Law.com, The Problem with Law Schools? They Only Prepare Future Lawyers:
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Um noted that the current model of education, which trains around “conceptual subject matter expertise,” is outdated, and what law schools need to do is focus more on teaching students how to work in today’s legal market.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.
The goal of the IFLP program is to create “T-shaped lawyers,” Henderson said, which means lawyers that have fundamental knowledge and expertise in one area, such as a legal subject matter, but also have general expertise in other areas such as business operations, legal technology and process design. The program is both “creating operational lawyers, some of whom are going to have a career in operations, analytics and so forth” and giving students the choice becoming a bespoke lawyer or another type of operational legal professional, he added.