Thursday, October 17, 2013

Understanding Trends in Demographics of Law Students -- Part Two

Trends in LSAT Profiles of Applicants and Matriculants

In looking at trends over the last 12 years, there are two relevant time frames due to changes in how LSAC reported data.  Between 2002 and 2009, the LSAC’s annual National Decision Profiles were based on the average LSAT scores of applicants and matriculants.  From 2010 to the present, the National Decision Profiles were based on the highest LSAT scores of applicants and matriculants.  This post compares trends in LSAT profiles between 2002 and 2009 with trends between 2010 and 2013, noting that the latter period not only has seen a decline in enrollment but also has seen a significant weakening of the overall LSAT profile of first-years.

Changes in LSAT Profiles from 2002-2009 Using Average LSAT

The following chart shows the difference in LSAT composition of first-years in three cycles between 2001-02 and 2008-09.

Matriculants by LSAT Category (Reflecting Average LSAT) 2002-2009

                            165+                        150-164           <150                Total

2001-02               5,889                       30,100             9,097               45,086

2004-05               7,447                       32,007             6,036               45,490

2008-09               7,652                       31,991             8,943               48,586

In the three years between 2002 and 2005, applications grew by roughly 5,000, to roughly 95,000, with growth among those with an average LSAT of 165+ and an average LSAT of 150-164, and a modest decline among those with an average LSAT of <150.  Law schools matriculated only 400 more first-years in 2005 than in 2002, but there were roughly 3,050 fewer first-year students with average LSATs <150, with 1,900 more first years with average LSATs of 150-164 and roughly 1,550 more with average LSATs of 165+.  This three-year period saw strengthening of the LSAT profile of first-year students.

Four years later, with an applicant pool that had declined to nearly 87,000, however, law schools enrolled over 3,000 additional first-year students, 2,900 of whom had average LSATs of <150.  Virtually all of the growth in first-years between 2005 and 2009, therefore, was comprised of students at the lower end of the LSAT profile. 

Nonetheless, in comparison with the 2002 first-years, the 2009 first-years included slightly fewer students with an average LSAT of <150 (down 154 – 1.7%) and larger populations of students with average LSATs of 165+ (up 1,763 – nearly 30% more) and with average LSATs of 150-164 (up 1,891 – or roughly 6.3% more).  In 2009, therefore, the average LSAT profile of all first-years, while less robust than in 2005, was still more robust than in 2002.

Between 2004 and 2008, the ABA approved nine new law schools (with fall 2009 first-year enrollment in parentheses) – Atlanta’s John Marshall (211) and Western State (188) in 2005, Liberty (119), Faulkner (150) and Charleston (241) in 2006, Phoenix (272) in 2007, and Elon (121), Drexel (156) and Charlotte (276) in 2008.  The first-year enrollment of these nine schools in Fall 2009 totaled 1,734, roughly 60% of the growth in matriculants with average LSATs of < 150 between 2005 and 2009.  While many of the first-year students at these schools had LSATs of greater than 150, these schools took students who might have gone to other schools and increased the overall demand for applicants with average LSATs of <150.

Changes in LSAT Profiles from 2010-2013

The following chart focuses on the last three admissions cycles and the current admission cycle, covering the period in which the LSAC National Decision Profiles were based on each applicant’s highest LSAT score. 

Applicants and Matriculants Across Three LSAT Categories Based on Highest LSAT from 2010 to 2013

Adm. Cycle         Total     Total    Apps.   Mat.     Apps.      Mat.       Apps.   Mat.

                            Apps.    Mat.*   165+    165+   150-164 150-164    <150   <150

Fall 2010            87912   49719   12177   9477    47722     32862      26548   7013

Fall 2011            78474   45616   11190   8952     41435     29220      24396   7101

Fall 2012            67925   41422    9196    7571    34653      25425     22089    7906

Fall 2013**        59426   38900    7496    6300    30263      24000     20569    8200

*Note that the total matriculants number is greater than the sum of the matriculants across the three categories in any given year because the total matriculants number includes non-standard test-takers and those without an LSAT.

**The Fall 2013 numbers represent estimates based on the number of applicants in each category and an assumption that 2013 saw another slight increase in the percentage of applicants from each LSAT category who matriculated (consistent with increases in the two previous years in response to the decreasing applicant pool).

During this period, the number of applicants declined by 28,000, or over 32%, but the number of applicants with a highest LSAT of 165+ declined by 38%, and the number with a highest LSAT of 150-164 declined by 36.5%, while the number with a highest LSAT of <150 declined by only 22.5%.  Thus, the pool of applicants is not only smaller in the 2012-13 admissions cycle as compared to 2009-10, but it is “weaker” in terms of the LSAT profile.  

The number of matriculants in the top two LSAT categories also declined significantly between Fall 2010 and Fall 2012, while the number of matriculants in the bottom LSAT category actually grew. 

The number of matriculants whose highest LSAT score was 165+ fell from 9,477 in 2010 to 7,571 in 2012, a decline of over 20%, while the percentage of applicants in this category who became matriculants increased from 78% to 80% to 82% over that period.  If we estimate that 84% of the 2013 applicants with a highest LSAT of 165+ matriculate, then we can anticipate roughly 6300 matriculants for Fall 2013 with a highest LSAT of 165+, a drop of nearly 33% since 2010. 

The number of matriculants whose highest LSAT score was 150-164 fell from 32,862 in 2010 to 25,425 in 2012, a decline of nearly 23%, while the percentage of applicants in this category who became matriculants increased from 69% to 70.5% to 73% over that period. If we estimate that roughly 79% of the applicants with a highest LSAT of 150-164 matriculate, then we can anticipate roughly 24,000 matriculants for Fall 2013 with an LSAT of 150-164, a decline of roughly 27% since Fall 2010. 

Meanwhile, the number of matriculants whose highest LSAT score was <150 grew from roughly 7,000 to over 7,900, an increase of roughly 13%, while the percentage of applicants in this category who became matriculants increased from 26% to 29% to 36% over that period. If we estimate that roughly 40% of the applicants with a highest LSAT of <150 matriculate, then we can anticipate roughly 8,200 matriculants with an LSAT of <150 for Fall 2013, an increase of roughly 17% since Fall 2010. 

Percentage of First-Years from Each LSAT Category Using Highest LSAT-- 2010-2013*

            165+               150-164           <150

2010    0.191               0.661               0.141

2011    0.196               0.641               0.156

2012    0.183               0.614              0.191

2013    0.162               0.617              0.211

*The sum of the percentages in any given year will be slightly less than 1.00 because the denominator -- total matriculants -- includes matriculants with non-standard LSAT and those with no LSAT.

This table shows that if my estimates for 2013 are roughly accurate, while the percentage of matriculants whose highest LSAT score was 165+ in the first-year class has declined between Fall 2010 and Fall 2013 by roughly 16% (from 19% to 16%) and the percentage of matriculants whose highest LSAT was 150-164 has declined by roughly 6% (from 66% to 62%) the percentage of matriculants whose highest LSAT was <150 has increased 50% (from 14% to 21%).

Adjusting from Highest LSAT to Average LSAT to Compare 2002 and 2013

The change in the 2009-10 admissions cycle to using highest LSAT rather than average LSAT resulted in an increase in matriculants with scores of 165+ of roughly 1,800 between Fall 2009 and Fall 2010.  Given that there had been a modest increase in the number of matriculants with an average LSAT of 165+ between 2008 and 2009 (an increase of roughly 600, from 7,023 to 7,652), it might be fair to assume that there would have been another modest increase in the number of matriculants with an average LSAT of 165+ between 2009 and 2010 given the challenging economic environment at the time and the continued growth in applications between 2009 and 2010.  Assume then that of the 1,800 additional matriculants with scores of 165+, 400 would have been included in the category if we were still using an average LSAT of 165+ rather than the highest LSAT of 165+.  That would suggest that to estimate the number of matriculants with an average LSAT of 165+ in 2010, it might make sense to subtract 1,400 matriculants from the number of matriculants with a highest LSAT of 165+ in 2010 and then for the next three years apply the same percentage reduction as reflected in the number of those with a highest LSAT of 165+ over those three years.

The change to highest LSAT rather than average LSAT also resulted in a drop in the number of matriculants with an LSAT <150 between 2009 and 2010 of roughly 1,900 matriculants. Notably, the number of applicants and matriculants with an average LSAT <150 had grown slightly between 2007 and 2009 (applicants from 29,123 to 29,926, matriculants from 7,013 to 7,906).  Nonetheless, to err on the conservative side, assume that the number of matriculants with an average LSAT <150 actually may have declined in Fall 2010 from Fall 2009 rather than continuing to increase modestly.  Assume it would have declined by roughly 5% or 400 (rather than 1,900).  That would mean that to estimate the number of matriculants with an average LSAT of <150 in Fall 2010, we would need to add to the number with a highest LSAT of <150 roughly 1,500 more matriculants and then for the next three years apply the same percentage increase as reflected in the number of those with a highest LSAT of <150 over those three years.

Using these assumptions, the estimated number of first-years with an average LSAT of 165+ would fall to roughly 5,400 as of Fall 2013, while the estimated number of first-years with an average LSAT of <150 would rise to over 9,800 in Fall 2013. 

If the estimates above are close to accurate, then the number of Fall 2013 matriculants with an average LSAT score of 165+ represents roughly 14% of Fall 2013 matriculants (a slightly higher percentage than in Fall 2002), while the number of Fall 2013 matriculants with an average LSAT of <150 represents over 25% of Fall 2013 matriculants (a much higher percentage than in Fall 2002).  The following chart shows the percentage of matriculants for the period from 2002-2013 taking into account the estimates set forth in the preceding paragraph regarding the number of matriculants with an average LSAT in each range over the period from 2010-2013. 

  Image1

This graph shows that the percentage of matriculants with an average LSAT of 165+ has varied between roughly 13% and roughly 17% percent over the period from 2002-2013, and appears to have returned in Fall 2013 to a percentage only slightly higher than where it was in Fall 2002.  By contrast, this chart also shows that the percentage of matriculants with an average LSAT of <150 had varied between roughly 19% and roughly 13% until the Fall 2012 and Fall 2013 groups of matriculants, when the percentages increased to roughly 22% (in 2012) and over 25% (in 2013).  While this graph does not include the percentage of matriculants with average LSATs of 150-164, one can infer that percentage as the difference between 100% and the sum of the 165+ percentage and the <150 percentage.  For the period between 2002 and 2011, this generally hovered between 65% and 70%, but in the last two years it has fallen closer to 60%.

This shift in LSAT profile is further evidenced by changes in LSAT profiles among first-year entering classes between 2010 and 2013.  For Fall 2010, there were only nine law schools with a median LSAT of 149 or lower (using highest LSAT for reporting purposes).  For Fall 2011, there were 14 law schools with a median LSAT of 149 or lower.  For Fall 2012, there were 21 law schools with a median LSAT of 149 or lower.  That number may grow to nearly 30 when official data is published next spring on the Fall 2013 entering class.  

If one uses the LSAT profile as an indicator of the “strength” of a given class of first-year students, and uses the framework set forth above for looking at the LSAT profile, then in the last three years we not only have seen first-year enrollment shrink by roughly 10,000 students, but also have seen a significant “weakening” of the LSAT profile.  In terms of LSAT profile, the Fall 2013 entering class is almost certainly the weakest of any class going back to Fall 2002. This may impact the classroom experience at some law schools and may impact bar passage results when the Fall 2013 entering class graduates in 2016.

Why the Differential Response to Market Signals by Different Populations of Prospective Law Students?

What might explain the extent to which different populations of prospective law students have responded to market signals in such different ways, with those from elite college and universities and those with higher LSATs turning away from law school more than those from less elite colleges and universities and those with lower LSATs?  In Part Three I will explore some possible explanations.

October 17, 2013 in Data on legal education, Scholarship on legal education, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What Does a JD-Advantaged Job Look Like? Job Posting for a "Legal Solutions Architect"

Below is job posting for a new type of job called a "legal solutions architect."  

SeyfarthThe job post just appeared on the website of Seyfarth Shaw, a large law firm based in Chicago.  Seyfarth was one of the first to embrace the movement toward technology and process.  See Six Sigma at Seyfarth Shaw, Legal Professions Blog, April 14, 2010.  

Before getting to the text of the ad, a few of observations for what this posting is telling us about legal education and the emerging legal job market:

  • This is a pure JD advantaged job. "Juris Doctor or MBA with legal industry experience strongly preferred job" (emphasis in original). It is full-time, long-term job in downtown Chicago.  it is not reviewing documents. This is a good professional job doing very sophisticated and challenging work.
  • The job is not partner-track.  But it terms of economic potential and job security, does that matter?  In the years to come, folks that understand the overlay between law, technology, and process are going to be great demand and have a lot of options.
  • Undergraduate education matters, but the majors are far from typical among traditional law students:  finance, business administration, computer science, or "other technical discipline."
  • It is easier to get this job if an applicant has familiarity with "extranets, intranets, document assembly, enterprise search, relational databases and workflow."  Also, it is "a plus" to have "familiarity with Agile and Scrum [two software development tools]." We don't teach any of this stuff in law school.  Perhaps we should.
  • The required skills are an blend of technical skills and knowledge plus higher order professional abilities that, frankly, are not explicitly taught in law school.  Law schools need to take notice, as this an order any decent professional school should be able to fill.

Now the actual job posting:

Requisition Number 

13-0191

Post Date 

10/10/2013

Title

Legal Solutions Architect

City

Chicago

State

IL

Seyfarth Shaw is one of the most progressive, forward-thinking law firms in the world. Seyfarth’s commitment to delivering legal services in a new way through its SeyfarthLean program - with an emphasis on value and continuous improvement - has been praised by the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) as being “five years ahead of every other AmLaw 200 firm.”

Legal Solutions Architects anticipate, identify, sell and drive innovative business solutions. Through an understanding of technology, knowledge management, business analysis, process improvement and project management, this role provides solutions that enhance the client experience. These multidisciplinary resources are aligned with Firm strategy and play an important role in driving the Firm’s innovative approach to the practice of law and the delivery of legal services.

This position will report to the Director of the Legal Technology Innovations Office. Seyfarth Shaw recently received awards for 2013 Innovative Law Firm of the Year and Innovative Project of the Year, and the efforts of the Legal Technology Innovations Office played a significant role in earning those recognitions.

Essential Functions

  • Partner with clients, Seyfarth legal teams and legal project managers to enhance the delivery and effectiveness of services provided within legal engagements
  • Translate stated and inferred needs of clients and attorneys into specific technologies and methods
  • Synthesize the needs of multiple engagements and create requirements for systematic solutions that underpin Seyfarth’s varied legal practices
  • Team with the Application Development Group to design and plan for custom solutions and oversee the construction and implementation of these systems
  • Manage multiple projects concurrently, juggling priorities, deadlines and essential duties for each project
  • Collaborate with other Firm departments, including Legal Project Management Office, Practice Management, Finance, Marketing and Professional Development to provide comprehensive solutions
  • Act as an effective change manager – keeping client and Firm culture, group behavior and individual habits in mind in order to best circumnavigate roadblocks and pitfalls for solution adoption
  • Provide presentations to individuals, small groups and large audiences of clients and Seyfarth attorneys in a persuasive and encouraging manner
  • Contribute to continuous improvement, promote the use of technology solutions and help improve the awareness of the impact of the solutions on the business
  • Perform vendor due diligence and serve as a point of contact for third-party technologies leveraged by the Firm
  • Conduct market, external and internal research and convey results to forward assigned projects and to aid projects lead by teammates, other groups and other departments
  • Proactively research and maintain knowledge of emerging technologies and service delivery models and possible applications to the business

Skills:

  • Highly motivated self-starter with an entrepreneurial bent
  • Uses intelligence, creativity and persistence to solve varied, non-routine problems
  • Possesses an understanding of knowledge management, process improvement and legal project management and an appreciation of the benefits to law firms employing these approaches
  • Passion for legal technology, including technical platforms, specific technical applications and their impact on the practice of law
  • Keen grasp of project management, flexible in project execution and able to meet aggressive deadlines
  • Strong business analysis approach
  • Visualizes how raw data can be converted into useful information for client and Firm decision-makers
  • Pays attention to detail but still maintains focus on the bigger picture
  • Comfortable working both independently and in diverse teams
  • Excellent written and verbal communicator that is able to distill complex concepts into simple messages
  • Familiar with the software development cycle
  • Capable of managing and motivating up, down and across the organization
  • Appreciation for user interface and user experience design
  • Embraces change and seeks to create order from chaos

Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree, preferably in finance, business administration, computer science or other technical discipline
  • Juris Doctor or MBA with legal industry experience strongly
  • Experience working within a large law firm preferred but not required
  • Familiarity with extranets, intranets, document assembly, enterprise search, relational databases and workflow preferred
  • Familiarity with Agile and Scrum a plus

Seyfarth Shaw is committed to working with and providing reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities. If, because of a medical condition or disability, you need a reasonable accommodation for any part of the employment process, please call (312) 460-6545 and let us know the nature of your request and your contact information. We offer an outstanding benefit package which includes: medical/dental, 401k with employer contribution; life insurance; transportation fringe benefit program; generous paid time off policy; and long-term and short-term disability policies. Equal Opportunity Employer M/F/D/V

Apply online

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October 15, 2013 in Current events, Data on legal education, Innovations in law, Law Firms, New and Noteworthy, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Measuring the Value of Law Firm Pedigree

General counsel from large legal departments are becoming increasingly skeptical of the value provided by leading brand-name law firms, such as the AmLaw 20 or the Magic Circle.  That is the conclusion of some compelling research just posted on the HBR Blog Network, the online idea forum run by Harvard Business Review.

AdvancelawThe research was conducted by AdvanceLaw, which is a company that vets law firms and lawyers on an as-requested basis on behalf of legal departments.  Some of AdvanceLaw's clients include Google, Nike, Sherwin-Williams, Lenovo, Towers Watson, Mastercard, Panasonic, eBay, Mastercard, Deutsche Bank, McDonald's, Molson Coors, Nestle, Heinz, Clorox, Unilever, CSS, Starwood Hotels, etc.  

AdvanceLaw is a good example of what Richard Susskind calls a "closed legal community."  See Tomorrow's Lawyers, chapter 5.  Some essential background on AdvanceLaw is discussed below. But I am sure readers want to see the data first. The reported research was based on responses from 88 general counsel, who answered two questions:

  1. How does law firm pedigree affect their buy decision for a high-stakes matter? 
  2. Is law firm pedigree associated with more or less client responsiveness?

Below are the results posted on the HBR Blog Network:

HBRAdvanceLaw

Readers are probably wondering, "Who is AdvanceLaw and why are they asking these types of questions?"  I have some intel on this topic.

FirozAdvanceLaw was formed four years ago by Firoz Dattu, a Harvard-trained lawyer who spent time in BigLaw (Paul Weiss).  Firoz eventually found his way to the Corporate Executive Board, which a publicly traded company (NYSE: CEB) that specializes in subscription-based research organized by industry and function.  CEB uses the aggregated research for value-add services such as benchmarking and best practices.  

Because they specialize in factgathering for strategy and management,  CEB has a long history of employees leaving to start niche businesses.  That is what happened here.  Firoz helped launch, and ultimately ran, the General Counsel Roundtable (GCR), which is a CEB functional group that cuts across industries.  I have been to a GCR meeting (it is invitation-only for outsiders).  Suffice to say that a persistent theme of conversation was controlling legal costs without compromising quality.  A seemingly tall order, right?

Firoz started AdvanceLaw because of perceptions by general counsel that they were being overcharged and underserved by large firms in the major markets.  Any GC who has reviewed data from TyMetrix would quickly draw the same conclusion, as a large firm lawyer with 20-years experience in, say, Minneapolis often has a lower billing rate than a second-year at a mega-firm in NYC.  AdvanceLaw has positioned itself as a trusted advisor that can provide reliable guidance in shopping for value outside the big brand-name firms. 

So how does this service work?  As noted earlier, AdvanceLaw is an example of a closed legal community.   To get into the AdvanceLaw network, prospective law firms are run through a rigorous RFP process that evaluates things like expertise, innovation, quality, compensation systems, and track record on diversity.

If a firm makes the AdvanceLaw cut, they start getting assignments from participating legal departments.  But here is the enormous differientator.  Feedback is collected by AdvanceLaw and shared with the law firm and other AdvanceLaw legal departments.  What is the effect?  

  • For law firms, changing their behavior to (a) protect their reputations, and (b) get more work. 
  • For legal departments, to the extent they are getting value, migration of their legal work out of pedigreed law firms in the major markets to lower cost yet high quality regional and super-regional firms.  The savings are roughly 30-40% with no loss in quality and better responsiveness. Some of the winners in the AdvanceLaw tournament are listed here

AdvanceLaw also has a globalization overlay, which has been created with GC assistance.    For instance, in Argentina and India, AdvanceLaw works with quite prominent firms who also exhibit efficiency. In the UK and Canada, the firms are substantial players, but are slightly less pedigreed than the Magic Circle and Seven Sisters, respectively.  

So let's boil down AdvanceLaw's business model into its simplest terms: It gathers information so they legal departments don't pay excessive prices for the CYA (cover-your-ass) benefits of hiring high-prestige Big Law.  

CYA still matters, of course.  But through AdvanceLaw, pedigree is being given a more accurate valuation.  A likely large second-order effect of AdvanceLaw is the acceleration of AFAs through AdvanceLaw firms, as feedback (on quality) and publicity (to drive volume) is what is needed to make that transition.  

Susskind is right.  Closed legal communities are going to be major disruptors in the legal marketplace. 

October 13, 2013 in Blog posts worth reading, Cross industry comparisons, Important research, Innovations in law, Legal Departments, New and Noteworthy, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Podcast Conversation on the Rise of the Legal Tech Sector

The Legal Whiteboard was created to focus on "facts, trends, and ideas on law and legal education."  Well, nothing is more salient these days than the rise of the legal tech sector which -- trust me here -- is growing rapidly and will soon hit a tipping point.  What happens at the tipping point?  The tastes of clients and highly talented workers shift, leaving old institutions very vulnerable.  

If you are interested in this topic and want a time-efficient primer, check out this ABA Journal podcast, which went live yesterday.  It is 15 minutes long and can be downloaded.  Thanks to good questions from ABA editor Reg Davis, and some editing magic, the interview is a pretty good starting place for the uninitiated -- the only downside is that you have to listen to me, as interview keys off the "Who's Eating Law Firms' Lunch" story (Oct ABA Journal).

Our conversation is also transcribed.

October 1, 2013 in Current events, New and Noteworthy, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mark Harris of Axiom Answers Hard Questions

Somehow I missed this interesting Bloomberg Law interview of Mark Harris, CEO of Axiom Law.  Anyone interested in the future of the legal industry ought to be watching and listening to Mark.  Why?  Because his company -- which now grosses north of $150 million per year -- has the ear and the pocketbook attention of the general counsel of the world's largest companies.

In the 15 minute video interview below, Mark answers several hard questions: 

  • Is Axiom Law a law firm?  No.  That is why it can take outside non-lawyer investment. 
  • Is Axiom Law competing with BigLaw?  In some contexts, the answer is clearly yes. 
  • Is Axiom Law considering an IPO?  Not now, but perhaps someday in the future.  "There would be some advantages to being a public company."

All of this adds up to a lot of potential disruption.  Mark uses that very word.  For additional background on Axiom Law, see American Lawyer story, "Disruptive Innovation."

September 25, 2013 in Cross industry comparisons, Innovations in law, Structural change, Video interviews | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 23, 2013

"This is just an education design problem"

A few years ago I had the good fortune of teaming up with Rachel Zahorsky for a series of feature stories in the ABA Journal, including  "Paradigm Shift" (July 2011), "The Law School Bubble" (Jan 2012), and "The Pedigree Problem" (July 2012). The fourth article, "Who's Eating Law Firms Lunch," is now online; and without a doubt it is my favorite.  

KatzjpgWhy?  Because of the final vignette in the story, which features Dan Katz of ReInvent Law fame.  We were sitting at the bar at the January 2013 AALS Conference in New Orleans when Dan told me this story. My jaw just dropped.  Dan has faith in his students, just like Bellotti had faith in him.  Dan believes, so Dan just does.  No fear.  No bullshit.  It was, suffice to say, quite refreshing.

I am reposting the whole vignette in the hope that a few more academics, lawyers, and law students will read it.  The title of the post is the last line in the story.  To my mind, that Dan Katz line sums up the next ten years of innovation in legal education.  Please keep reading until you get to that final line.  The insight is worth the effort.

For the past two years, MSU’s Katz was the only full-time law professor who spoke at the LegalTech conference. Katz and Knake are creating a curriculum relevant to the emerging law and technology sector, albeit primarily for companies like Novus Law and Recommind, whose competitive advantage is rooted in process and technology.

Within the legal academy, Katz is an anomaly. Aside from his JD, he has a PhD in political science and public policy from the University of Michigan. However, he focused almost all of his graduate study on complex systems. It’s a relatively new scientific field that uses mathematical modeling to understand how a multitude of human and nonhuman factors interact and influence one another. Human society and the human brain are two examples of complex systems. Neither can be effectively modeled by conventional math or statistics.

The late Larry Ribstein at the University of Illinois was one of Katz’s early mentors. When he went into teaching a few years ago, Katz says, Ribstein told him: “I bet you must feel like an alien. I greatly admire your work. You are definitely on the right track. But the rest of the legal academy is just not ready for you.”

In June 2011, Katz joined the faculty at MSU Law. Michigan State partnered with the Detroit College of Law in 1995 and moved the law college into a building in East Lansing two years later. Though the school’s rebranding efforts did raise its profile, to most of the profession, MSU Law remains a nonprestigious regional law school located in the heart of the Rust Belt.

None of this dissuades Katz from his sincere belief that it is possible to turn any institution into the preferred recruiting grounds for the nation’s emerging law-and-tech industry.

“When I was 18 years old,” explains Katz, “I had the privilege of joining a transformative organization”— as a kicker for the University of Oregon football team, the Ducks. “We were in the Pac-10, but it’s in Eugene, Ore., where it is often cloudy and raining. We had no shot at all with the top recruits from Southern California. So coach Mike Bellotti had to figure out ways to stretch and optimize what some might call second-tier talent.

“Oregon is now a national powerhouse, but the seeds of that success were sown much earlier. It was difficult to be bigger or faster than USC or UCLA. So Coach Bellotti decided we would be better on the details of the game. We would be better conditioned and we would pay significant attention to special teams. Our emphasis on special teams got us better field position. And by the third or fourth quarters, our opponents would have their hands on their burning legs. But because of our conditioning regimen, we had more stamina. Our success became contagious. Over time, we were able to get prized recruits. It was a culture of innovation.”

During Bellotti’s tenure at Oregon, from 1995 to 2008, the Ducks had only one losing season, blotting out decades of mediocre performance. The year that Katz graduated, the Ducks were co-champions of the Pac-10, a feat that makes him beam with pride.

Katz’s “secret sauce” for ReInvent Law is arguably much more important than a degree in complex systems. He looks at the 25 students entering the ReInvent Law Laboratory as raw human potential. Katz also actively recruits potential law school applicants to his program, though he declines to discuss his strategy.

Katz understands that the most attractive candidates for the law and technology sector are those with special skills that are often obtained through prelaw work experience. “But there is no reason why some of those key skills and experiences cannot be learned and obtained right here,” Katz says of the MSU program.

He notes that virtually all law students have high cognitive ability. He feels the key to their future success is mastery of domain-specific knowledge—often in areas that are complementary to law—and the ability to collaborate across disciplines. This requires engagement and an immense amount of time spent on the task. So how does one develop the educational program that will prepare the law student for legal-tech jobs—some that may not yet exist?

“This,” Katz says, “is just an education design problem."

September 23, 2013 in Blog posts worth reading, Current events, Innovations in legal education, New and Noteworthy, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Big Data is the Big Opportunity" for Legal

BigdataSo says a just published article in the Global Legal Post by Sandeep Sacheti, an executive with Wolters Kluwer Corporate Legal Services.   The article is called "The legal industry's new reality."

Perhaps the key insight is that "data by itself is useless. To extract value from it, you need the ‘three Ts’:  talent, technique and transformation.  

  • Talent.  "When you start out, you don’t need the top experts to start making sense of your data. You may just need people with curiosity, good statistical skills and a desire to learn. These are the kind of people who will quickly see how data can be managed and packaged to solve problems. And once they do, they will want to get better at it."
  • Technique.  "Big Data needn’t mean Big Complexity. ... [A]nalytical techniques can be sophisticated, but it’s also possible to keep it simple – especially at the start of the journey. Get the basics right first, and then you can become more advanced as you get better at it."
  • Transformation.  "Becoming a data-driven legal team – law firm or corporate – is a journey. Change is slow, so don’t expect an overnight transformation. The best approach is to bring the whole organisation with you - if everyone from the partners and CEOs to the interns buy into your data strategy, it will start delivering returns faster."

So who will be the big winners when it comes to Big Data?  Definitely some start-ups become they they don't have to transform -- it's a clean sheet operation from the very beginning; they also have more patience and tolerance for trial and error.   Yet, BigLaw is sitting on top of a lot of the essential data, so there will be some winners there too.  To my mind, it will turn on the ability of some BigLaw shops to leverage talent and technique into some early victories that will aid the tranformation project.  If it works, it will be a case study in strategic leadership and effective change management. 

By the way, Wolters Kluwer Corporate Legal Services is a sophisticated place.  They own TyMetrix, which is the perhaps the best current example of BigData operating in the BigLaw ecosystem.  TyMetrix's Real Rate Report is being used to agressively control lawyer billing rates.

September 23, 2013 in Cross industry comparisons, Current events, Innovations in law, Law Firms, Legal Departments, New and Noteworthy, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Revolving Door Among First Generation Legal Innovators

Disruption in the legal industry appears to be crossing an important milestone -- the emergence of the revolving door among the first generation innovators.  Evidence comes from this press release published on the Wall Street Journal website.

Huron_logoIn 2010, a BigLaw partner leaves BigLaw (DLA Piper) to take a high-level job at Axiom, the most well-known disruptor in the legal industry.  Then, 2.5 years later, he leaves to run the Discovery Services practice at Huron Consulting Group.  Huron Consulting, by the way, is a publicly traded company (NASDAQ: HURN) with $626 million in revenues in 2012.  Legal is one of Huron's core industries.  It currently has 1,500 "seats" for conducting 24/7 document review services in the U.S., Europe, and India.  

Let's summarize: BigLaw to legal start-up to publicly held company trying to expand its wedge in the legal industry.  Granted, career moves are motivated by a wide range of factors, not just a string of successes that create better oppportunities.  Outsiders can only speculate why someone changes jobs.  That said, in a start-up environment where the market opportunity is large but the know-how to tap into it has to be developed through trial and error,  false starts are just part of the learning curve -- the building block of future success.  Indeed, there are books and articles on this topic.  

What is revealed by the emergence of the revolving door among legal innovators is that there is tremendous opportunity to make traditional legal services better, faster, and cheaper.  Talented people are persisting and betting their careers on it.  The biggest unknown is timing -- it is risky to get there too early, and disastrous to get there too late.  Alas, it is better to wrestle directly with the issue of timing than to deny that the change is real. 

September 22, 2013 in Cross industry comparisons, Current events, New and Noteworthy, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Clockworks Approach to Lawyer Development

Lawyers can successfully adapt to the disruption of the Information Age just like we adapted to the legal challenges of the industrial era -- build a system to create the human capital that is in short supply.  This was original logic of the Cravath System, which created teams of specialized business lawyers who could handle the legal needs of rapidly growing industrial and financial clients in the early 20th century. This Clockworks approach still works, but the specifications of the system need to be updated. At the end of this presentation, I offer a prototype of what we might include in a 21st century Clockworks approach to lawyer development.

Presented at the "Innovations in the Law: Science and Technology" Conference, Oregon District of the Federal Bar Association (Sept 20, 2013)

September 21, 2013 in Current events, Innovations in legal education, Law Firms, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dan Katz on Legal Prediction and Legal Metrics

This presentation by Dan Katz is worth reviewing.

posted by Bill Henderson

September 17, 2013 in Blog posts worth reading, Cross industry comparisons, Current events, Innovations in law, New and Noteworthy, Scholarship on the legal profession, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Trend Toward Legal Onshoring -- What It Tells Us about the Future of Law

The trend toward outsourcing of legal work to India may be giving way to "onshoring."  What is the attraction of moving legal jobs back to the US?  The wage gap between India and the US is closing, but more importantly, innovation and continuous improvement are significantly aided by proximity. 

I heard this perspective from a friend of mine who was part of the management team of a successful LPO that was sold (at a substantial profit) to a much larger legal conglomerate.  Indeed, he contemplated getting back into the business, but this time running an onshoring operation. 

BlackHillsIP-logo-RGB-2color-xsThis identical perspective is on display in a recent Minneapolis StarTribune story on Black Hills IP, a 2.0 legal process outsourcer that provides various types of managed services for all things related to intellectual property.   According to its website, Black Hills IP is a "US-based IP paralegal service that is faster, more accurate and more cost-effective than in house departments and off-shore providers."  The company appears to be growing, as it did a PR-blitz to commemorate its 100th client.  The company was originally started in Rapids City, South Dakota but has since expanded to Minneapolis.

Cpa globalWhat make this story especially interesting is that many of the folks who started Black Hills IP were sophisticated Minneapolis corporate lawyers who created a company in the early 2000s called Intellevate, a 1.0 LPO that was sending legal work to India.  In 2006, Intellevate became part of CPA Global, a much larger LPO.  In other words, the folks at Black Hills IP are industry players with much better information than the rest of us who are making bets with their own money. 

Unlike traditional law firms, these types of legal vendors are growing rapidly.  Their secret sauce appears to be combining high-quality processes with capable, motivated paraprofessional talent. 

McCrackinThe challenge for law schools and many practicing lawyers is getting our heads around the fact that, from a pure market perspective, bright legal minds may be less valuable than well-designed and well-executed legal processes and systems.  This state of affairs is just as much an opportunity as it is a threat.

One last interesting note suggesting that companies like Black Hills IP are part of the same ecosystem as traditional law firms and law schools: The CEO of Black Hills IP is Ann McCrackin, a former professor of law at Franklin Pierce (now University of New Hampshire School of Law), where she was director of the Patent Prosecution and Procedure Program.  Prior to that, McCrackin was a shareholder in Schwegman, Lundberg & Woessner, a large patent law firm based in Minneapolis that specializes in high technology.

posted by Bill Henderson

September 16, 2013 in Current events, Data on legal education, Data on the profession, Innovations in law, New and Noteworthy, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Competition is for Full-Time, Professional Law-Related Jobs, Part II

As noted in Part I of this post, the competitive dynamics among law schools are about to change due to a combination of two factors: (1) the ABA's collection and publication more granular data on school-level employment outcomes, and (2) the decision by U.S. News to make JD Bar Passage Required and JD Advantaged the primary measures for the employed-at-9-months input to its rankngs formula.

The histogram below reveals a near perfect bell curve for this revamped US News input [click on to enlarge].  This is a huge change from prior years when schools were all bunched at the 95% level because employment of any kind was all that mattered.  Under the old methodology, any law school that limited itself to full-time, professional law-related jobs would have plummeted in the rankings 10 to 50 spots. 

USNewsjobsinput2013
Because spring 2013 was the first year with the new methodology, the impact of the change is not well understood.  The most stark fact of the new environment is that the full-time, professional law-related jobs are in short supply.  Among the class of 2011 (the stats used for the 2013 rankings), this desirable outcome was achieved by only 63.0% of graduates.  When we subtract out full-time, long-term law-related professional jobs funded by law schools -- a luxury that only a small number of mostly first-tier law schools can afford -- the total drops to 61.9%.

Digging deeper, some other significant patterns emerge. 

800px-California_in_United_States.svgRegional labor markets really matter

The vast majority of law schools feed into the regional labor markets where they are located.  In places like California, those markets are saturated. 

Among the ABA-accredited law schools in California, 46.5% of the class of 2011 obtained full-time JD Bar Passage Required jobs. The comparable figure for the remaining ABA-accredited law schools was 56.0%.  Likewise, there is also a disparity for JD Advantage jobs: 6.2% in California versus 8.3% for schools in all other states.  In fact, among the 19 ranked California law schools, only four -- Stanford, UC Berkeley, USC, UCLA -- are above the 63.0% average for full-time, professional law-related jobs.

Based on these data, it should come as no suprise that no law school located in California went up in the 2013 U.S. News rankings. Stanford, USC, and Santa Clara hung onto their ranking, but 11 California law schools dropped, with an average decline of 11 spots.  Five other Calfornia schools remained in the unranked fourth-tier category. 

In contrast, some of the biggest winners in the methodology change were flagship public law schools that are relatively big fish in smaller regional markets.  Students at these schools tend to stay in-state and get JD Bar Passage Required jobs at rates far higher than the 54.9% average for the class of 2011 average. 

Below are the top 15 non-national public law schools based on the proportion of FT Bar Passage Required jobs. 

Barpassagejobs

Between 2012 and 2013, the average rankings gain for the above schools was +9 spots.  Among this group, the only school to go down in the rankings was ASU Law (-3).  And that decline was largely due to the fact that ASU reported a 98% employed-at-nine-months figure for the class of 2010--a figure that drew suggestions of aggressive gaming.  See Brian Tamanaha, When True Numbers Mislead, Balkanization, April 2, 2012.

The heavier weighting for JD Bar Passage Required jobs also benefits a handful of lower-ranked private law schools that are practice-oriented and tend to feed smaller firms within their regional areas.

  • Campbell (71.4% FT bar passage jobs) went from unranked to #126. 
  • South Texas (64.4% FT bar passage jobs) went from unranked to #144
  • St. Mary's (78.3% FT bar passage jobs) went from unranked to #140.

Part-Time Law Schools Dominate JD Advantaged Jobs

JD Advantaged Jobs count the same as JD Bar Passage Required Jobs.  But what, exactly, is included in this category?  According to the ABA,

A position in this category is one for which the employer sought an individual with a J.D., and perhaps even required a J.D., or for which the J.D. provided a demonstrable advantage in obtaining or performing the job, but which does not itself require bar passage or an active law license or involve practicing law. 

See ABA Class of 2012 (definitions).  Many professionals enroll in law school on a part-time basis to improve their career prospects.  It should be no surprise, then, that schools with part-time programs tend to be the largest producers of graduates with full-time JD Advantage jobs.  In many cases, it is the full-time job that the student held during law school -- and presumably retains upon graduation -- that confers the advantage. 

Of the top 10 schools based on the percentage of JD Advantage law school jobs, eight had part-time programs and the other two were located in a state capital, which tends to increase the number of opportunities related to government and public policy.

JDadvantagePTFT

The schools listed above gained an average of 3.5 spots in the rankings, albeit the average is pulled down by the inclusion of Southwestern, which had to weather the brutal California legal market. 

It is worth noting that the percentage of JD Advantage jobs is negatively correlated with the percentage of JD Bar Passage Required Jobs (-.33) .The table below summarizes the differences between schools with Part-time versus Full-Time only programs.

Parttimecomparison

The higher percentage of JD Advantage jobs (10.1% versus 6.9%) for schools with part-time programs is unlikely the results of chance, as the differences in means are statistically signficant at p < .001.  But what does this inverse relationship mean?

Part-time programs tend to be affiliated with lower ranked law schools, which in turn would produce a lower average percentage of JD Bar Passage Required jobs.  Yet, part-time programs are also in larger, urban locations.  Thus, in addition to the continued employment of part-time students with their current employers, the sheer proximity to large, specialized regional economies probably increases the proportion of JD Advantage jobs.  Indeed, any school in an large metro area would be foolish to ignore the human capital needs of non-legal employers, as knowledge of the law is very helpful in navigating through an ever more complex, regulated, and interconnected world.

What is the Best Strategy for Maximizing Full-Time, Professional Law-Related Jobs?

Largely through happenstance, the ABA and U.S. News have created an environment where law schools have to ask this basic but very important question.  Part-time jobs will no longer cut it.  And few law schools have the cash to hire their own grads full-time for a year past graduation -- and if they do, there are probably better uses for the millions of dollars needed annually to prop up a school's ranking.

The new gold standard employment outcome is full-time, long-term professional law-related jobs. The issue of how to maximize this outcome is so pressing and intricate that it may warrant trade-offs in the admissions process, favoring students will lower credentials but more rock-solid employment prospects on the backend at graduation.  This is the topic I will take up in Part III. 

Part I

[posted by Bill Henderson]

June 30, 2013 in Blog posts worth reading, Data on legal education, Innovations in legal education, New and Noteworthy, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (8)

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Competition is for Full-Time, Professional Law-Related Jobs, Part I

NALP recently released the employment outcome data for the class of 2012.  The good news is that the absolute number of JD Bar Passage Required jobs went up from the prior year.  The bad news is that a significantly larger class of entry-level lawyers were competing for those jobs.  The class of 2011 totaled 41,623, versus 44,339 in 2012 (+2,716, or +6.5%).  And note, the class of 2013 is likely to be even bigger -- roughly +1.6% based on the size of the entering 1L classes in the fall of 2010 (see ABA enrollment data).

Setting aside the year-over-year flucuations, the trendlines suggest a relatively large and persistent shortfall in the number of full-time, professional law-related jobs.  I assembled the graph below from NALP data [click on to enlarge].

NALP 2007 to 2012 breakdown

[Methodological notes:  NALP used the JD-Preferred category until the class of 2011, when NALP and the ABA collaborated on the creation of the JD Advantage category.  According to NALP, the jobs in the two categories are "largely the same."  See NALP, Detailed Analysis of JD Advantage Jobs (April 2013).  The figures for 2012 are estimates of full-time employment calculated from (a) NALP's just released figures for 2012 class size and the percentage breakdowns by job category, and (b) the percentage breakdowns of full-time versus part-time from the prior year, which also relied on the new JD Advantage definition. In short, basic algebra.]

A reasonable expectation of a 3-year, $100,000+ financial commitment is that nine months after graduation, the entry-level lawyer has secured a full-time professional job. See Legal Whiteboard, June 26, 2007.  Those outcomes are reflected in the blue-red-green bars above.  Since 2007 (the first year that NALP collected data on full-time versus part-time employment), the percentage of jobs fitting these criteria has fallen from 85.0% to 73.9%.  So the overall size of the purple bar -- part-time jobs, nonprofessional, unemployment, etc. -- has grown from 15% to 26.1%.  

Unfortunately, the pain does not end there.  With a limited pool of  full-time professional jobs and the number of graduates trending upward, the law of supply and demand kicks in.  Consider this arc of median entry-level salaries of employed graduates: $65,748 for class of 2007, $72,000 for 2008, $72,000 for 2009, $63,000 for 2010, $60,000 for 2011, $61,245 for $2008.  So, in short, the odds of landing a full-time professional job have gone down, and so has the starting pay.  Yet, tuition and student debt continue to edge up.  These unsustainable trends have made law schools fair game for criticism by the media and law student bloggers.

That said, a market correction is clearly underway.   A considerable number of prospective law students are deciding (rationally) not to apply to law school -- from 98,700 when the class of 2007 enrolled in the fall of 2004 to an estimated 58,424 for the fall of 2013.  Likewise, law schools, to the extent they can afford it, are enrolling fewer students.   From the high water mark in the fall of 2010 (49,700), law schools only enrolled 41,400 1Ls in the fall of 2012, and the numbers are sure to be even lower this fall.  See Jerry Organ's estimates, Legal Whiteboard, May 20, 2013.  To weather this storm, law schools are running significant deficits or drawing down their endowments.

So, can we conclude that the market correction will be complete when the relatively small class of 2017 enters the job market four years from now?  I certainly think the smaller number of graduates will help.  But I would argue that two things have fundamentally changed:

1. Revenues versus credentials.  Law schools are struggling with the need to balance their desire to hang onto respectable LSAT/UGPA medians with a need to generate sufficient revenue to cover their operating costs.  If a law school favors revenues this year, its US News rankings could drop, affecting its applicant pool in future years.  On the other hand, the combination of shrinking 1L classes and lavish scholarships -- a strategy being pursued by dozens of law schools -- is unsustainable over the medium to long term.  A decision to enroll fewer students this year is a three-year commitment to lower revenue.  If the smaller entering class is repeated next fall, the budget pain doubles.  Do it three years running, and the revenue shortfall triples.  Many law schools are not trying to outrun the bear; they are trying to outrun other law schools in their regional market. Some law schools may not make it out of this trough.

2. Competition over full-time, professional law-related jobs. If there is one silver lining that has emerged from this troubled period in U.S. legal education, it is the willingness of the ABA to collect and publish more granular employment outcome data at the law school level.  In turn, U.S. News has incorporated these data into its rankings formula.  Instead of propping up our rankings by hiring our own students or benefiting when they got jobs nine months out working as a retail manager or a cab driver, under the new 2013 U.S. News rankings formula, only full-time, long-term jobs that are JD Bar Passage Required or JD Advantaged are given "full weight." 

It is this second point that is going to push change in how law schools do business--we now have an employment outcome in which the ranking payoff is now fully in allignment with what law students want--full-time, professional law-related jobs.

Specifically, the employed-at-nine-months input to the U.S. News rankings formula is currently given 14% weight.  According to the U.S. News law school rankings methodology, the magazine is weighting 22 of the 35 employment outcomes collected and published by the ABA.  Among these 22 factors, we don't know the internal weighting.  What we do know based on the "full weight" given to JD Bar Passage Required and JD Advantage jobs, is that the highest employed-at-nine-month scores will go to law schools with the highest percentages in these two categories. This is a completely new world for law schools -- one that incentivizes what law students care about when they make the decision to enroll.

Part II to follow ...

[Posted by Bill Henderson]

June 28, 2013 in Data on legal education, Innovations in legal education, New and Noteworthy, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, May 31, 2013

A Summer Graduate School for E-Discovery

That's right, law students now have an opportunity to add hands-on e-discovery training to their skill set.  Surely, a first-of-its-kind program is being offered by one of the 200 ABA-accredited law schools struggling to adapt to a changing legal market, right?

Bryan-University-SealWell, actually, no.  It is being offered by Bryan University, which began life in 1940 in Los Angeles as a stenography school for court reporters.  It subsequently evolved into Bryan College, which offered associates degrees in various vocational tracks.  More recently, it has received accreditation as a university, with a masters degree in applied medical informatics and a cetificate program in e-discovery.  Both are offered exclusively online.

The e-discovey certificate program has some interesting features (press release here). 

  1. It's an actual graduate program.  Enrollment is limited to law students who have completed a course in civil procedure (so, functionally, 2Ls and 3Ls) or, at most, completed their JD studies in 2013. 
  2. It's real-world relevant.  The program is organized around the Electronic Discovery Reference Model (EDRM), which is a detailed yet evolving set of industry standards that flow from nearly a decade of meetings involving literally hundreds of major and minor players in the litigation industry -- law firms, tech start-ups, Fortune 500 companies, consultants, etc.  I have been at an EDRM meeting.  Just learning the arcane, technology language of this massive subfield could itself a big value-add for students. 
  3. Students learn how to use tools.  The program is an immersion experience in which students will learn how to use high-end software related to predictive coding and machine learning; after that, they move to human review using another industry software suite.  This event is supported by several legal vendors, mostly software providers, because they want their tools to become industry standards. Lexis and Westlaw used this same playbook 30 years ago.
  4. It's compact and efficient. The program meets online in real-time two hours a day, four days per week, for four weeks.  

The faculty is comprised of practitioners and technicians in the e-discovery business, not full-time law professors.  The tuition is $1,495 (very cheap if measured by contact hours), which can be paid online via credit card. Alas, May 30th was the last day of registration!

Signficance of the Bryan University program

Is the Bryan University e-discovery certificate program evidence of law's slide into vocationalism, or are 200+ ABA-accredited law schools missing the boat on the future of law?  This may frame a provocative debate among academics, but it gets us quickly onto the wrong track. 

Let's separate changes in the legal economy from debates over academic identity, which tend to arouse our emotions.  In other words, let's respond to these circumstances like level-headed lawyers and acknowledge the substantial evidence that the world of lawyering is changing in dramatic ways.  If this is true, by extension significant changes to legal education are likely on their way.

Exhibit #1

If we focus on facts, Exhibit #1 has to be access to justice.  Resolution of disputes through state and federal courts --the paradigmatic work of lawyers -- has become prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of U.S. citizens.  Further, it is now getting a too rich even for major corporations.  Part of the problem is proliferation of electronically stored information (ESI). Finding and analyzing the law, it turns out, is the easy part.  We teach that in law school.  But in this permanently digital world, facts never get lost.  Rather, they accumulate.  This creates large problems for litigants.

Instead of redesigning our judical system to deal with this challenge -- something a conservative legal profession is loath to do without a decade or two of deliberation -- we are now witnessing the rise of a massive industry of legal vendors trying to make electronic discovery more efficient. 

Exhibit #2

Exhibit #2 in our factfinding journey is that a huge proportion of these new legal vendors are owned and controlled by nonlawyers.  See Henderson, Losing the Law Business.  It turns out that the MR 5.4 ban on fee-splitting is, to a large extent, not much of a barrier at all.  Virtually everything up until the courthouse door or the client-counseling moment can be disaggregated and turned into a process or product delivered by a nonlawyer vendor adept at technology and systems engineering.  Because there is so much money to be made by the application of technology and process to legal problems, the nonlawyer genie is not going back into the bottle.  It is time to accept that fact.

Below is a chart I use in a lot of presentations to law schools and bar associations.

Legalindustry

The point of this chart is very simple.  A legal services industry has arisen around the traditional legal profession.  Now, increasingly, the word "service" is falling out because products and mechanized processes are taking their place, driving up quality, and driving down cost and cycle time. Society wins.  Lawyers adapt.

So, at a practical level, what does all of this mean?

Let's start with the good news.  Law is not going away.  In a highly interconnected, complex globalized world, law is actually becoming more important. 

But here is the realistic inner lining.  Law is also suffering from a productivity imperative.  The average citizen -- including the typical lawyer -- can't afford to engage the services of an artisan lawyer. And large firms filled with high-priced artisan lawyers are becoming a less attractive option for even large corporations.  They want better, faster, and cheaper legal solutions.

So, for law professors anyway, here is the bad news: Training artisan lawyers -- what U.S. law schools do -- is indeed a mature industry.   The U.S. economy can't fully absorp 45,000 law graduates per year, at least not doing traditional artisan-type legal work.  So, if we want reliable employer demand for our graduates, some retooling needs to take place.  Is the retooling process hard and complicated?  Absolutely.  Does this type of change occur in other industries?  Yes, as reliably as the sun rising in the east.  Now is our turn. 

How do we retool?

CheeseThe most difficult hurdle is just accepting the need to change.  It's purely an emotional obstacle.  The cheese has been moved.  It's gone.  It will not reappear. We need to find new cheese.  Not familar with the reference?  See Who Moved my Cheese.

The next step is just showing up to industry events and accepting the fact that we are not the smartest person in the room, at least when it comes to intersection of technology, process design, project management, knowledge management, big data analytics, machine learning, and modern law practice, etc.  Instead, it is time to just soak and poke.  Practically speaking, this means listening to others and trying to decipher patterns that simplify and unify what we are observing. 

Third, with the help of some adjuncts we deputize along the way (both lawyers and nonlawyers), we design and offer some new courses that capture these new realities.  Fumbling through a very crude version of this methodology, I taught project management back in 2010.  Not only was it a lot of fun, I learned new skills, both as a problem solver and as a teacher, made dozens of industry connections that opened doors for my students, and obtained a more realistic view of the legal profession.  In short, it changed my life -- for the better.  

Fourth, a subset of the legal academy needs to really dive into the topic of institutional design.  The rise of the e-discovery business is entirely a artifact of how our legal system is structured.  Perhaps it is time to think about better ways to resolve disputes and facilitate transactions.  See, e.g., Disputes in the credit care industry.  To me, law schools are the exact right places to think about, and wrestle with, these critically important issues.  These are mountains just waiting to be climbed by the next iteration of law schools and law professors.

Fifth, with some smaller victories under our belts, we need to collaborate with colleagues to begin the messy process of organizing our new insights into a coherent curriculum that produces graduates with the most valuable skills sets in the shortest supply.  With a world ramping up in complexity, I doubt these will be vocational skills.  That said, we are probably a decade or two away from a more settled law school curriculum.   But we will get there, and when we do, we will be incredibly proud of what we have accomplished.

[posted by Bill Henderson]

May 31, 2013 in Blog posts worth reading, Cross industry comparisons, Current events, New and Noteworthy, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Serious Debate over the Problems Facing Law Schools

Matt Bodie has noted my recent article in the National Law Journal, "The Calculus of University Presidents," and written a response that says, essentially, I am pushing the envelope too far.  Matt cites a lot of shortcomings with my article.  I will limit my response to three points: 

  1. I was given a 1,000 words by the National Law Journal. So I am going to fail to address or consider a lot of relevant points, including many points cited by Matt.  Oh well.  See Parts II and II of my Blueprint of Change for a more serious treatment of this topic.
  2. I am closer to the financial conditions of law schools than most law school faculty, and the problems are indeed serious at many places.  The 15% application drop and a $1.5 million budget shortfall were made up for the purposes of the essay. These figures are not critera, or my criteria, for anything, including the closure of law schools.  That is all I am going to say about that.
  3. I have offered one possible response to the large scale structural change taking place -- I wrote it up in detail last fall because I felt it was irresponsible to write up the bleak news on law schools without offering at least one comprehensive action plan.  See Legal Whiteboard, January 18, 2013.  That's it.  Other ideas are welcomed.

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio during the 60s, 70s, 80s and witnessed the slowness of the region to accept that its industrial glory days were behind it.  All people, including really smart people, have a hard time accepting large-scale institutional change--emotion obscures a reasoned analysis of the facts.  This is why Who Moved by Cheese, My Iceberg is Melting, and other change management classics are written as fables.  And yes, I see the same slowness to respond within the legal academy.  That slowness has costs. 

I am not the only academic who sees the world this way.  One prominent law school dean tells the same story--often publicly--of his years as a youth growing up in Rochester, NY, home of now-bankrupt Eastman Kodak.  The president of Eastman Kodak was on his paper route. When asked about the truthfulness of rumors that photographs could indeed be saved and displayed on a computer, the president brushed aside the question and instead waxed about the virtues of chemical film that built their bocolic neighborhood.

Truth be told, I probably did risk some reputational capital writing "The Calculus of University Presidents."  But I am deeply worried about the future of legal education, and using the history of other industries as a guide, we are likely to underestimate the realities of the emerging legal landscape.  See Richard Susskind, Tomorrow's Lawyers (discusing this future in intricate detail). So why not risk some of my reputational capital?  I will make some people, like Matt, angry, but I might spur others to actions sooner rather than later.  So be it.  The purpose of tenure is to facilitate these judgment calls.  I can live with that.

[posted by Bill Henderson]

May 29, 2013 in Current events, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Calculus of University Presidents

Money-bagsThis week's National Law Journal has a Special Report section on the challenges facing law schools.  Karen Sloan has several stories on how law schools are finding alternative sources of revenues beyond tuition dollars for JD degrees (masters's degrees for nonlawyers, online LLMs, and lawyer executive education).  

I contributed an essay entitled "The Calculus of University Presidents."  Although the essay is posed as the letter I would write to a university president seeking advice on how to handle a significant, unexpected shortfall in law school revenues, the intended audience is lawyers and legal educators seeking to get a handle on the brutal economics that are now threatening the survival of a large swath of law schools.  

From the perspective of many, it would be nice if things would go back to the way they used to be. But that is not going to happen.  Good lawyers understand that we gain no long-term advantage from hiding from these facts. Instead, we need to confront them honestly and proactively.

[posted by Bill Henderson]

May 20, 2013 in Blog posts worth reading, Current events, Data on legal education, Data on the profession, New and Noteworthy, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Law Video that is Destine to go Viral ...

So we might as well face the music now.  This incredibly powerful video was produced by www.rethinklaw.org.   And who created Rethink Law?  The same folks discussed here.

Rethink Law (US) from Liana Guzman on Vimeo.

The revolution is here.  It is going to happen. For a detailed analysis of the rise of what I call "Susskind's World" and the new legal entrepenuers, see Part II.C of The Blueprint for Change.

April 4, 2013 in Current events, Innovations in law, Law Firms, New and Noteworthy, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (5)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"Wireless Medicine" -- Is Law Next?

by William Henderson

A good friend of mine, Ed Reeser, who is a lawyer, sent along this video on the "Wireless Medicine" movement, which is apparently led by Dr. Eric Topol, one of the nation's leading cardiologists, author of the book, The Creative Destruction of Medicine.  Its subtitle is, "How the Digital Revolution Will Create Better Health Care."  

Seeing a connection to the burgeoning intersection of law and technology, Ed wrote:

"I don't send videos like this around, especially to busy people like yourselves. But this is a much better way to make a point on how technology is totally changing the landscape, and why it is so critically important to understand where it is going and why.  .... The prospect for massively improved capabilities for quality service at lower cost are just beginning to emerge, and this is where the early adopters of the right approaches will have advantage. Understanding which will be right......is just the beginning of the game.  If you think law is being impacted by technology.....watch this. Then, go back to your reflections on law and rethink the possibilities of where technology is going to impact law and how to become a positive driver of change with it, rather than roadkill in resisting it. "

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

April 2, 2013 in Cross industry comparisons, Structural change, Video interviews | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Question Authority: Law students have an important role to play in the future of legal education

National-jurist-logoI continue to be grateful to the National Jurist for giving me an opportunity to write a column targeted directly to law students.   As an educator, I have found these assignments very useful toward developing a better understanding of my own students at Indiana Law. In the process, I hope I am providing some useful, realistic guidance to the next generation of lawyers

In my 2013 column, I urge law students to ask us law professors tougher questions about the current state of legal education, albeit with respect.  If they ask tough questions, we will all be better off.  It is republished below. [Original PDF]

Question Authority: Law students have an important role to play in the future of legal education, National Jurist (Jan. 2013)

by William D. Henderson

I recently gave a keynote address in which I admonished a large group of law students to “question authority.”  It certainly sounds cliché – after all, it was the rallying cry of countercultural icon Timothy Leary during the 1960s.  A decade later, it was mainstream bumper sticker. But the admonition has a much more distinguished pedigree.  Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said that “the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.”  

I wish I had known the source of the quote when I gave the speech.  But regardless, it fit the context. Today’s law students are embarking upon an uncertain future.  Although I can understand the impulse to trust your elders, there are times of extreme upheaval when they cannot be counted upon to deliver wise counsel.  

Reluctantly, through the passage of time, I have become an elder.  And for the legal profession and legal education, we are entering one of those periods of great tumult.   To come out the other side, better and stronger, we need two things from the up-and-coming generation of law students. 

 First, we need your skepticism to question our methods and our motives.  The legal marketplace is undergoing significant changes.   We did not adequately anticipate these disruptions.  In addition, we do not fully understand their breadth and depth.    Because we are human, we are reluctant to admit our confusion.   Even worse, we may even deny there is a problem.  After all, the confluence of high student debt and a soft legal market happened on our watch. 

Second, we need your youthful energy to refashion legal education in a way that is much more consistent with our professional ideals.  All lawyers covet prestige, but over the last decades we have confused prestige with money and rankings.  As a historical matter, lasting legal reputations are disproportionately traceable to a lifelong willingness to doggedly and creatively advance the welfare of others.   Even today, the best lawyers find ways to faithfully serve their clients while simultaneously advancing the public good. We need your generation to lay the foundation for a renaissance in which our collective behavior more closely hews to our ideals. This is a goal worthy of your time and talent.

 If you are going to be effective at questioning authority (and unless you are going to be effective, why do it all?), you need to practice.  Well, I am 50-year old tenured law professor.  I create the syllabus, I decide how you will be evaluated, and I assign student grades.  Much to my chagrin, I have accumulated some authority.  So feel free to practice your questioning on me. 

Here is the world as I see it.  I could be wrong.  But even worse, I may be partially right.  

The entry-level job market for law graduates is tough right now.  But if you had not enrolled in law school, your employment prospects would be no less murky.  As noted by the popular author, Daniel Pink (himself a law school graduate), in his book, A Whole New Mind, we are living in time where every young person must compete against three formidable forces:  Asia, Automation, and Abundance. 

The Asian continent is formidable because nations such as India and China are leapfrogging into world economy with enormous quantities of ambitious, technically competent young people. 

Automation is formidable because so much of human activity, including law, is reducible to patterns.  This means solutions can be standardized, thereby displacing a significant amount of mental analysis that lawyers now perform for clients on a matter-by-matter basis.  (See also my September 2012 column, “Why are we Afraid of the Future of Law?”) 

Abundance is formidable because the flipside of the consumer society that has given us so many cheap, high quality choices is a producer economy in which expensive university educations provide us with skills that becoming more and more fungible.  

To my mind, today’s university educators are not responsible for the challenges created by Asia, Automation, and Abundance.  These are massive structural and economic forces that are hard to forecast and impossible to control.  Yet, as university educators who benefit from your tuition dollars, we are responsible for formulating effective responses.  Although we might prefer to focus on a different set of challenges, this one should take top priority because its weight falls disproportionately not on us, but on you.

 So you need to ask us, “How well is this education helping us adapt to the challenges of Asia, Automation and Abundance?”  Some of us might reply that the threat is overstated.  Well, are you convinced?  What evidence supports this assessment?   

Alternatively, others of us might reply that the challenges are very real, but fortunately, the core elements of traditional legal education are an excellent preparation.  Well, are you convinced?  Further, is it possible that our inability or reluctance to retool may cloud our judgment and influence our reply?  The iconoclastic author and economist John Kenneth Galbraith once observed, “Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” 

A third response may be, “I don’t know.  These are a hard set of issues.  And they need to be solved.”  When a professor responses in this way, it is hard to question their motives.  Further, you may have found someone with authority who is willing to take up your cause. 

At the beginning of this essay, I failed to mention one key proviso to my “question authority” admonition.  I told the law students that when they question authority, they should do it respectfully.  Indeed, all of my life experience has shown me that effectiveness in human relations requires a foundation of mutual respect.  Your elders did not create the challenges that lie ahead.  We are not your enemy.  Our limitation is that we are human, and therefore imperfect; and so are you. 

 Yet, if you question authority persistently but respectfully, you will be doing yourself, legal education, and the legal profession an enormous service.

 If you think my ideas and analysis are wrong, you are free to question my authority.

April 1, 2013 in Blog posts worth reading, Current events, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Losing the Law Business

Logo_financialreviewThe legal industry is changing in ways that very few lawyers understand.  I recently tried to explain these changes to a savvy nonlawyer, non-American audience through an essay I published in the Cayman Financial Review, entitled, "Losing the Law Business"  (original PDF).  I wanted to share this analysis first with an audience that was, frankly, not emotionally or financially wedded to the outcome--hence, they could be objective. Now I want to gauge the U.S. lawyer reaction, so  I am republishing the essay here on The Legal Whiteboard.  

Losing the Law Business, Cayman Financial Review (Jan. 2013)

by William D. Henderson

If you are not a lawyer, you may find this next sentence very good news.  We are entering a period in human history in which we are going to need fewer lawyers, at least the traditionally trained variety.  The world is becoming more interconnected, regulated and complex.  Although regulation and complexity have historically been very good for the lawyer business, something very fundamental is changing.  Clients are increasingly struggling to pay the bills of artisan lawyers who prefer to craft individual, customized solutions for each transaction and each dispute.

In essence, law is facing a productivity imperative.  To cope with globalization, the world needs better, faster, and cheaper legal output.  The artisan trained lawyer just can’t keep up.  To address the productivity imperative – or, more accurately, to turn a profit from this business opportunity—a new generation of legal entrepreneurs has emerged.

Lawyers continue to have a lock on advocacy work and client counseling on legal matters.  But an enormous amount of work that leads up to the courthouse door, or the client counseling moment, is increasingly being “disaggregated” into a series of tasks that does not need to be performed by lawyers.  Indeed, it may be best performed by computer algorithms.  Further, the entire process is amenable to continuous improvement, driving up quality and driving down costs.  This is a job that is likely more suitable for a systems engineer, albeit one with legal expertise, than a traditionally trained lawyer.

Although this change may sound radical, it is actually the logical next step in an evolutionary progression that began in the early 20th century as the practicing bar transitioned from generalist solo practitioners to specialized lawyers working together within law firms.  Now, as clients search out ways to stretch their legal budgets, specialization is losing market share to process-driven solutions, akin to how Henry Ford’s assembly line methods supplanted craft production.

To illustrate this progression, consider the U.S. legal market at the beginning of the post-War period.  At that time, 61% of all lawyers worked as solo practitioners. Not surprisingly, incomes were low.  In 1948, the average lawyer in private practice made $5,200 per year, which was several hundred dollars less than his government lawyer counterpart.   There were private practice lawyers, however, who defied this trend.  Less than 2% of U.S. lawyers worked as partners in law firms of nine partners or more, but these “large” firm lawyers made, on average, five times more than their solo practitioner peers.

Why so much more?  Because the world was becoming more regulated and complex.  And sophisticated, specialized lawyers with deep technical expertise were in short supply.  By combining into a firm, lawyers could specialize in new or existing areas of law, handle bigger and more complex matters, and otherwise coordinate their efforts to better serve clients.  Indeed, the most successful large law firms, such as the New York City firm of Cravath Swaine & Moore, organized themselves so as to optimize the training of junior lawyers in both substantive law and the ability to supervise and delegate (the “Cravath system”).  Fittingly, during the 1930s, the press dubbed these firms “law factories.”  The best junior lawyers eventually became partner; the rest obtained the benefit of excellent experience and training, thus obtaining jobs with clients or partnerships with other law firms.

For the next several decades, firms with significant business clients and a partner-associate training model tended to prosper.  As a measure of longevity of the specialist model, among the largest 100 law firms in the U.S. as measured by gross revenues (the AmLaw 100), the average name partner was born in 1895 and died in 1964 – yet the growth has marched on for another half century.  The period of greatest financial success has occurred during the last three decades.  Between 1978 and 2003, total U.S. legal expenses as a percentage of GDP increased from .4% to 1.8%.  From this growing pie, large firm lawyers where getting the biggest slice.  By the mid-2000s, the profit share of the average partner in an Am Law 100 firm was over $1 million per year.

One obvious drag on the legal industry’s reluctance to embrace innovation is the financial success enjoyed under the old model.  It is hard to convince a group of millionaires that their business model is broken.  A second drag is insularity.  The U.S./U.K system of lawyering is premised on the idea of independence.  In the U.S., ethics rules prohibit lawyers from splitting fees with nonlawyers.  Thus, only lawyers have an equity interest in law firms.  In the U.K. and Australia, in contrast, the ban on fee-splitting has been significantly relaxed, enabling the public listing of law firms and the entry of name-brand companies, such as Tesco (a supermarket retailer), into the consumer legal business.

Ironically, the insularity of the U.S. legal market may have created a more attractive target for capitalists. Among corporate clients, the combination of high law firm profits and low innovation has created discontent among C-suite executives.  They ask their general counsel, “why are legal expenses going up faster than other departments?  What value are we getting for these higher fees?”  The general counsel has no persuasive reply.

Perhaps the best example of new entrepreneurs serving corporate clients is the large number of vendors working in eDiscovery and document review. The explosion in digital data over the last 10 to 15 years has made it untenable to continue using expensive law firm associates for an exhaustive manual review. 

Initially the work went to registry services, which assembled large crews of temporary low-wage “contract” lawyers for large document review projects.  After building a sufficient data infrastructure and security controls, the work flow has gradually expanded to legal process outsourcers (LPOs) in places like India, where a fraction of the wages paid to U.S. contract attorneys could attract highly motivated and able Indian lawyers.  Having achieved sufficient success and scale, the best LPOs are now turning to process engineering, combining this highly motivated and able labor with superior technology and workflow design. 

More recently, new vendors have emerged who specialize in “predictive coding.”  In a case that considered acceptable methods of conducting electronic discovery, a federal judge in New York City reviewed studies comparing the cost and accuracy of computer-based machine algorithms (predictive coding) with manual human review.  Finding that the predictive coding was at least as accurate as manual methods and reduced the number of documents for human review by a factor of 50, the judge ruled that predictive coding was judicially reasonable in many cases involving large numbers of documents.

Although many large U.S. law firms may perceive document review as “commodity” legal work not worthy of their efforts, the new legal vendors getting into this space are remarkably well capitalized.  For example, one of the larger suppliers of contract attorneys is Robert Half, which has 26 locations through the U.S. and Canada.  Its corporate parent, Robert Half International, is publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange (RHI).  Another company in the contract attorney space is Special Counsel, which has 36 U.S. offices.  Special Counsel is a subsidiary of Adecco Group, which is listed on the SIX Swiss Stock Exchange (ADEN).

In the LPO space, Pangea3, which opened in 2004 with $1.5 million in venture capital, was sold in 2010 to Thomson Reuters (NYSE symbol TRI) for an amount reported to be in the $35M to $40M range. [ed: I later learned from a highly reliable source that the true price was just under $100M.]  The original management team was kept intact, as the company has been growing between 40% and 60% every year since its founding.  The company now employs over 850 lawyers, mostly in India.  Because of its emphasis on process improvement, Pangea3 and other high-end LPOs are obtaining a competitive advantage beyond mere wages.  Thus, LPOs have become a much more attractive option for Indian law graduates.  Another competitor is Huron Consulting Group (NASDAQ symbol HURN), which recently announced a new document review facility in Gurgeon (a booming suburb of Delhi), bringing its total global document review workforce to 1,500 in 17 offices worldwide.  Since 2007, Huron Consulting Group’s annual revenues have nearly doubled, growing from $315 million to $606 million.

The major players in the predictive coding space are also well capitalized.  One of the leaders is Recommind, a privately held company with $15 million in revenues in 2011 and approximately 100 employees in facilities in California, London, Germany and Australia.  Similarly, Kroll Ontrack, which started in the hard disk recovery business nearly 30 years ago, has information management services that include predictive coding as part of its broader eDiscovery services.  Kroll Ontrack is owned by Kroll, Inc., which was recently acquired by Altegrity, an information conglomerate owned by Providence Equity Partners.  Providence Equity is a global private equity firm with over $27 billion under management.

Since 2008, revenues in large U.S.-based law firms have been relatively flat.  A recent article in Managing Partner magazine acknowledged that law firms are losing market share to the LPOs –which broadly includes all the companies mentioned above—as general counsel are increasingly contracting with LPOs directly.  The savings are perceived to be in the 50% range with no diminution in quality.  According to the article, the LPO business is estimated to be a $1 billion per year industry that will double in size over the next two to three years.

Unlike traditional lawyers, the competitive advantage enjoyed by these new entrants is that they have learned how to learn.  If law is like other industries, these companies will move up the value chain and find new ways to satisfy the needs of large corporate legal departments.  Law is not just for lawyers anymore.  This genie is permanently out of its bottle.

March 27, 2013 in Current events, Data on the profession, Innovations in law, Law Firms, Legal Departments, New and Noteworthy, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (1)