(Sherbrooke) When we think of the practice of law and the judicial system, where faxes and paper are still part of everyday life, we do not necessarily associate this area of activity with innovation and change. To try to speed things up, the University of Sherbrooke has joined forces with two law firms to create the Legal Innovation Laboratory (Lab. IJ).
This is not yet another research chair, but rather a point of convergence to attract new ideas and above all to support creative students seeking to advance the practice of law in all its forms.
The main objectives pursued by the Lab. IJ’s are to stimulate entrepreneurship and innovation among law school students, but not in a vacuum. The activities are open to all students of the university with the aim of fostering interdisciplinary collaboration. The grouping of the services of lawyers, accountants, notaries and other human resources experts is more and more common in large Quebec firms.
Associate professor and specialist in business law, Patrick Mignault, explains that entrepreneurial skills are “more and more important in the practice of law”, but that this “does not necessarily emerge clearly from our teachings”.
While admitting that the law school curriculum is already demanding, the lab co-leader believes that students understand the usefulness of developing such skills in parallel. “Several lawyers must become entrepreneurs, either personally or within a large company,” he gives as an example.
Me Yannick Crack, director of Estrie at Therrien Couture Joli-Cœur, confirms this appetite for innovation and entrepreneurial spirit within his team.
“It is part of our values to innovate in the practice of law. We want to be important agents of change ”, shares the lawyer, himself a graduate of UdeS. To get there, he says he is looking for “people who try to innovate, to think outside the box” and it is for this reason that his firm has joined forces with the Lab. IJ.
Concretely, beyond the promotion of innovation, the laboratory aims to be a resource to help the development of projects initiated by students. We want to interest students from all faculties, whether in engineering, computer science or management for example, to have the reflex to think about the possible applications of their ideas in the field of law.
If a student of the faculty is involved in the team behind an innovative project, the Lab. IJ can give it a boost by putting its network of contacts to work. “We have small funds to help them, but above all we have channels to put them in contact with people who could support them financially,” says Professor Patrick Mignault.
Again, Me Yannick Crack followed suit and opened the door to some form of mentoring from his firm to support possible projects submitted to the laboratory team.
As pointed out earlier, the field of law is not an example of rapid change. In Professor Mignault’s opinion, several factors can explain the immobility of operating methods and working methods, including a conservative and traditionalist culture, but also practical issues such as the protection of confidential and sensitive information. Thus, teleworking made inevitable by the pandemic remains complex to implement if it is necessary to increase remote access to highly secure servers.
On this subject, the Lab. IJ is currently holding a competition, until February 15, to collect the best ideas to promote telecommuting in the practice of law.
For his part, Me Crack becomes a philosopher by reminding us that “the human being is well in his slippers and that we often wait to be put up to the wall to change things”. That’s why we needed a pandemic to hold hearings by videoconference and force lawyers to embrace telecommuting.
The two men agree, however, that the new generation of jurists is shaking things up. According to Yannick Crack, the legal system “is undergoing a facelift” and firms must also adapt to the different expectations of this generation in terms of human resources.
For Patrick Mignault, the lawyers of tomorrow absolutely must think about how to integrate technology into their work. In particular, it emphasizes the usefulness of tools for the automated drafting of contracts or of software to help decision-making based on statistical data.
Many basic tasks that consume a lot of time could be made more efficient if only the profession accepts the leap into the 21st century.e century.