New Zealand Law Society - The Innovators: Wayne Rumbles, Associate Professor, University of Waikato

The Innovators: Wayne Rumbles, Associate Professor, University of Waikato

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LawFest organiser Andrew King continues a series of interviews with key legal professionals with their innovation and technology stories.

Tell us about yourself

I have been a legal academic for the past 20 years. I began my academic career at the University of Waikato teaching law and information technology and criminal law in 2000. In those early years, I quickly understood the importance of technology to law and the potential impacts of technology on law and the legal system. I have been fortunate over the years to continue to explore technology and its interface with law by developing a suite of technology related law papers at Te Piringa and sharing these with a continuous stream of students.

What does legal innovation mean to you?

Legal innovation in my view requires a holistic vision of law; lawyers, law firms, students and academics must know what they wish to achieve. Innovation requires an understanding of where you are, where you want to be and the ability to plot the necessary pathway to achieve this goal. Innovation occurs along this journey by applying flexible knowledge and skills to available technology.

What role does technology play in innovation?

Technology provides us with the tools to innovate. It is the means by which we progress and re-imagine law, legal education and legal services.

What pressures are law faculties facing in the delivery of legal education?

Law schools are challenged to respond to a rapidly changing legal service environment that is evolving in response to disruptive technologies.

Law schools need to prepare graduates to practise in a new law paradigm where flexible, high-level skills are valued that allow practitioners to adapt and change, embracing new technologies and opportunities.

Law schools need to bring both students and academics along this journey against a background of increased expectations for student numbers, research outputs and sourcing of externally funded projects.

What opportunities has legal innovation brought you?

As an academic working in this space since 2000, legal innovation and technology has been a constant inspiration for my research and the development of new law courses for future lawyers. Alongside papers in cyber law, law and new technologies, digital privacy, AI and robotics in the law we also teach a joint masters in cyber security with computer science.

One of my recent opportunities has been the Technology in Legal Education for New Zealand project (TeLENZ) supported and funded by the Law Foundation. The vision for the project is that all law students in New Zealand are exposed to technology and legal innovation throughout the core law curriculum. To achieve this vision, I am teaming up with academics from across the six New Zealand law schools to build greater digital capability, to develop a set of tools and resources that any legal academic can use to integrate technology and the impact of technology into their core law courses. This unique and exciting project allows me to further focus my area of passion in partnership with all law schools as we work together to create better prepared graduates for the changing legal workspaces.

What are some of your tips to develop an innovative mind-set in law students?

The basis for any innovative legal mindset is a firm and solid understanding of legal principles. Law schools in part need to keep doing what they are doing teaching critical analytical legal skills.

Students also need to have a range of flexible skills relevant to the current legal environment and be able to see linkages between disparate areas of learning.

We cannot teach individual (or all) technologies due to rapid advancements where technology is quickly updated/replaced. However, students need to be aware of the possibilities and potential technology will continue to bring to the profession. We need to expose students to technology and the impact of legal tech throughout their legal studies.

We need to inspire curiosity and excitement about the possibilities of technology and legal tech, we need to instil a growth mindset in future lawyers. Technology is not the end of law and lawyers but the path to opportunity and diversity of legal services.

Why is it important for legal professionals to continue to learn about legal innovation and leveraging technology?

I say in my welcome speech for new students at the Law Faculty, that studying law is the study of life, the universe and everything.

Technology and innovation is everywhere; it is what our clients, business and students are using, living and consuming. Lawyers and provisioners of legal services need to be able to interact, represent and facilitate the use of (and control the misuse of) these technologies to be relevant to the current and future users of legal services.

Sadly, LawFest 2020 was cancelled. Wayne Rumbles was on the speakers list.

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