were designed first for works and then for goods. This was pointed out to me by the Canadian Procurement Ombudsman during Procurement Week last year.

Can robots have human rights?

Is it cruel to kick a robotic dog?

A few weeks ago we were having lunch with a couple of friends and the conversation turned into what future generations would find horrifying in ours as we now see homophobia or racism (which were part of many Western legal systems until very recently). My suggestion was the treatment of machines, particularly robots.

For me, what I can see in the video is a lump of metal with no conscience or feelings instead of a real dog. Would people feel so queasy if what was being kicked around was an autonomous car, a drone or even an assembly plant robot? I do not think so. The only reason I can think why some people are disturbed by the video is because that particular lump of metal resembles a dog and we generally treat dogs nicely. Same can be said about that humanoid Sony robot.

I have been thinking about this for a good while now and would not be "robotic human rights" will be the next "human" rights battlefield, after their recent conquest of corporate entities is complete. My take is that research councils will follow shortly.


Links I liked [Legal/Legal Education]

- I for one, welcome our Watson overlords

Although calling it Ross, immediately brings to mind that clueless Ross from Friends

- eBay style marketplace for Online Dispute Resolution

Very handy for one of my Ph.D students who is looking precisely into this. Proposal by Susskind.

- Law students should know more than just law, maybe some maths

Fully support ideas like this, although it is easier to pull of in the US. The lack of numerical skills is a big, big limitation in legal practice. Just makes no sense to me. On this note...

- Why do lawyers need maths?

Same vein as above. Excellent looking new site by Dr. Steven Vaughan (@lawvaughan), instant addition to my Feedly.

- DLA Piper "rolls its own" e-learning platform and will provide training services

What does this tells us about legal education in general and CPD in particular? You are out of touch and stuck on an obsolete paradigm when one of your potential biggest clients becomes a competitor.