Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Law and Social Innovation: Lawyering in the Conceptual Age by Raymond H. Brescia

Law and Social Innovation: Lawyering in the Conceptual Age by Raymond H. Brescia.


"A range of forces are arrayed against the institutions of the American legal profession that stand to undermine their foundations and challenge their continued existence, at least in their current form. These threats, which contain technological, economic, and social components, and are emanating from both domestic and transnational sources, require the legal profession in general and law schools in particular to respond to the new reality of the contemporary age and adapt to it, without losing sight of the core social justice principles upon which the profession should be based: access to justice, protection of civil and political rights, and preservation of the rule of law. The threats to the legal profession and law schools require an assessment of what lawyers do best and how they can best continue to serve a critical role in society. At the heart of lawyering is problem solving, and for lawyers, and law schools, ensuring that they can continue to deliver strategic, meaningful, and effective problem-solving services in the 21st century will help determine the role of the legal profession and law schools well into the future.

What are the problem-solving skills that the legal profession must possess and that law schools must instill in their students given the forces that are impacting the practice of law? Ten years ago, author Dan Pink published the prescient A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. In it, Pink explores the ways that phenomena such as automation and the ability to outsource a great deal of work traditionally performed by knowledge workers has posed challenges for those in many industries to remain relevant and viable in the contemporary age. While these forces are affecting many different sectors, the legal profession, and the law schools that educate its members, are feeling these threats acutely. Pink offers strategies for thriving in this environment, arguing that this new era, what he calls the Conceptual Age, requires a new set of skills and aptitudes that he posits are those that tend to be dominated by the right hemisphere of the brain, such as the ability to think conceptually and metaphorically, to empathize with others, to see and recognize patterns, and to appreciate and communicate compelling narratives. These skills, which he calls the aptitudes of the Conceptual Age, include design, empathy, story, symphony, play, and meaning. Such skills are necessary to thrive in the contemporary environment and deliver value to communities and markets. This Article explores how these aptitudes can be taught in a law school setting, focusing on one problem solving course through which students engage in real- world problem solving in ways that invoke the aptitudes of the Conceptual Age. Following this examination, it also explores the implications of teaching these aptitudes in a law school setting and the role they may play in both the legal profession in general and law schools in particular."

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