A Critical Evaluation of the Relevance of Design Thinking for Lawyers

Kathrine Galloway, Nickolas James

Research output: Contribution to conferencePresentationResearch

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The practice of law is at a crossroads, as the legal profession grapples with the advent of digital technologies and their likely impact on the work of lawyers. Already, new legal professionals are emerging with a range of diverse skills that complement those of the more traditional lawyer. At the same time the legal academy exists within a rigid regulatory environment that remains anchored in the doctrinal framing of legal education. While many Australian law degrees have responded to the contemporary environment of legal practice through introducing technology-based, or -enhanced subjects or programs, the core degree will inevitably continue to reflect the knowledge-base of the Priestley 11. While there are a range of skills now identified as the future of legal practice, this paper examines the rationale for incorporating design thinking into legal education—a skill touted as essential to the future of work broadly, and relevantly also, to legal practice. We first define the nature and purported role of design thinking, contrasting it with the suite of thinking skills generally encompassed by the term ‘thinking like a lawyer’. We analyse the likely benefit for the lawyer—and their client—of adopting a design thinking mindset in the context of the emerging, technology-rich practice of law, and finally we draw on critiques of the contemporary fascination with design thinking to assess the true value of the skill in the (future) lawyer’s toolkit.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2018
EventAustralasian Law Teachers Association Conference: Law, Love and Revenge: Themes from The Merchant ... - Curtin University, Perth, Australia
Duration: 4 Jul 20186 Jul 2018


ConferenceAustralasian Law Teachers Association Conference
Abbreviated titleALTA 2018
OtherALTA has a long and proud history and it is a particular privilege for one of Australia’s youngest law schools to host the Annual Conference.

The Conference will be held in downtown Perth, at 57 Murray Street, home of the Curtin Law School in the city, from 4 – 6 July 2018.

ALTA has an important central function, to stimulate discussion and new ideas about teaching law.

Our conference theme is drawn from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, an iconic play that speaks to our times. They may not be ‘the best and worst of times’ but, we all live with great uncertainty, and in parts of the world, seemingly immutable enmities. We hope that the famous trial scene especially will provide ample material for stimulating discussion around a variety of themes. The plenary speakers and various supporting activities will explore the conference theme in various ways and thus provide a stimulating – and theatrical – backdrop for the conference proceedings and the discussions.

It is a singular honour for our young Law School to host a Conference that goes back to the middle of the 20th century, using as our leitmotif a play from the beginning of the 17th century. We hope to have some fun with it. And to learn much from each other.

Perth is a beautiful and serene location, and we hope you will take the time to visit the city, its museums and of course the surrounding countryside and wonderful vineyards. On behalf of the Curtin Law School I look forward to welcoming you to Perth and trust that you will have a wonderful Conference.
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