Saturday, October 27, 2012

Padding Law School Employment Numbers: More Allegations

Yet more allegations of fudged employment data reports. From the National Law Journal:

A former assistant career services dean at the Thomas Jefferson Law School has filed a declaration in a class action against the institution in which she acknowledges padding graduate employment statistics in 2006. 

Karen Grant said in a sworn statement in August that she counted recent graduates as employed if they had worked in any capacity since graduation. She blamed pressure by her supervisor to improve the school's jobs statistics.

Law schools are only supposed to report graduates as employed if they have a job nine months following graduation, according to American Bar Association rules.

"I was to ask first if they were currently employed," she said. "If the graduate indicated he or she was not currently employed, I would then inquire whether he or she was employed at any time after graduation. If the graduate indicated he or she was employed at any time after graduation (even though currently unemployed), I was instructed to record the graduate as 'employed' " for the record.

(ljs)

October 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Should Legal Scholarship Focus On Practice?

Towards Engaged Scholarship by John R. Nolon (abstract only)

Pace Law Review Vol. 33, No. 1, Summer 2013

Abstract: "This article addresses the relatively novel question of whether, as law school teaching evolves to embrace legal practice, the scholarship of law school professors should become more engaged in the practice as well. Traditional legal scholarship necessarily engages a central objective of law school teaching, which is to impart an understanding of the law and the legal system to students who must learn legal analysis and to “think like lawyers.” On the other hand, the practice-oriented influences of the Carnegie Foundation’s Educating Lawyers and the report of the Clinical Legal Education Association, Best Practices for Legal Education, have been working on the academy for only five years; law teachers are just now learning how they can better prepare their students to practice law “effectively and responsibly in the contexts they are likely to encounter as new lawyers.”

These reports have stimulated a vast literature on how law professors can improve their teaching methods, how law schools can alter their curricula, and how the legal academy as a whole can prioritize skills education. Much less attention has been paid to the connection between legal scholarship and practice-oriented teaching. For many law professors, there is an intuitive link between their teaching and scholarship. Does that link apply to teaching law students to be more practice-oriented, and what precisely does that mean? Should our scholarship examine more regularly the problems that practitioners confront and the contexts in which they arise?

This article contains and analyzes the reflections of sixteen law professors on this issue of linking scholarship to the context of legal practice. From these reflections, several themes are identified that lead to new perspective on legal scholarship in a time of dynamic change in the law school education. This article begins a dialogue on engaged scholarship and concludes with the hope that its discussion of the issue will help the legal academy reflect critically on one of the most important roles of law professors as academics and as molders of the careers of their students."

(Scott Fruehwald)

October 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Beyond Practical Skills: Nine Steps for Improving Legal Education Now"

A recent essay by Professor Michael Cassidy (BC) and available at 53 B.C. L. Rev. 1515 (2012) and here on SSRN.  A summary:

Five years after the Carnegie Report Educating Lawyers called upon law schools to adopt an integrated approach to legal education—teaching practical skills and professionalism across the curriculum—few schools have risen to that enormous challenge. Comprehensive reform will take years, requiring major resource reallocations, realignment of teaching responsibilities, redesign of courses, and changes to graduation requirements. R. Michael Cassidy, Professor of Law at Boston College Law School, in Beyond Practical Skills: Nine Steps for Improving Legal Education Now, empowers faculty members and administrators desiring to respond to the Carnegie Report with immediate, realizable tools to improve legal education in the United States. Cassidy’s nine proposals, each modest in isolation, could collectively have a huge impact on law students’ professional development. “Our current students deserve our best efforts to make progress now toward improving the professional education of lawyers, even if it means proceeding in a piecemeal fashion,” writes Cassidy.

(jbl).

October 27, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Symposium today on "The Law School in the New Legal Environment"

Hosted by Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, featured speakers include big guns in legal education reform like Dean Kent Syverud, Brian Tamanaha, Bill Henderson and Kyle McEntee, director of the Law School Transparency project.  The National Law Journal provides the overview:

Some big names in the law school world will convene in St. Louis on Oct. 26 to discuss how law schools should respond to the changing realities of the legal industry.

Washington University in St. Louis School of Law will host "The Law School in the New Legal Environment" symposium, the latest in a series of conferences that law schools and legal education organizations have held on that topic during the past three years. Those meetings generally have had little problem diagnosing the problems facing legal education, including skyrocketing tuition and diminished job prospects for new lawyers. They have been less successful in identifying how law schools should change.

Host dean Kent Syverud said the impending gathering would be different because the 210 attendees are influential decision-makers within the law school community and legal industry. A dozen law deans are slated to attend, as are an array of judges, managing partners, corporate counsel and university presidents.

In addition to Syverud, chair of the American Bar Association's Council on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, the speakers will include Lauren Robel, president of the American Association of Law Schools and interim provost of Indiana University; and Daniel Bernstine, president of the Law School Admission Council.

Attendees will also hear from Washington University professor Brian Tamanaha, author of the book Failing Law Schools, and Kyle McEntee, executive director of Law School Transparency, a nonprofit organization that has been instrumental in reforming the way law schools provide consumer information. Indiana University Maurer School of Law professor and legal industry expert BillHenderson will also speak, as will Andrew Puzder, a lawyer and chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc., which owns the Hardee's and Carl's Jr. chains.

"The predominant view shared by students, practicing attorneys and lawmakers is that law schools are in denial about these challenges, and it's time for law schools to make some serious changes to adjust to the new realities facing law graduates," Syverud said. "This symposium will address how American law schools can embrace needed change rather than avoid it."

Panel discussions covering affordability, the future of law faculties, preparation for practice, job placement for graduates and online legal education are planned. The closing session will zero in on the five highest priorities for change within legal education. Those priorities will be decided through an online poll of attendees.

Continue reading here.

(jbl)

October 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Clinic and Skills Courses Are on the Rise

The American Bar Association has published a study of law school curriculum. Comparing the numbers in 2002 and 2010, it finds a significant increase in the number of skills and clinical courses. You can find the statistical breakdown here (two pages). The biggest increase among skills courses was in Advanced Trial Advocacy. The biggest increase among clinical courses was in prosecutorial and defense clinics.

(ljs)

October 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday Fun: New novels by lawyers about lawyers

For your reading pleasure Vivia Chen at the Careerist blog has compiled a list of new books written by lawyers cum novelists.  Perhaps there's something on this list to tickle your fancy:

1. Godsent by Richard Burton, an in-house attorney with Landmark Management Group in Plano, Texas. (He also practiced at Bickel & Brewer.) TexParte Blog says it's a "thriller about the Son of God coming to earth in the modern time." Okay.

2. Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman. (About life in a big firm.) 

3. Guilt by Association and Guilt by Degrees by Marcia Clark (yes, that Marcia Clark).

4. Terminal Ambition by Kate McGuinness, a former partner at an Am Law 100 firm and GC of a Fortune 500 company. It's about Big Law and politics. Susan Estrich and Steven Harper liked it.

5.  Attorney-Client Privilege by Pamela Samuels Young, a former O'Melveny & Myers associate and in-house counsel at several companies.

6. The Floater  by Sheryl Sorrentino, a solo practioner.

(jbl).

October 26, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Chicago-Kent joins the list of schools that have started solo incubator programs

Chicago-Kent joins CUNY, Pace, UMKC, Thomas Jefferson, Maryland and a few others in launching a solo incubator project reflecting the new reality that many law grads must start their own firms if they want to practice law. From the ABA Journal blog:

Law School Launches Program to House New Solo Lawyers

Chicago-Kent College of Law's "Solo and Small Firm Incubator" is a one-year program designed to provide real client experience under the guidance of clinical faculty and alumni mentors. The seven participants were selected through an application process which included submissions of detailed business plans for their practices.

"Schools have never really fully recognized or supported solos. Law school is not traditionally geared for that," says Chicago-Kent Dean Harold Krent. "This program provides much more than just resources, it recognizes that a significant portion of law school graduates will be trying to make it on their own."

Kent is among several law schools jumping on the incubator trend as newly minted attorneys struggle in the current job market. Schools that have launched programs include CUNY, University of Missouri-Kansas City, the University of Maryland and Pace University.

"There seems to be an emergence of interest in incubator, residence and post-grad support systems," Will Hornsby, staff counsel for the ABA’s Division for Legal Services, told the ABA Journal for a story in the October issue. The story notes that the ABA is starting a discussion list and document archive for idea-sharing about incubators, and will host forums for those administering the projects.

At Chicago-Kent, Krent envisioned the program this spring and pushed for its launch this fall. The school and alumni mentors hosted the first all-day training session and Q&A for participants Wednesday.

The law school provides office space, technology and access to legal research tools in its for-fee law firm, "The Law Offices of Chicago-Kent," periodic workshops on business management and practice-related topics, and, perhaps most importantly, a network of committed faculty advisers and mentors to offer guidance and, hopefully, client referrals. In exchange, the participants, all 2011 and 2012 Chicago-Kent graduates, are expected to contribute ten hours each week assisting on cases in the clinic.

"What I really hope to get out of program is more litigation experience with someone who knows what she’s doing," says Rebecca Graham, who founded her own firm G&G Law, with friend and former classmate Michelle Green in 2011. For new lawyers, even logistical issues such as navigating federal court buildings are simplified with a knowing guide, Graham says. "Just having someone available down the hall for easy questions that we might spend hours researching, but anyone who has been practicing for a while would know, is a huge help."

(jbl).

October 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Apple iPad Mini coming to a school near you.

At the recent unveiling of the new iPad Mini, Apple touted its use as a must-have educational tool having eclipsed MAC use by a factor of two to one in grades K-12.  How soon the iPad replaces PC's and laptops in law schools?  From Education Week:

Apple Unveils Smaller, Cheaper iPad, Touts School Use

While it may not be an intended outcome when Apple launched its iPad tablet device in 2010, K-12 schools seem to love the thing. iPads sales in K-12 schools are now twice the amount of Macs, Apple's desktop counterpart, the company's chief executive officer, Tim Cook, announced in July. (On Tuesday, he announced that 100 million iPads have been sold worldwide.)

So when word leaked this week that the company would be unveiling a smaller, cheaper version of its iPad—in typical Apple fashion, at an invite-only presentation in a San Jose auditorium, live-streaming online around the world— the education world took notice.

. . . .

The iPad Mini starts at $329 for a Wi-Fi-enabled tablet with 16 gigabytes of memory; a device with Wi-Fi and cellular connectivity, useful for students without Internet at home, starts at $459. Regular iPads for K-12 schools run between $379 and $829, depending on the model and specifications.

. . . .

During Apple's live event, Cook introduced the iPad Mini by touting its potential for schools. He said 80 percent of the nation's "core curricula" is available in iBooks, Apple's digital bookstore. He showed a glowing quote from James Ponce, the superintendent of schools in McAllen, Texas, which recently purchased 25,000 iPads as part of a $20 million digital learning initiative that I wrote about here. There is also a new version of iBooks, which allows people, including teachers and "not just the big three textbook publishers," Cook pointed out, to author their own textbooks. He highlighted the ability to include math tools and multi-touch widgets within the e-textbooks, though that functionality is available through other e-textbooks providers.

But overall, one of the big selling points for iPads in education is that the learning experience is better and less burdensome than print textbooks. There is growing support on a national level for the switch. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education and Federal Communications Commission unveiled a "Digital Textbook Playbook" that encouraged schools to switch to all digital materials by 2017—in a recent report the State Education Technology Directors Association followed that recommendation.

Continue reading here.

(jbl).

October 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Worst Cities for Young Attorneys

The National Jurist lists the worst cities for young attorneys, based on earning potential. The bottom three, starting with the worst, are Little Rock, Louisville, and Dayton. Of course, a young attorney may choose a residence based on factors other than money.

(ljs)

October 25, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Most recent grads say law school was a positive experience

Despite graduating with high debt loads and uncertain job prospects, most students rated their law school experience as a very positive one according to a recent Kaplan survey.  As reported by the National Law Journal:

Law school retains luster for many recent graduates

Unemployment apparently hasn't dampened the enthusiasm of many recent law graduates for their alma maters. 

Nearly all of the recent graduates surveyed by test preparation company Kaplan Inc. in August gave their law school either an "A" or "B" grade, even though more than half had yet to find legal jobs.

Kaplan queried 705 members of the class of 2012 about their education, and 37 percent gave their law school an "A." Another 53 awarded a "B" and 9 percent offered a "C." A mere 1 percent of students gave their law school a "D," and none outright flunked their school.

Of those surveyed, 56 percent had yet to secure a law job. But the respondents remained optimistic: more than half—63 percent—were confident they would land a job within three months.

"Most students who enter law schools do so with a lot of passion and excitement about the educational experience awaiting them and also the eventual goal of practicing law, so it's encouraging that most new law graduates feel their schools provided them with a productive three years," said Kaplan Bar Review vice president and general manager Steven Marietti.

Even though the surveyed law graduates rated their educational experience highly, 28 percent said their alma mater hadn't adequately prepared them for the bar exam.

(jbl).

October 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Survey finds nearly one-third of college faculty use social media to teach

According to a recent study done by Babson Survey Research Group.

New survey from Babson Survey Research Group and Pearson cites fewer barriers to adoption, with emphasis on video, blogs and wikis for instruction

College faculty have evolved their use of social media for professional, personal and instructional use, with a decrease in concerns around the value and amount of time spent using social media, according to a new report from the Babson Survey Research Group and Pearson. The survey results will be presented during Pearson’s “Social Media for Teaching and Learning” event today at the Sheraton Boston Hotel from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.

The annual survey of nearly 4,000 teaching faculty from all disciplines in higher education, representing U.S. higher education professors, examined both the personal and professional impacts of social media.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • 64.4 percent of faculty use social media for their personal lives, 33.8 percent use it for teaching
  • 41 percent for those under age 35 compared to 30 percent for those over age 55 reported using social media in their teaching
  • Faculty in the Humanities and Arts, Professions and Applied Sciences, and the Social Sciences use social media at higher rates than those in Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computer Science
  • Blogs and wikis are preferred for teaching, while Facebook or LinkedIn are used more for social and professional connections
  • 88 percent of faculty, regardless of discipline, reported using online video in the classroom

“Faculty are clearly becoming more comfortable leveraging social media in their personal, professional and instructional lives,” said Jeff Seaman, Ph.D., co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group. “Social media is no longer seen as time-consuming to learn and use, which shows that faculty are more proficient and better acquainted with the social media tools available to them.”

Continue reading here.

(jbl).


October 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

“This” and Faulty Pronoun Reference

At the Chronicle of Higher Education, Lucy Ferriss discusses the problem of using the word “this” and not making clear to whom or what “this” refers. Here’s an example from a student paper:

  1. Because Character A, who loves him, is not aware of her own potential, she is more desirable to Character B who is able to use this to his own benefit.
  2. Critic X’s ideas are particularly applicable when examining how B participates in indirect narration. This is most clearly seen by comparing the description of Character C from the narrator’s perspective to moment when we are taken inside B’s thoughts.
  3. Character Y’s interactions serve as a red flag to us as readers, warning us that he is not a voice that can be trusted. The most significant moment that demonstrates this is just after Character Z gives her speech.

The technical name for the problem is “faulty pronoun reference.” I frequently come across this problem in my students’ work. As Ferriss suggests, the writer using “this” inappropriately may not have a clear idea of what “this” refers to. The problem, then, extends beyond a grammar goof to unclear thinking.

(ljs)

October 24, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

There's An App For That.

Kathy Vinson has developed an app for a writing checklist.  She describes it as: "The new iPhone app, iWrite Legal, includes tips for clear communication, writing checklists, and other resources designed to help students thoroughly revise, edit, and proofread a legal document."  You can download it at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/iwritelegal/id561864315?mt=8.

(Scott Fruehwald)

October 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Plans for a new law school in Illinois?

That would bring the total number of law schools in Illinois to ten.  At a time when at least one  prognosticator is saying that the anticipated gap between the number of future law grads and available jobs is "mind blowing" you think I'm joshing you, right? No, I'm not.  From the Peoria Journal Star:

Luciano: Judge shares a vision of a Bradley law school

PEORIA —

Bradley University College of Law.

Sound intriguing? Some people - including a federal judge, a law school dean and the BU provost - think so. Moreover, a group of legal experts concluded in a hush-hush study - never revealed publicly until now - that central Illinois boasts a market for a law school.

That assessment might raise eyebrows, inside and outside legal circles, in light of increasingly daunting job prospects for new law grads. But, even under a continued economic gray sky nationwide, proponents say a Bradley law school could be conceived with niche studies and new-model curricula that would better position graduates for employment, especially in this area.

"I think there's opportunity, even if the times are difficult," says study-group member James Shadid, chief U.S. district judge for the Central District of Illinois, based in Peoria and encompassing 46 counties. "But if we're going to be like all the rest, then there's no reason to be there. So, the discussion has centered on, how can we be different?"

Shadid and the rest of the team focused on a law school's viability only in terms of potential enrollment, education and employment. The next step would involve economic and fund-raising realities. But from a classroom perspective, the future looks brightly optimistic, advocates say.

"I'm excited about the idea," Shadid says. "Whether it happens remains to be seen."

(Note: Since 1997, I have taught part-time at Bradley. However, as can be attested by longtime readers - including chagrined administrators at the school - I've never shied from kicking or prodding the university, when warranted.)

Shadid, 55, is one of about 10 members of the study team. He stresses that his views hold no more weight than others'. However, the notion of the law-school study started with him.

 

You can continue reading here.

(jbl).

October 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Judge Alex Kozinski on why lawyers should not use block quotes

In a video interview with legal writing expert Bryan Garner, Judge Kozinsky explains that when he sees a block quote in a brief, he skips over it.  While the author thinks an indented block quote signals to the reader "very important point" Judge Kozinsky sees it as so much "yada, yada, yada."  Worse, it connotes laziness on the part of the brief's author.  A lawyer who seamlessly integrates short quotes into her own sentences, as long as it's done sparingly, is doing her job according to Kozinsky. But block quotes indicate that the lawyer didn't spend enough time trying to assimilate the point in order to be able to explain it to the judge in her own words. Instead, the block quote comes across as a legal writing crutch.

So, while the lawyer may think block quotes are a great way to underscore important points, Kozinsky says instead that when he sees them, his mind starts to wander.  He thinks about other cases, "gardening," raising chickens (yes, Judge Kozinski owns chickens) or his next snowboard trip to Aspen. As a result, you've completely lost him as a reader and that's not good.

Check out Bryan Garner's video interview here (you may need a plug-in to watch it) or check out a partial transcript here courtesy of the Lawyerist blog.

Hat tip to Legal Blog Watch.

(jbl).

October 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Volume 9 of “Legal Communication & Rhetoric” is Out

The journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors, Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD, has published an impressive set of articles. Here is the table of contents for volume 9 with links to the texts of the articles.Preface

October 23, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 22, 2012

The New Economics of Law School: Growth Is Dead.

Yesterday, I discussed a series of articles by Bruce McEwen on the new economics of law firms.  His thesis is that law firms went through an unprecedented rate of growth between 1980 and 2008, and that this economic basis ended with the economic crisis in September 2008.  In order to survive law firms must look to other industries whose economies have been based on the usual economic reality--economic growth based on population growth.  Such a model requires innovation and simplicity.

In reading his article, I was struck by the close resemblance between his analysis of law firms and the new economics of law schools.  Like law firms, law schools underwent unprecedented growth before the 2008 recession.  Now, law schools are facing fewer applications, a level of tuition that many students cannot afford, dissatisfaction from students and employers, and pressure to make innovations.  Many commentators believe that this trend will continue, and some have even predicated that a number of law schools will fail.

As McEwen proposed for law firms, law schools must simplify and innovate to survive.  As is well known, most law schools today continue to follow a modified version of the Langdellian model from over 100 years ago.  Most law schools want to be like Harvard and Yale, despite the fact that they will never achieve what Harvard and Yale have.

Law schools must be innovative in both their economic structure and their curriculum.  Law schools must find ways to reduce tuition and student debt.  Many of today's law school graduates are leaving law school with debts that will take many years to pay off.  Law schools must cut back on frills, such as shiny new buildings and large administrative staffs, and create innovative ways to reduce tuition and law school debt.

It is equally important that law students be equipped for today's law practice.  There has been a ton of articles written on innovation in legal education based on the latest research on teaching and learning.  How about this for a simple model.  First, all classes should teach both doctrine and application by having a significant problem-solving element in each class.  Second, all law schools should offer students the opportunity to take several legal skills, clinical, and experiential courses in their third year.  Of course, all law schools should not adopt the same model, but rather experiment in curriculum and teaching.

To sum up some of McEwen's suggestions:

1. Law schools must face the fact that growth is limited.  Growth for most businesses usually is the same as population growth.

2. Law schools need to take the long view.

3. The customer--students employers, clients--must be the focus of innovation.

4. Experimentation is the key.

5. Law schools need to simplify to innovate. 

6. The Dean has to be the “Chief External Officer” to manage external pressure and the “Chief Innovation Officer” to push the innovation agenda forward. [Neither of which roles comes naturally to most lawyers.]

In Part Six of his series, McEwen declares that he is not optimistic that law firms will embrace change, and I am afraid that the same applies to law schools.  McEwen notes that innovation involves risk and failure and that lawyers are afraid of risk and failure.  He argues, "Alone among the professions—I submit—we are statistically innumerate and implacable in our refusal to entertain probabilities, odds, reasoned judgments, and cost/benefit tradeoffs. . . . Other industries, and companies, learn through failure. We bury our failures. But this fault – and make no mistake, it’s a categorical fault – is in our nature as lawyers."

We have predicted several times on this blog that those law schools that refuse to innovate will die.  Therefore, law school faculties and administrations  must abandon this lawyer mindset against risk and failure, and, instead, adopt an entrepreneurial one.  Otherwise, the future is dim for legal education.

(Scott Fruehwald)

October 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tips on how to stop procrastinating and better manage your time at work

From Harvard Business School Professor Robert Pozen who has authored a new book called Extreme Productivity. This video interview with Professor Pozen is courtesy of The Business Insider.

(jbl).

October 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Does Gov. Romney Speak in 1950s Language?

According to an article in last Sunday’s New York Times,  Governor Romney’s word choices are a throw back to the 1950s:

As he seeks the office of commander in chief, Mr. Romney can sometimes seem like an editor in chief, employing a language all his own. It is polite, formal and at times anachronistic, linguistically setting apart a man who frequently struggles to sell himself to the American electorate.

Even in private meetings, he does not permit vulgarities.

 I wonder if this criticism reflects the culture of some in a few eastern states and in one western state. I suspect that in much of the country, “Romneyspeak” reflects how normal people talk.

(ljs)

October 22, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The New Economics for Law Firms: Growth Is Dead

Bruce McEwen has posted a six-part series of articles on the Adam Smith, Esq. blog entitled Growth is Dead.   This is a very important set of articles for anyone interested in the economics of law firms.

He writes, "From more or less 1980 until approximately September 15, 2008, the industry of BigLaw enjoyed an unprecedented run of growth in revenue, profitability, and headcount, with compound annual growth rates in the middle to high single digits for virtually that entire period, with only the occasional hiccup.  This is almost unheard of in modern economies. . . .  Everything changed with the Great Reset."  The result: "Clients, who had always had power but might not have known or exercised it, realized they did and they could. This will not change back. Pricing pressure is here to stay."  Most importantly, "The BigLaw industry suffers from excess capacity on several levels, including a surfeit of JD graduates being churned out by US law schools, too-high levels of leverage among traditional associate ranks, overpopulated ranks of non-equity partners, underperforming equity partners."  He concludes, "And excess capacity at the most fundamental level, I fear, means too many undifferentiated firms chasing too much of the same types of business, and tempted to engage in short-sighted, self-defeating pricing to keep revenue flowing."

McEwen suggests that to solve these problems, law firms should look to how other industries have been solving similar problems for a long time.  Growth in most industries means a rate approximating population growth.  One source he looks to concerning this reality is A.G. Lafley, CEO of Proctor & Gamble:

"1. In an age of disruption, growth is getting increasingly difficult. [That's precisely the point.]

2. Companies need to take the long view. Lafley said he finds it hard to watch CNBC for more than 7 minutes because the focus is so short term. 

3. The customer needs to be the center of the innovation equation. When Lafley took over as CEO in 2000, he said he saw too many managers on their cellphones, or buried in spreadsheets, in essence “showing customers their behind.”

4. Experimentation is key. Lafley talked about the value of giving customers even crude prototypes to test an idea. He also described how different parts of his organization approach innovation differently, and that’s a good thing. 

5. Complex organizations need to simplify to successfully innovate. Lafley said he seeks Sesame Street simplicity. 

6. The CEO has to be the “Chief External Officer” to manage external pressure and the “Chief Innovation Officer” to push the innovation agenda forward. [Neither of which roles comes naturally to most lawyers.]"

In sum, "I dwelt on P&G under Lafley because they faced a market landscape with intrinsically limited growth, as do we, and he approached it in ways we would never dream of, including inviting ideas from outside the firm and developing totally new products in segments thought to be stagnant. . . . I dwelt on A.J. Lafley and P&G earlier because they confronted these Darwinian pressures of the marketplace a dozen years ago, and responded in an enormously creative, not to mention successful, fashion. Will we have the imagination, the applied intellectual horsepower, and most critically of all the unswerving resolve, to do the same?"

There is much more to learn from this series of articles.

(Scott Fruehwald)

October 21, 2012 | Permalink | Comments (0)