Antonio Garrigues Walker, Honorary President of the firm Garrigues and with an Honorary PhD from Universidad Europea, visited the university on the occasion of the CEO Channel Breakfast event and we interviewed him to get to know his thoughts on the present and the future of law, the challenges faced by lawyers and the role of universities in the training of lawyers.
What role do universities play in training the lawyers of the future?
The University and the lawyers studying at this university, and in particular the legal practitioners, must be aware that the technological and scientific worlds are going to affect them in a decisive way, just as they are affecting other liberal professions. We have to adapt to new circumstances.
Students of this university need to realize that they cannot stay in the sidelines when it comes to these types of technological and scientific advances, because they form part of their professional life. In fact, there is not a single technical advance, or a single scientific advance, that does not have legal consequences. All of them have them and, sometimes, they’re very important.
We are losing the right to secrecy, the right to privacy, even the right to the truth and there may be other rights at risk; therefore, a person with legal sensitivity must be aware that new technological and scientific advances, specifically artificial intelligence in all its forms, are affecting them and will affect their life.
Anyone who leaves this university without knowing what is happening in the technical and scientific world in an essential way is not well trained.
We carry out a permanent review of our programs and have integrated all these aspects into our degrees, but, in addition to how it affects our rights, how is it going to affect the management of law firms?
That is a very delicate subject. In firms like that in which I am honorary president, directed by Fernando Vives, we are dedicating a significant amount of money to the issue of artificial intelligence because we know that we must take it into account.
Through artificial intelligence, legal knowledge can be accelerated and deepened. It is not only a matter of knowledge, but of making it deeper and more complete. In the professional world, artificial intelligence, in all its forms, including robotics, is going to be decisive.
How does this impact the profession? And the value that lawyers brings in the exercise of their profession?
Lawyers will have to demonstrate that artificial intelligence helps them in their profession, but they have to do something else and bring added value, which is what the lawyer has always done. They have not only provided knowledge of law, which is a sine qua non condition, but also when and how to apply it. When sometimes you have to tell a client: “you have every right to do this, but I advise you not to.”
In addition to this coexistence between science, technology and law, we are faced with the great challenge of globalization and the internationalization of organizations and, at the same time, that return to nationalism and the defense of more local aspects. How should we educate law students to maintain that balance between the global and the local?
Law students must be aware of the conflict between the advance of populism and the need for universalism. The university has to talk about the world and the universe, it has to understand what is happening in the world. No matter how much importance we give to populism, students of this university, and the university itself, cannot give up trying to educate in a global way, explaining to the student that, in addition to the world they live in, there is another world, which is much more important than this one, full of fascinating subjects, and fascinating cultures… There is a Chinese legal culture, a Japanese legal culture, a German legal culture… Let’s not just focus on the Anglo-Saxon world… There are different legal systems and young people who are studying need to realize that they must have a global mindset. You have to think that in addition to this, which is relatively small, there are other enormous things. The university, by its very nature, has an intrinsic obligation to make you see that you have to be sensitive to this process of universalization, globalization and internationalization in which we are involved.
The students, when they finish their studies, come into contact with the harsh reality. Have our law firms approached this globalization in the right way?
The university itself has the responsibility of speaking to those who study law about how the profession is practiced, both in Spain and in the world. Over the last two decades, the legal profession in Spain has been admirably modernized. The world of law firms, regardless of their size, has a wonderful balance. The profession admits large, small and medium-sized law firms, even those who practice the profession alone. There is room for all of them, but they have to know what the options are, what the difficulties are in creating a collective office. It’s not only a matter of four people getting together and that’s it, we have to regulate it properly because, if not, this issue causes problems in the growth process.
But compared with Europe, with which we have to compare ourselves, especially with Continental Europe, I would say that the degree of professionalization and internationalization of Spanish firms is completely acceptable.
You have commented on how important it is to develop the profession and that there is a lot of debate regarding the need to reform the bar exam. What’s your opinion on this?
The more education a professional has, the better. The university has always been criticized for training well in theoretical subjects, and falling short in the education of practical subjects. We have just mentioned that the university has to be concerned about what the future of a lawyer studying at this university is going to be and, therefore, it should consider their professional life. I think this is a point on which we need to insist. So that the students are aware of all the possibilities and options, not only in Spain. I insist on th fact that, at present, a lawyer who graduates from this university –which is a prestigious university, not only on a national but also on an international level– must bear in mind that, in addition to working in Spain, they can work anywhere in the world without the slightest difficulty. In all continents, including Africa, where there are admirable countries that are gaining more important economic growth than the rest of the world.
It’s a fascinating point in the history of the world for young people. They must be open-minded to make completely new and different decisions than those that are being made.
Training the professionals of the future is an exciting challenge. Globalization, the coexistence of science and literature… The scientific and humanistic education that every professional should receive. What do you think?
I’m glad that a dean like you accepts the principle that the separation of science and language and literature has been a misguided separation for a long time.
In the Anglo-Saxon world there is no separation between science and language and literature. Every student chooses the topics that they are most interested in and they can choose between history, advanced digitalization, nanoscience, neuroscience, artificial intelligence or Greek history. In other words, you can choose whatever you want. In Spain, we continually ask ourselves whether you are a scientist or a writer, and that question has to be left in the past. If it has to disappear from normal life, it also has to disappear from university.
A lawyer who graduates knowing the classic notions of Civil Law, Procedural Law, Labor Law, and knows nothing about Technological Law, which exists (there is such a thing as Technological Law and Scientific Law), is a person who does not have a complete education or one that is substantially valid for modern times. Especially now, because 50 years ago this was not true, but now it is. The point is that lawyers cannot only study language and literature, they must also study sciences; but not because it is nice to study, but because sciences influence all aspects of legal life, both in the exercise of professional life and in the loss or recovery of rights that may be endangered as a result of these scientific and technological advances.
You know very well that our model goes beyond training in knowledge and has an impact on the training of skills, competences and values. If we focus on these aspects, what would be the capacities that a student who is going to practice law should focus on developing?
In the modern world, young people have to accept that idiomatic knowledge is not a purely aesthetic matter, it is vital knowledge. To be a good lawyer you must know English, which has become, whether we like it or not, the lingua franca. I would have loved Esperanto to have been the solution, it would have been wonderful if everyone had a common language, in addition to their own language, because it would have been a way of communicating in the world. But in this world, Esperanto is English.
If, in addition to English, you learn other important languages such as Chinese, Japanese or Arabic, it will provide you with a very important capacity for action and breadth of vision. Therefore, language knowledge is not a purely aesthetic problem, but a deep problem that can influence, in a decisive and very profitable way, the career of a professional.
The second thing a lawyer should be aware of right now is that globalization is a reality. They should not focus exclusively on this world and ignore the other world. As I said, there are different legal systems. There is the European system, involving codification, there is the Anglo-Saxon system, involving common law, and the Islamic system, based on a legal-religious code. Lawyers must be aware of all of them to understand this reality. What I’m stressing in for them to have this global mentality. That goes for everything. It is not about bragging about knowing the Arab or Japanese world, but it is useful to better understand the problems, being aware that there are different versions and options of knowledge.
We have talked about recommendations for young people in training, but I would like to make recommendations to those who are no longer so young and are actively involved in both the training and professional development of these young people. What would you say to the professionals who will hire these students and the teachers who have to train them?
There’s a phrase that Ortega used to say to teachers which I’ve always been a fan of: “Teachers have to teach what they know and say what they don’t know.” What I will now say to the people teaching and those learning is that we are going to live in times of uncertainty, and that we are being paid to live in these times of uncertainty. We can’t eliminate uncertainty from our lives. We are currently living through four simultaneous revolutions: the sociological revolution, including feminism; a cultural revolution, there are values in the concept of life; a technological revolution, and a political revolution. There are many revolutions at the same time and, therefore, the degree of uncertainty about what can happen in three months is incredible.
I couldn’t say what I said three months ago because there have been so many changes in that time that you have to adapt your thinking. The first thing to do with uncertainty and doubt is to accept them; secondly, to live with them. You can live with uncertainty and doubt, you don’t need to have the entire truth or dogmatic knowledge. You can have flexible convictions. Even now we are talking about a ductile law; it is a dangerous concept, but we are talking about these kinds of issues with which we can live perfectly well.
I remember the phrase from Ecclesiastes, which for me is like a self-help book, that says something like: although life is not predictable, you always have to do what you have to do. That’s what we have to do, not be afraid because it’s okay, and that way we’ll know how to adapt perfectly. We have done it thus far admirably, and we will continue to do so.
What do we have to learn from our students?
In my opinion, we have to learn that, on the whole, they are more empathetic. They are more accustomed to dialog and civility. There will be exceptions, but in general I think they are more open.
Secondly, they have more international experience than we had. At least in my case, it took me a long time to have international experience even though I had the privilege of having an American mother who, inevitably, connected me to that world.
Thirdly, and this is a tremendous plus, many of them are digital natives, which is a decisive value. I can boast about using a computer or a telephone, but I am not a digital native and those things do not come as naturally to me as they do them, and this quality of theirs is going to be decisive.
These are their main powers. What they also have to learn is that being young is a relative asset.
And finally, I reiterate the fact that they have to improve their ethical level permanently. Being ethical isn’t easy, it’s very difficult. You have to know what it’s like to be ethical and understand how to be ethical. I never connect being ethical with sacrificial, religious or moral values; I connect it in the sense of telling young people: firstly, if you are ethical, your ability is going to be sustainable; secondly, you are going to be profitable; and thirdly, you are going to be happier. Happiness is not a joke; a person who behaves ethically is happy, and a person who does not behave ethically is unhappy. They may have more money or brag about other things, but they are not happy.
Those toxic people, those who bully at school or otherwise, those people may have fun, but they are not happy. We must therefore connect ethics with positive values and remind them that it is the only way forward for the future. We need ethical people. We’ve had enough corruption
Thank you very much for being so close to us because you are an inspiration.
I have told you many times, and it is true, I am proud of having an honorary PhD from Universidad Europea. For me it is a privilege and this university environment is marvelous, enriching, young and optimistic. The pleasure truly is mine.Yo no podría decir lo que dije hace tres meses porque se han producido tantos cambios en ese tiempo que tienes que adaptar tu pensamiento. Lo primero que hay que hacer con la incertidumbre y con la duda es aceptarlas; en segundo lugar, convivir con ellas. Se puede convivir con la incertidumbre y con la duda, no es necesario poseer toda la verdad ni tener conocimientos dogmáticos. Se pueden tener convencimientos flexibles. Incluso ahora se está hablando de un derecho dúctil; es un concepto peligroso, pero estamos hablando de este tipo de temas con los que se puede convivir perfectamente.
Recuerdo la frase de Eclesiastes, que me parece casi un libro de autoayuda, que dice algo así como que aunque la vida no sea predecible, siempre tienes que hacer lo que tienes que hacer. Eso es lo que tenemos que hacer, sin tener miedo porque no pasa nada y sabremos adaptarnos perfectamente. Lo hemos hecho hasta ahora de manera admirable y lo seguiremos haciendo.
¿Qué tenemos que aprender de nuestros estudiantes?
En mi opinión, tenemos que aprender que, en conjunto, son más empáticos. Están más acostumbrados al diálogo y a la civilidad. Habrá excepciones, pero en general creo que son más abiertos.
En segundo lugar, tienen más experiencia internacional que la que teníamos nosotros. Al menos en mi caso, tardé mucho en tener experiencia internacional aunque tuve el privilegio de tener una madre americana que, inevitablemente, me conectó con ese mundo.
En tercer lugar, y esto es un poder tremendo, muchos de ellos son nativos digitales, que es un valor decisivo. Yo puedo presumir de manejar un ordenador o un teléfono, pero no soy nativo digital y no tengo la naturalidad que tienen ellos para englobarse en un mundo que va a ser decisivo.
Esas son sus principales potencias. Lo que también tendrán que aprender es que eso de ser joven es un activo relativo.
Y por fin, y esto lo reitero, tienen que mejorar su nivel ético permanentemente. Ser ético no es fácil, es muy difícil. Hay que saber qué es ser ético y entender cómo serlo. El que una persona sea ética nunca lo conecto con valores de sacrificio, religiosos o morales; lo conecto en el sentido de decirle a los jóvenes: primero, si eres ético, tu capacidad va a ser sostenible; segundo, vas a ser rentable; y tercero, vas a ser más feliz. Lo de la felicidad no es una broma; una persona que se comporta éticamente es feliz, y una persona que no se comporta éticamente no es feliz. Puede tener más dinero o presumir de otras cosas, pero no es feliz.
Esas personas tóxicas, quienes practican bulling o acoso escolar o de cualquier otro tipo, esas personas se podrán divertir, pero no son felices. Por lo tanto, hay que conectar la ética con valores positivos y recordarles que es la única salida de cara al futuro. Necesitamos gente ética, ya hemos tenido suficiente corrupción
Muchas gracias por estar cerca de nosotros porque eres una inspiración.
Te lo he dicho muchas veces, y es verdad, lo que yo presumo de mi doctorado honoris causa de la Universidad Europea. Para mí es un privilegio y este ambiente universitario es una maravilla, rico, joven y optimista. El beneficio es mío, de verdad.