An innovative, cutting-edge law course at Flinders University is equipping students with the tangible and reusable technological skills necessary to succeed in a fast-changing legal world.
Law in a Digital Age, introduced in 2020 as core subject in Flinders undergraduate Law degree, exposes students to the opportunities and limitations of technology as a legal tool. It also teaches them how to build legal applications using open source software, giving students a unique opportunity to work with industry partners, manage their own legal tech project and begin developing their legal network before graduation.
One of these successful projects is the iRefer SA app, developed by students Daniel Cheung, Phoebe Yap, Timothy Ball and Zoe Vaughan. iRefer SA is a resource for family law professionals and members of the public, providing easy access to information about various services and courses available across South Australia.
Professor Tania Leiman, Dean of Law, says one of the key features of the Law in a Digital Age subject is that it equips students with the digital skills to help clients access justice.
“It’s a topic of vital importance, given the fast-changing pace of technology. As change continues to accelerate, so graduates need to adapt to the next generation of technology,” says Professor Leiman.
“Knowing the law in and of itself is no longer enough; graduates also need to understand and be capable of harnessing the channels through which justice is delivered. That’s not just in the court room. It’s increasingly the cybersphere.”
Dr James Scheibner, who has qualifications in both law and computer science, coordinates the Law in a Digital Age topic, and is a big advocate of teaching digital code to law students.
“From my perspective as an educator and a researcher, teaching law students simple programming has several benefits. Software engineering and programming is fundamentally about logic, and being able to think logically is an important skill that all law graduates need to possess. They also need to be technically savvy, particularly when it comes to their professional obligations around confidentiality and professional client privilege.”
Flinders University has the only law school in Australia with a core topic like this, providing students with more than just a comprehensive knowledge of law.
“Law in a Digital Age teaches students vital skills beyond building apps, including project management, teamwork and legal research,” says Dr Scheibner. “The topic also gives students an insight into challenges that so many in our community face to access legal information and advice, and how non-legal factors, such as the price of legal services, can stop people getting their legal needs met.”