Sunday, February 13, 2011

ABA panel on "Future of Lawyering" says law schools need to rethink legal education

During yesterday's midyear meeting of the ABA, a panel discussion was held entitled "The Future of Lawyering."  Among the conclusions:

  • Legal practice is undergoing fundamental change.
  • Routine legal work that attorneys used to be able to bill in hourly increments at hefty profits can now be done for a fraction of the cost (or for free) with the use of online forms, free internet resources like Google Scholar, and with the aid of computers that have processing capabilities approximating human intelligence.
  • Online "virtual law firms" now exist that are available to consumers 24/7 and threaten the existence of small town practitioners.
  • Globalization (e.g. outsourcing legal work to companies like Pangea3) has caused a "massive shift in how potential clients get legal information."

These are some of the same predictions made by Richard Susskind in his book "The End of Lawyering" which we've blogged about here and here.

With respect to how law schools prepare for these changes, the panel recommended that they focus on teaching students better communication skills as well as how to collaborate in a global marketplace.

William Henderson, director of the Center on the Global Legal Profession at Indiana University-Bloomington, said law schools need to adjust their curriculum to better equip students to the changing world. The key is to give them better training in communication skills and working together in a more collaborative environment.

'Law schools need to rethink legal education to encourage lawyers to work together as a team, especially in the global marketplace,' agreed fellow IU law professor Carole Silver, who is also an ABF Affiliated Scholar. Silver said international law students come to U.S. law schools with relationship building as a key priority.

'U.S. law schools need to focus on relationships,' Silver said. 'We need to teach lawyers how to do a better job of playing in the sandbox.'

You can read more about the ABA panel on the Future of Lawyering here.

Hat tip to Stephanie West Allen.


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