Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Panelists at Thomson Reuters' 2018 Legal Executive Forum discuss future of law school skills training

The panel discussion, which took place last Friday in NYC during the annual TR conference, was called "Training the 21st Century Lawyer: Envisioning a Legal Industry Alliance" and included Jae Um, Founder & Executive Director of legal market insights firm Six Parsecs, Thomas Bender, co-president & co-managing director at Littler Mendelson and Professor William Henderson (Indiana University Maurer School of Law) who's also one of the principals behind the Institute for the Future of Law Practice. They discussed trends in law school curricular reform aimed at preparing students not just in acquiring the substantive legal knowledge needed to practice law but also legal technology, management skills, e-discovery, and better understanding the operational and business needs of the client. LegalTechNews has a report on what the panelists discussed: 

The Problem with Law Schools? They Only Prepare Future Lawyers

Speakers at the Thomson Reuters 2018 Legal Executive Forum in New York argue that legal education has fallen behind as the legal industry has shifted to serve more operational and business needs.


Working in today’s legal market requires more skill than just knowing the law, but not all law schools have matched their curriculum to this changing marketplace.


“If you look at the legal market from the point of view of a law student, that is very far removed from the market you see,” said Jae Um, founder & executive director of  legal market insights company Six Parsecs, at the June 8 “Training the 21st Century Lawyer: Envisioning a Legal Industry Alliance” session of Thomson Reuters’ 2018 Legal Executive Forum in New York.


Um noted that the current model of education, which trains around “conceptual subject matter expertise,” is outdated, and what law schools need to do is focus more on teaching students how to work in today’s legal market. Such a market is defined by the recent rise of legal operation professionals, knowledge management staff, and e-discovery managers, all of whom play an integral part in law firms. The work of today’s lawyers and legal professionals, therefore, is as much about solving a client’s business and operational needs as it is their legal ones.


William Henderson, professor of law at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, noted that the rise of these new and different types of law firm positions was proof that the industry had undergone a profound change, even if legal education hasn’t kept up.


“We don’t change very often. But when we change, we change in an order of magnitude that is fairly large,” he said at the forum. “And I hope legal education is on the brink of creating a different narrative.”


But while most law schools have yet to change, some are redefining legal education from the ground up. As an example, Henderson pointed to The Institute for the Future of Law Practice (IFLP), an organization that partners with law schools, firms and corporations to create internships for law students. These internships count as part of students’ legal education, and include two legal operations and legal tech boot camps that help prepare the students for their internships.

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