Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A Clockworks Approach to Lawyer Development: Creating Better Lawyers Faster

ReinventThe Legal Whiteboard:  ReInvent Law is a Really Big Deal, by William Henderson (Indiana):

I was at the ReInvent Law Silicon Valley event last week.  Following up on Jerry's thorough remarks, I can honestly say it was unlike any legal education and lawyer conference I have ever attended (the only thing close is Law Without Walls).  There is a new guard in the legal academy taking shape, and it is led -- truly led -- by Dan Katz and Renee Knake at Michigan State. ...

Amidst all these "revolutionary" ideas, I think my presentation was probably the most conservative.  My central claim is that 100 years ago, as the nation struggled to find enough specialized lawyers to deal with the rise of the industrial and administrative state, some brilliant lawyers in cities through America created a "clockworks" approach to lawyer development.  These clockworks filled this enormous gaping hole.  Firms like Cravath, Swaine & Moore, through their "Cravath System" finished what legal educators started. ...

A Clockworks Approach to Lawyer Development. Here is the Slideshare description:

The original Cravath System circa 1920 demonstrated the power of a "clockworks" approach to lawyer development. The system was a meticulously designed and mechanized way to create specialized lawyers who could service the needs of America's rapidly growing industrial and financial enterprises -- lawyers who were in perennial short supply because the requisite skill set could only be learned by doing. The System endured for a century because it solved the specialized lawyer shortage by making every stakeholder better off -- junior lawyers (received training), partner-owners (large, stable profits), and clients (world class service and value). 

Today's legal employers and legal educators would benefit by revisiting this system's powerful business logic. The clockworks approach to lawyer development still works. The only difference is that the specifications for a great lawyer have changed. Like the original Cravath System, a new clockworks would create a "better lawyer faster."

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The "law school reform" movement is going to hit a snag. Namely, the law that we have on the books (i.e. Constitution, common law, statuory law, tax code, etc.) is here to stay. And it takes a while to learn. And few if any individuals under the age of 25 have the maturity to practice it.

In short, there will be no "reinventing" the law. Not any more than we will reinvent the practice of medicine.

This is why law school should absolutely not exist primarily to teach people to "think like a lawyer," but instead should use the time to convey necessary information to a class of already intelligent people.

Law school was fine for nearly 200 years, then the cost quadrupled in a couple short decades. That's the only problem.

Posted by: JM | Mar 13, 2013 1:44:11 PM