March 13, 2013
ReInvent Law is a Really Big Deal
I was at the ReInvent Law Silicon Valley event last week. Following up on Jerry's thorough remarks, I can honestly say it was unlike any legal education and lawyer conference I have ever attended (the only thing close is Law Without Walls). There is a new guard in the legal academy taking shape, and it is led -- truly led -- by Dan Katz and Renee Knake at Michigan State.
Admittedly, Dan and Renee lean heavily toward my bias. Most of us law professors talk. Dan and Renee, in contrast, are doers. Shortly after becoming assistant professors, they each moved quickly from ideas to action to actually having the audacity to attempt to build new and relevant institutions. Moreover, they both did it untenured--Dan is only in his second year of teaching and Renee just cleared the tenure hurdle earlier this year. They did all of this without a net. To my mind, they are winning the "Game of Life." If other junior faculty follow their example, the legal academy is going to truly change. And right now, that is what we need.
One of my favorite Paul Lippe quotes is this, "In hindsight, the new solutions are all going to look obvious." ReInvent Law was 40 speakers tied together by a common interest in experimentation. Were all the ideas good? If history is any guide, and the criteria is moving from concept to implementation to financial and institutional sustainability, the answer is surely no. But it was invigorating to be in a room of doers who are all willing to risk failure. That is the courage and leadership we need right now. To me, it looked obvious that we need a place like ReInvent Law where insurgent ideas can be expressed with enthusiasm, even if only a handful or fewer will transform the legal landscape.
I was fortunate to be one of the presenters. Dan Katz was kind enough to take my picture when I gave my Ted-style talk (all the talks were Ted-style or "Ignite"). If you zoom-in on me, I look ridiculous. I am no showman. But you have to admit that the lighting is pretty spectacular. The green screen, by the way, is the running twitter feed, an idea that I can assure you was not stolen from the ABA or the AALS.
Amidst all these "revolutionary" ideas, I think my presentation was probably the most conservative. My central claim is that 100 years ago, as the nation struggled to find enough specialized lawyers to deal with the rise of the industrial and administrative state, some brilliant lawyers in cities throughout the U.S. created a "clockworks" approach to lawyer development. These clockworks filled the enormous skills and knowledge gap. Firms like Cravath, Swaine & Moore, through their "Cravath System," finished what legal educators started. (I use the Cravath System as my exemplar because its elegant business logic was written out so meticulously in the firm's 3-volume history.)
The whole purpose of the clockworks was to create a "better lawyer faster." This is a quote from volume II. The company I co-founded, Lawyer Metrics, incorporated it into our trademark -- the value promise is that compelling. See the slides below.
Here is the Slideshare description:
The original Cravath System circa 1920 demonstrated the power of a "clockworks" approach to lawyer development. The system was a meticulously designed and mechanized way to create specialized lawyers who could service the needs of America's rapidly growing industrial and financial enterprises -- lawyers who were in perennial short supply because the requisite skill set could only be learned by doing. The System endured for a century because it solved the specialized lawyer shortage by making every stakeholder better off -- junior lawyers (received training), partner-owners (large, stable profits), and clients (world class service and value).
Today's legal employers and legal educators would benefit by revisiting this system's powerful business logic. The clockworks approach to lawyer development still works. The only difference is that the specifications for a great lawyer have changed. Like the original Cravath System, a new clockworks would create a "better lawyer faster."
[posted by Bill Henderson]
March 13, 2013 in Current events, Data on legal education, Data on the profession, Fun and Learning in the classroom, Innovations in law, Law Firms, Legal Departments, New and Noteworthy, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 17, 2013
ReInventLaw Silicon Valley 2013 @ The Computer History Museum
On March 8, 2013 - The ReInventLaw Laboratory - Founded by Daniel Katz and Renee Knake from Michigan State will host ReInventLaw Silicon Valley 2013 @ The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA.
Topics to be covered include:
LegalTechStartUp, Lawyer Regulation, Quantitative Legal Prediction, Legal Supply Chain, Project Management, Technology Aided Access to Justice, Design, 3D-Printing, Driverless Cars, Business of Law, Legal Education, Legal Information Engineering, New Business Models for Law, Lean Lawyering, Augmented Reality, Legal Process Outsourcing, Big Data, New Markets for Law, Virtual Law Practice, E-Discovery, Information Visualization, E-Discovery, Legal Entrepreneurship, Legal Automation … and much more.
What do I need to know?
- At all price points, the legal services market is rapidly changing and this disruption represents peril & possibility. This meeting is about the possibility ... about some of the game changers who are already building the future of this industry.
- This is a 1 day event featuring 40 speakers in a high energy format with specific emphasis on technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.
- It will highlight the new and growing portion of the legal services industry. It will not be boring.
- For more on our lab and related events please see: http://reinventlaw.com/
How Much Does it Cost?
This event is generously sponsored in part by the Ewing M. Kauffman Foundation, Michigan State University College of Law and the ReInvent Law Laboratory.
Thus, tickets are FREE but limited.
There will only be 400 tickets for this free event. Many of them are already taken and when they are gone, they are gone. Thus, if you or your friends/colleagues/students would be interested in attending -please sign up today.
Final Thoughts …
As I mentioned to Bill Henderson the other day … the old internet adage applies with equal vigor in the legal services industry "the future is here … it is just not evenly distributed."
Come join the future already in progress at #ReInventLaw Silicon Valley March 8th, 2013 (and at our other free public events in London and New York later in 2013).
February 17, 2013 in Current events, Fun and Learning in the classroom, Important research, Innovations in law, Innovations in legal education, New and Noteworthy, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (0)
February 10, 2013
Do the Best Lawyers have Excellent "Slow" Brains?
We were born with a fast brain, but we need a slow one to advance civilization, among other things. I am talking about insights of behavioral economics being applied to lawyer decisonmaking and judgment, and I think the answer to my question is "yes". Indeed, I think the insights of behavior econonomics put a whole new and important gloss on the tired adage, "Thinking like a lawyer."
We cover the basics of this topic in my 1L Legal Professions class. Apparently, it resonated with one of my many attentive students, as he/she sent me this amazing science video. It boils down all of Dan Kahneman's brilliant Thinking, Fast and Slow treatise into four very engaging minutes. This is a vegetable that tastes like chocolate. (H/T to a wise anonymous 1L at Indiana Law.)
[posted by Bill Henderson]
May 23, 2012
What is the Answer to High Student Debt?
- The New York Times asked it today, and suggested that "full disclosure" is the answer. That is just crazy -- students are going to college or graduate school so they have the skills and knowledge to do complex things like conduct a reliable cost-benefit analysis.
- In the column in The New Yorker titled "The Cost of College," Nichlas Lehman, Dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, wonders whether higher education is suffering from a pricing bubble. Then, remarkably, he goes on declare that "higher education is actually underpriced .... in the top-tier schools" because "price is determined by what people are willing to pay." [Yes, and the highest bid will be accepted right before the bubble bursts.] Regardless, Lehman is pleased that both Obama and Romney will try to keep interest rates low on undergraduate Stafford loans -- which just kicks the can down the road without imposing any pricing pressure on colleges or universities.
- In contrast to Lehman's conclusion that top-tier schools are a bargain, in the Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin consults with two policy wonks from conservative think tanks who argue that institutions like Harvard are gouging students due to misguided federal subsidies and tax policies that shelter massive multi-billion dollar endowments. This analysis is long on blame but short on solutions.
- As noted in my prior post, entrepenuer Peter Thiel is offering $100K fellowships for students to "stop" their formal education to pursue ideas that may contribute to viable new businesses. Love the idea, but it is a tiny niche solution.
My own belief is that educational quality is the next great frontier. If we can put a man on the moon in the 1960s, surely with four years and $120K we can turn a reasonably able and motivated 22 year old into a critical thinker who can reliably communicate, collaborate, gather facts, assess data, lead, follow, and approach problems with both empathy and objectivity. Further, improving quality changes the debate from "how much does higher education cost?" to "how much is higher education worth?" And if the worth is sufficiently high, both public and private employers would be willing to subsidize it in exchange for preferred access to graduates.
The only barrier is institutional focus. To make this happen, a university has to take an "Apollo Project" approach that focuses purely on education. After figuring out the "how high" and "how fast" possibilities, an institution could then focus on controlling costs through process improvements and building modules. First quality (worth), then cost. This is not trade school education; this is about fully exploring human potential.
The first university to break into this space will have a profoundly disruptive effect the rest of higher education. The future of higher education is education.
[posted by Bill Henderson]
February 24, 2012
Feedback and Presentation Skills
Here is a interesting video on how large firm lawyers (specifically lawyers at Duane Morris) are getting training on the basic of good presentations skills. The touchstones are stories and humor. The method for acquiring these skills is practice and feedback. Some folks might think this is obvious and thus too simplistic or basic to invest in. The result: a knowing-doing gap. I see is over and over again.
The short case study overview of the training (albeit written by the trainers) is online here.
February 07, 2012
What Types of Students are the Most Gifted Collaborators?
Very few people will answer this question correctly. To find the correct answer, and get a good laugh, watch this video. Here is the good news -- collaboration is teachable. In fact, you used to be very good at it.
The homepage of the speaker, Tom Wujec, is www.tomwujec.com.
[Posted by Bill Henderson]
January 22, 2012
What is The Legal Whiteboard?
[Posted by Bill Henderson]
As I write the inaugural post for The Legal Whiteboard, I am cognizant of the fact that our current readership will likely be single digit and driven largely by errant Google searches. Hey, that is better than zero. It doesn't matter if the first snowball is small; it just has to roll. My sincere thanks to Paul Caron and Joe Hodnicki for taking a chance on one more blog devoted to lawyers and legal education.
For the benefit of our small initial readership, I would like to offer my own rationale for creating The Legal Whiteboard. So here it goes.
According to a lot of reputable media outlets, the sky is falling for both legal education and legal services. I understand the basis for this conclusion. A lot of lawyers, young and old, are unemployed or underemployed. The debt loads of graduating students are staggering. The established “brand” law firms are doing something they have never done before --- shrink, or at least not grow. This puts lawyers on edge and has a tendeny to spawn unhealthy, short-sighted behavior. The federal government, through the direct lending of the Department of Education, continues to fuel the lawyer production machine. So things may get worse before they get better.
Despite the fact that I am one of the go-to people on the speaker circuit when it comes time to talk about structural change, I am not in the sky-is-falling camp. Instead, I see a lot of opportunities for lawyers, law students and legal educators to do very important and creative work. What is most exciting about this work is that it will make society better off – law will become better, faster and cheaper. Many legal services will become more standardized, productized and commoditized. I realize that these words will rankle some of the old guard, particularly those still making a good living under the bespoke model. But clients – including corporations, government and ordinary citizens—will love it. Professional ideals will remain the cornerstone of successful legal enterprises, but denying the exigencies of the marketplace is, to my mind, unprofessional.
Because clients and society want better, faster and cheaper law, I believe lawyers (including legal educators) have a professional duty to ardently pursue this goal. The hardest part of this assignment – and the most vexing and interesting – is how to parlay this transformation into a decent living.
Many people assume that the new paradigm means lawyers working longer hours for lower wages. That is one future business model. But I think it utterly lacks imagination. Lawyers are problem solvers. To my mind, the growing price elasticity for legal services and legal education is just a very difficult problem. And whenever I am faced with a very difficult problem, I typically start writing out my thoughts on a massive whiteboard. (I am told it is quite a spectacle to behold.) I am also someone who loves to collaborate. With an outward facing Legal Whiteboard, I am hoping to elicit the genius of my fellow travelers.
In addition to outlining the purpose of The Legal Whiteboard, I want to take this opportunity to say how happy and proud I am that Andy Morriss has agreed to be my co-venturer on this new project. Andy Morriss and I have a long history together. And it is a history that goes to the very core of what this blog is about – the transformative power of education. I do not use the word transformative lightly. I am talking about something that is life altering and deeply existential, helping us answer the most fundamental questions regarding the meaning and purpose of work and life. Nearly twenty years ago, Andy was my college teacher. And I got transformed.
Back in 1994, I was a 31 year-old firefighter-paramedic in a Cleveland suburb who decided to return to college at Case Western Reserve University to finish my undergraduate degree. The goal was to attend law school. (I had dropped out of college in 1984 after a junior year abroad at the London School of Economics – but that is a topic for a different post.) I had my sights set on Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. I was negotiating contracts for the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), and I wanted better tools to stick-it to the management attorneys we were up against. (A few years later, I learned to separate positions from personality.)
My last year of college was costing me a small fortune. If I could earn a few A’s during my senior year, maybe I could get a partial scholarship to Cleveland-Marshall. Suffice to say, I was an engaged student. At the time, Andy, who has a JD and economics PhD, had a joint appointment with the Case business and law schools. To minimize my use of “comp time” on days when my classes overlapped with my fire department shifts, I stacked all my classes on Tuesday and Thursdays – and those were the days that Andy taught at the business school. So I took Law & Economics, Environmental Economics, and Law, Cooperation and Economics in successive semesters.
Taking a class from Andy has an exercise in having your expectations of a lecture class turned on their head. To simulate a slip-and-fall case, we made puddles of spilt milk in hallways and contemplated who was in the best position– the alleged victim or tort-feasor – to avoid the harm in the first instance. At the end of a substantive course unit, Andy would ask for feedback. And in the next course unit, he would change his approach accordingly. When someone in the class had an interesting life experience, he would get very excited and mine it for information relevant to the lesson plan.
Slowly it began to dawn on me that Andy was turning every classroom into a laboratory. He was more than happy to convey his massive learning, but he was always trying to pull learning from the students and the classroom. When a smart person lacks a big ego and is truly openminded, the ideas gush in. Andy could walk to the grocery store from his condo in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and return home with a research idea worthy of a PhD dissertation. And, in turn, he would give the idea away.
I have known Andy for almost 20 years and worked on several major projects with him. Although we have never voted for the same presidential candidate, I can honestly say we have never once had a disagreeable disagreement. And we have had hundreds of hours of laughter. I want The Legal White board to perpetuate this ethos. We are interested in ideas, meaningful trends and problem solving in law and legal education. The dialogue is intended to be task-focused. Ideas, facts and analysis are important; egos, ideology and personal agendas are not. I hope this blog is useful first, but also entertaining, collaborative and humane. These are the tricks I have learned from friend and mentor, Andy Morriss.