The uberisation of legal practice

A lecture by Visiting Liberty Scholar, Professor Margaret Thornton, ANU on the ramifications of new technologies for legal practice.

Uber and Airbnb signify new ways of working and doing business by facilitating direct access to providers through new digitalised platforms. With particular regard to the ramifications for individual lawyers, this presentation considers how ‘disruptive innovations’ are also occurring in legal practice through what is known colloquially as NewLaw. We are clearly on the cusp of the transformation of legal practice, although it is uncertain whether and to what extent the ‘disrupters’ will displace traditional firms.

Eschewing plush offices and the rigidity of time billing, cheaper services can clearly be offered to clients. For lawyers, the benefits are claimed to be autonomy, flexibility, a balanced life, wellbeing and even happiness! Questions nevertheless must be asked about the move away from full-time employment to independent contracting where individuals assume responsibility for all overheads themselves. Contracting out also favours senior and experienced lawyers, which does not bode well for the proliferation of new law graduates.

The presentation is based on interviews with lawyers in Newlaw firms in Australia and the UK.

About the Speaker

Margaret Thornton (FASSA FAAL) is Professor of Law and ANU Public Policy Fellow at the Australian National University. She is a graduate of Sydney, New South Wales and Yale universities. Her research areas include legal education, the legal profession, the corporatisation of universities, discrimination law and feminist legal theory. Her current Australian Research Council project on law firms is entitled ‘Flexible Law and Flexible Life’. Her publications include Privatising the Public University: The Case of Law (Routledge, 2012).  

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Location details

Moot Court
Liberty Building 
Moorland Road
University of Leeds

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