A special pro bono collaboration to help prepare law students for the increasing influence of artificial intelligence in the practice of law - while at the same time benefiting the Australian not-for-profit sector - has been announced by Australia’s leading independent law firm, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, and the University of Western Australia (UWA).

The new unit at UWA Law School, ‘Legal APPtitude’, will involve students teaming up with lawyers from Corrs’ Perth office to develop AI applications to improve efficiencies and save costs for not-for-profits, as well as provide other services for disadvantaged and vulnerable people.

Benefits will accrue directly to the Australian not-for-profit sector. At the same time, the course will provide students with a greater understanding of emerging AI-based technologies and improve the efficient delivery of legal advice.

Corrs’ partners Robert Franklyn and David Yates and lawyer, Michael Kingsbury, are leading the development from a Corrs’ perspective, with Assistant Professor and UWA Law School Director of Disruption, Kate Offer, and Alex Cook co-ordinating efforts at the university.

Mr Franklyn said Corrs lawyers will work with the University to develop the new course curriculum, as well as assist and mentor students throughout the 12-week course as they design, develop and deploy the apps they create. Related work in assisting underprivileged groups and not-for-profits will be done on a pro bono basis by Corrs.

“Corrs already has an extensive pro bono program providing free legal services to many not-for-profits and underprivileged groups across Australia,” Mr Franklyn said.

“Many of these organisations are run by volunteers on a shoestring budget and the course aims, through the use of AI, to make their jobs easier and more efficient, while building the technology skills that will be critical to the success of future lawyers.”

Mr Franklyn said the development of the new course would not have been possible without leading software developer Checkbox Technology providing access to its award winning expert systems software platform, Checkbox, for the course.

Dean and Head of UWA Law School, Associate Professor Natalie Skead, said the Law School was thrilled to be working with Corrs on such an exciting and important new initiative.

“Not only will our law students have the opportunity to contribute to the not-for-profit sector in a meaningful way, but at the same time they’ll develop technological skills to help them as they transition into legal practice,” Associate Professor Skead said. “We are very grateful to Corrs for their support.”

The new course will commence in August 2018.