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Law-business-technology interface: professional schools under the microscope

Professional education in the U.S. has sorted and separated skills training among distinct schools.  Law school is where you go to train to become a lawyer, business school is for comprehensive business training . . . etc.  To be sure, there are collaborations across schools — although I wouldn’t overstate the structural relationships between, say, American law and business schools.  However, the scope of business related training in law schools and, similarly, legal training in business schools has thus far been modest.  Where a major law school (most recently, Penn and Chicago; a few years back, Northwestern) announces that it is providing substantial business training to its students, this becomes newsworthy.

In an era in which technology-related businesses are key drivers of the economy and in which professional opportunities for skilled entrepreneurs are growing, it is vital for law, business, and engineering schools to rethink the balkanization of our programs.  Legal training will become increasingly important in the development of business strategy, the navigation of regulatory compliance issues, and the interactions between mid-level and C-suite executives and their general counsels.  And, of course, leadership and business skills drawn from focused training found in the nation’s great MBA programs will continue to be important to the professional development of management in these technology-oriented companies.

Because these skills overlap and intersect with one another, it will be important to develop educational strategies that are cumulative and synergistic.  Drawing business school profs into law school curricula is a good strategy; but, even better, is to develop deeply integrated programs and degrees that are about both law and business.  Students should be encouraged to come to law school not only to train to become lawyers, but to develop legal skills in degree formats other than the traditional JD.  Likewise, business school students will want to integrate their business and legal skills to assure that their training will enable them to thrive in a setting in which disciplinary boundaries are fluid and in which they are called upon to know a lot about a lot of things and to be flexible and adaptive.

The technology piece is crucial as well.  Engineers need not become lawyers to profit from having a base in legal skills; and students training to become lawyers will benefit from classmates who will pursue entrepreneurial careers — in short, classmates will become, in many instances, their future clients.  Business school students will, too, benefit from integrated programs with engineers and with would-be lawyers.  These B-School students will interface with lawyers and the legal system in myriad ways and exposure to at least foundational knowledge and perspectives on law and the legal system will be of benefit.

There is no one-size-fits-all playbook here.  But the modest point is that we in the legal, business, and engineering space should think about programming and skill building strategies that integrate knowledge and deepen understanding across fields which have traditionally been viewed as separate.  This will require some structural change in professional education; it will also require tempering self-interest and disciplinary hubris.  We have much to learn from one another in the professional school world.


Podcast on LPO’s and law firms

Interesting stuff


South African judge is Global Jurist of the Year at NU Law

Dikgang Moseneke, the deputy chief justice of the South African Constitutional Court, will speak at two events during his October 16 visit to the Law School. The Bluhm Legal Clinic’s Center for International Human Rights (CIHR) will host Justice Moseneke as the first recipient of their Global Jurist of the Year Award.

A distinguished lawyer and judge, Moseneke was chosen as the inaugural recipient of the award for his commitment to human rights and the rule of law. He will speak on “The People, the Courts and the Embryonic Jurisprudence of South Africa” at the October 16 dinner and award ceremony to be held at 6:30 p.m. in the Bluhm Legal Clinic, 375 East Chicago Avenue, on Northwestern’s Chicago campus. Individual tickets for the dinner can be purchased online.

Moseneke will also speak at a lunch event at the Law School earlier in the day.  His address, “The Law and the Transition from Apartheid to a Constitutional Democracy,” will be given at Noon in Rubloff 150. This event is free and open to Law School students, faculty, staff, and alumni; however, preregistration is requested.

“Chief Deputy Justice Moseneke’s unwavering commitment to justice and the rule of law throughout his long and distinguished career, often in the face of adversity, is an inspiration to the bench and bar,” said David Scheffer, Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law and director of the Center for International Human Rights.

Moseneke, born in Pretoria, South Africa, was arrested and convicted at age 15 for participating in anti-apartheid activity. During his 10-year imprisonment on Robben Island, he earned two college degrees. In 1978 he was admitted as an attorney and focused his practice largely on legal challenges to apartheid policies and their consequences.

In 1993, Moseneke served on the committee that drafted South Africa’s interim constitution and served as deputy chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission, which conducted South Africa’s first democratic elections. In 2001, he was appointed as a judge of the High Court in Pretoria and was appointed to the Constitutional Court in 2002. Moseneke was made deputy chief justice of that court in 2005.

The CIHR created the Global Jurist of the Year Award to recognize judges who have made a substantial contribution to the advancement of international human rights law and international criminal law, particularly those who have shown outstanding dedication to the rule of law and courage in the face of adversity.  Jurists from all nations and tribunals are eligible for consideration.


A most interesting job search, shedding light on (a part of) our future

From the always interesting and provocative Bill Henderson:  Here a job description for a “Legal Solutions Architect.”

The interesting question to me is how it might be that the JD degree, the training received for this degree, would be superior to, in salient ways, the training of an MBA.  This is a hard question law schools will need to answer.  How can law schools be better at the precise training for which this intriguing position is designed than can U.S. business schools?  Answering this question requires us to get out of our comfort zones and look with focus and sophistication at how modern legal training develops capacities for the kinds of creative, inquisitive, multi-faceted and multi-disciplinary work to which this position at a major law firm aspires.

Also interesting is the way that this position pushes hard against the trope that “JD Advantaged” category is, at heart, a scam and an evasion.  In the future, law schools will want to develop professions of both varieties — those who are credentialed into the universe of lawyers practicing law, as the relevant bar authorities define this (unstable?) category and, separately, those whose sophisticated, eclectic training in law school suits them to add value in law firm and business settings.


Deus ex machina? Or just shoddy predictions?

Flawed analysis here.

This kind of reporting is particularly destructive, as it manufactures some sort of analysis of future tuition trends as though law school tuition choices are on auto-pilot.  Northwestern has committed to modest tuition increases, much lower than in years past.  There are some encouraging reasons to believe that peer schools are doing likewise.  And, in the case of at least a few law schools, tuition has gone the other direction.

Let’s be constructive, folks, about an issue that is of deep significance to the well-being of law schools, prospective law students, and the legal profession.  Tuition increases at the level of the past several years are no longer sustainable.  Responsible law schools will respond.  The pseudo-science of “The Law School Tuition Bubble” tuition prediction is both inaccurate and inflammatory.


Instant Karma

Change conversations in law school are mostly focused these days on the pressing economic questions for schools — applicant patterns, educational costs, accreditation, job security, etc. — yet the larger questions ever looming concern fundamental, structural changes in the profession.  Attention is lavished on these knotty sets of questions, but not typically by law profs.

Confining our attention to issues in our immediate backyard is perhaps understandable.  While economic pressures in the profession impact more or less immediately the bottom line of lawyers and law firms, these same pressures impact law schools only indirectly; indeed, these impacts are typically filtered through instruments such as the ABA Section on Legal Education, AALS, and the state bar examiners.  With many law schools facing more immediate challenges and, in some cases, real crises as the supply of law students declines, it is unremarkable that educators and administrators in these schools put off careful thinking and strategizing about the state and fate of the legal profession.

But “change in lawyering” is the elephant in the room, and he is taking up ever more space.

The distribution of legal services is undergoing major change; whether or not the overall demand for lawyers will decline significantly remains uncertain — although my bet is with those predicting a real contraction.  But it is rather more clear, based upon the data that I see, that the demand for law graduates pursuing the typical law firm associate route will decrease by a good amount.  And the track to partnership will become a more difficult one, both in the sense that there will be fewer opportunities for promotion and in the sense that the work-life balance of young lawyers who commit to that pathway will shift around in challenging ways.

Bespoke legal work, to use Richard Susskind’s phrase, will remain important and there will be a demand for excellent law graduates from top schools to come aboard to assist seasoned lawyers with that work.  But it is hard to see that this will become a dependable entering point into the profession for more than a subset of law grads.  Even at the very top schools, there will be fewer associate positions in the traditional sense available.  To be sure, well-prepared graduates (this is a Northwestern blog, so I would be remiss if I didn’t say “well-prepared Northwestern graduates”) from a handful of elite schools will be comparatively better off, and by a good margin.  But let’s not pretend that the impact of the changing structure of Biglaw will spare the elite.  The question for the “best” students from the “best” law schools will not be “will we be affected?” but, rather, “how do you compare our challenges to others?” Read more »


Tenure requirement for law professors?

Group of law professors weigh in.


NU Law’s corporate counsel institute

Today, for its 52nd (!) year.


Incarceration of juveniles

Thoughtful commentary by Prof. Steven Drizin, assistant dean of the Bluhm Legal Clinic.


First rule of debate club . . .

. . . Anyway, more on the two-year law school option.