Friday, November 3, 2017
Yesterday at Georgetown's conference center in Washington DC the stakeholders of legal education gathered by invitation to discuss the Future of Law Schools "Envisioning a More Collaborative Educational Model" and specifically Law Schools as career vehicles for the profession of Big and Regional Law, Corporate, Public Service, and Community Law. With great appreciation from all those involved, Thomson Reuters Legal Executive Institute sponsored the event and collected all these stakeholders together for this discussion.
The stakeholders involved in discussion panels included the heads of recruitment of AmLaw 100 firms (e.g. DLA, Hogan Lovells) and AmLaw 250 (e.g. Finnegan, Womble Bond, Wiley, Williams Connolly) from around the United States, General Counsel of large legal department budgets (ADM with $100 million by example), Legal Service Providers (e.g. Thomson Reuters / West, Legal Services Corporation), LegalTech corporate leaders, the Deans of law schools (e.g. Penn, Georgetown, Florida, Howard, Pepperdine (retired, not Paul), Northwestern, Oklahoma) and NALP.
Invitations were also extended to non-Dean leaders of legal education that have track records of innovation and deployment of successful models and courses that firms, government, and corporations consider as bridging the skills expectation gap of what is necessary for law in today's economy, whether serving large corporations, startups, community law, or public service law for the 75 percent of annually unrepresented persons involved in civil filings including such areas as landlord-tenant, family law, and debtors. These leaders hailed from law schools such as Indiana (Bill Henderson), Chicago Kent (Daniel Katz), Suffolk (Gabriel Teninbaum), Hastings (Alice Armitage), Texas A&M (William Byrnes).
Panels addressed in a discussion format series of prepared questions drawn from the legal profession stakeholders allowing each other perspectives, what works, what is not working, overlapping concerns, and acknowledging disconnects without current commonly accepted solutions. The entire audience of approximately 80 to 100 invitees became involved in each panel through floor questions and providing further perspective from the ABA, Legal Publishers, firms, and law schools.
Schools like Chicago Kent, Suffolk and Georgetown already are addressing law firm and legal industry career needs regarding LegalTech capable lawyers, teaching courses and even LegalTech concentrations in coding, blockchain, technology development. Leadership, design thinking, behavioral ethics, collaborative work projects, featured very high on the list of traits (and coursework) that firms and companies wanted students to have.
The collaborative firm, industry, and (law) school integrated supply chain models were brought up by General Counsels because already being used within industry itself and in other disciplines such as medical schools and business schools. Integrating law school faculty and curriculum into the early legal career is a new potential value proposition. One commentary is that schools are trying to collect tuition for merely allowing students to undertake externships. Students, firms, and companies are not perceiving faculty value in this externship model.
Much discussion on the legal ecosystem (firms, clts, law schls) collaborating to fix these issues, and where breakdowns are occurring with vested interests. Some drivers included legal services and the associated dollars continuing to move overseas and continuing to be automated with fewer places remaining each year for high salaried US lawyers able to afford high tuition education that pays for high faculty salaries. General community lawyers will be replaced in civil society with the equivalent of nurse practitioners who can afford to serve the middle-class and low-income economy because lawyers are already not serving the 75 percent of unrepresented civil litigants. Other drivers of behavior such as tenure and US News ranking were also discussed in relation to these issues.
Topics brought up during the discussions also included: integration of distance education, Socratic and other pedagogical methods, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary education models, among many others.
Some bullet points raised and addressed during the discussions included - excerpted from the Twitter handle #FOLS17 comments:
- Top students are turning away from LSAT. Accepting GRE driven by market forces- getting talented students to consider law school
- Reform will come through re-integration of law school with the industry/profession.
- I heard a GC say her favorite outside counsel not only DON'T do that but give her answers in board-ready power point
- NALP: 3 years out, respondents weren't satisfied with the role law schools played in preparing them for their jobs.
- Legal Services Corp: In 75% of civil litigation today one or more litigants is unrepresented.
- The world has gotten more specialized so why do we set the 1L year & then have 2 years with no academic guidance
- We treat access barriers as a bug in the system rather than a result of this system
- Will umbrella universities (of law schls) & student/consumers pay for 3rd yr of law school if just an externship?
- Lawyers/law students need to need to understand how to work with data & statistics to successfully work with clients
- ADM describes the process for selecting outside counsel - "one question we don't ask is where your people went to law school."
- Biggest barriers [to accepting technology] are law professors.
- Conundrum: young lawyers need to know they won't come in capable of doing everything/clients won't pay for lawyers who aren't.
- The big problem in legal education is in bridging this divide
- Core of law schl will be torts & con law, etc but now students must learn prof develop, leadership & other ways 2 solve probs.
- Technology is not just changing the way we do work but providing analytics that help drive decisions/substance of legal work
- Law schls have siloed themselves from other schls—but why, if we all train students to problem solve?
- There's a dearth of practical training for law students... and firms are expecting more practice ready associates
- Law schls could engage w/busin, design, engineer. & social work schls to help focus on the clt-user who is NOT a lawyer
- Firms want to partner with students to create new content/tech but can be hard to attract law students to data work
- Now law schools have to make the case for students to go to law school
- Law schools must shift & teach students how to partner with clients to help them solve problems.
- We need students w/great tech skills in practice Mgmt not writing appellate briefs
- If we're going to pay for associate labor at all we want to know [them] & they need to be able to sit around a table & contribute."
- Law schools could focus more on outcomes companies want but aren't getting & recalibrate curriculum to better deliver
- Suggested 4-yr career path/map to develop skills lawyers will need to serve client