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Better Preparing Lawyers for the Practice of Law
Many young lawyers entering the legal marketplace are surprised to find that they are lacking the fundamental skills necessary to successfully practice law and stay competitive while seeking employment. In this episode of The Legal Toolkit, host Jared Correia talks with American Bar Association Commission on Hispanic Rights & Responsibilities Commissioner Fred Rooney, Suffolk University Law School Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Ilene Seidman, Michigan State University College of Law Professor of Law in Residence Daniel Linna, and Stanford Law School fellow Margaret Hagan about their respective programs and the additional skills that law schools should teach students to better prepare them for the practice of law.View transcript
The Legal Toolkit
Better Preparing Lawyers for the Practice of Law
Intro: Welcome to the ‘Legal Toolkit’, bringing you the latest legal trends and business initiatives to help you manage your law firm. Here are your hosts, experienced lawyers, writers and entrepreneurs, Heidi Alexander and Jared Correia. You are listening to Legal Talk Network.
Jared Correia: Welcome to another episode of the ‘Legal Toolkit’ on Legal Talk Network. If you are looking for orange is the new black, you are way off. If you’re a returning listener, welcome back. If you’re a first time listener, hopefully you’ll become a longtime listener, and if you happened to be Donald Trump and at the time of the publication of this podcast, you are the President of the United States.
Greetings from Nova Scotia everybody. As always, I am your host Jared Correia and in addition to casting this pod, I am the Founder and CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law practice management consulting and technology services for law firms. Check us out at HYPERLINK “http://www.redcavelegal.com/”redcavelegal.com to find out more.
You can also buy my book “Twitter in One Hour for Lawyers” from the American Bar Association, on iTunes, at Amazon, and probably also at Woozles Children’s Bookstore in Halifax.
Here on the Legal Toolkit we provide you each month with a new tool to add to your own legal toolkit, so that your practices will become more-and-more like best practices.
In this episode, we’re going to talk over innovation in law schools, so it should be fun.
Before I introduce today’s guest however, let’s take a moment to thank our sponsors.
First off, Scorpion, which delivers award-winning law firm web design and online marketing programs to get you more cases. Scorpion has helped thousands of law firms, just like yours, to attract new cases and grow their practices. For more information, visit HYPERLINK “http://www.scorpionlegal.com/podcast”scorpionlegal.com/podcast.
This podcast is also brought to you by Amicus Attorney, developers of Legal Practice Management Software. Let Amicus help you run your practice so you can focus on what you do best, practice law. Visit HYPERLINK “http://www.amicusattorney.com/”amicusattorney.com and get started today.
All right! We have got a bunch of guests today, four in number, and even if that’s not a record for me, it’s still a lot. So here’s our roster.
First off, we’ve got Fred Rooney, who is the father of law school incubators and a 2013 ABA Legal Rebel. My understanding is that he still wears the official bandana around the house.
Fred is an adjunct faculty member at the Texas A&M University School of Law. He was a Founding Director of the Community Legal Resource Network at the City University of New York Law School, where he worked for almost 15 years. He was a past director of the Touro Law Center’s International Justice Center for Post-Graduate Development. And more recently, he has been a Fulbright Scholar with a pension for globe-trotting. Currently, he is the Commissioner of the ABA’s Commission on Hispanic Rights & Responsibilities.
Next up, we have Ilene Seidman, who is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and a Clinical Professor of Law at Suffolk University Law School in Boston. After Danny Ainge, she is one of my favorite people in the city, and that’s how I praise.
Ilene began her career at Greater Boston Legal Services. Prior to arriving at Suffolk she was a Clinical Instructor at Harvard Law School for over 15 years. Under Ilene’s guidance Suffolk’s Accelerator-to-Practice Program won the ABA’s Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access in 2016.
Dan Linna is the Director of LegalRnD, the Center for Legal Services Innovation at Michigan State University College of Law. Before joining the faculty at Michigan State Dan was a partner at Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn in the Litigation Department. Prior to that he was a law clerk in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Now despite the fact that he graduated magna cum laude from the University of Michigan Law School of all places, Michigan still decided to hire him.
Last but not least, we have Margaret Hagan, who is a fellow at Stanford Law Center on the legal profession and a lecturer at the Stanford Institute of Design. She launched a program for legal tech and design while a fellow at the Institute of Design.
Margaret is a 2013 Stanford Law graduate and while a student there she built Law Dojo, an interactive study app. She blogs at Open Law Lab.
All right, deep breath. Fred, Ilene, Dan and Margaret, welcome to the show, ladies and gentlemen.
Fred Rooney: Thank you.
Ilene Seidman: Thank you.
Margaret Hagan: Hi everyone.
Daniel Linna: Thank you.
Jared Correia: All right. That was good. That was — you guys are pros. All right. Now we are going to get into the Q&A part, and this is the fun part. This is going to be a nice little roundtable here, so I am going to ask generic questions, we will have broad range of discussions, and then like several million people are going to listen to what you have to say, or maybe a slightly smaller number than that.
All right, let’s do this. At this point I think it’s become pretty clear that law schools should be teaching lawyers some skills in addition to the substantive law practice skills that they have always been taught.
So my question to you then is which of those other skills is the most important, and let’s start with Dan.
Daniel Linna: Thanks Jared. Well, I would say legal service delivery. That would include teaching law students to effectively deliver legal services to those who need them, and that’s something we really don’t do much of in law school right now. And to effectively deliver legal services in the 21st Century we need to train T-shaped lawyers, lawyers who understand process improvement, project management, metrics for legal service delivery, data analytics and technology. And then we need to give students projects so they can build these skills including group projects where they learn collaboration and leadership skills.
And there is really a need for legal service delivery skills across the whole legal industry, doesn’t matter if you want to work in legal aid or government, the courts, law firms or corporate legal departments. We need to be training law students to effectively deliver legal services in all of those environments.
Jared Correia: T-shaped lawyer, I hope you have that trademarked?
Daniel Linna: I think I would be too late on that.
Jared Correia: Unfortunately. All right, Margaret, what you have to say on this subject?
Margaret Hagan: Well, I agree with everything that was just said and I would add a mix of design thinking which sounds a little bit jargoning, but really it’s about figuring out how to scout problem, see where there’s breakdowns in the system, whether it’s the organization, the firm, the court, the place that you’re working or in the service delivery as Dan was just mentioning. Where are people really frustrated, where are they going crazy, and then how can we train students to not only get frustrated but scout the problem and figure out the new ways forward.
So taking that leadership role, not just to be passive within the legal system that they have entered into, but to be more creative and more action-oriented about figuring out whether it’s a new startup or a new internal initiative that they can start to solve these problems and make the system function better.
Jared Correia: That’s good and that is broad applicability as well. All right, so we’ve got T-shaped lawyers, we’ve got design elements. So now, Fred, what say you, my friend?
Fred Rooney: Well, when you look at the statistics and see how many law graduates once they get out of law school and passed the Bar, going to private practice, in addition to all the kinds of skills that have already been mentioned, I think a skill that has really been neglected and is only now somewhat being addressed in law schools is how to run a practice. And granted, you have to know how to file pleadings and draft motions and do all of the day-to-day tasks that a lawyer does. But, if you want to be able to sustain your practice, if you have the dream of creating a community based practice or solo or small firm practice, and you want to sustain that dream you’ve to know how to run a business. And so law schools really need to continue to try to hone in on helping law students develop the skills that they are going to need in order to sustain an economically viable practice.
Jared Correia: Those are three great answers. What’s left for Ilene Seidman, let’s find out.
Ilene Seidman: Not much that seems like — I think we’ve already identified what would be a really excellent legal education. I think the only thing that’s left is to think about how all of these important, the delivery of legal services, the business of law practice technology, in practice is delivered in the curriculum, and thinking about the great strides that clinical programs have made, but most of these skills that have been identified just now are not being taught in clinical programs.
So students are having client experiences without all of these other experiences which is what we’re trying to do next. And the only other thing I would add is that as part of all of this students have to be really informed again-and-again, I am a believer in repetition, in the crisis, in the justice system, and how all of these methods of delivery, technology and business practices can assist in addressing that crisis.
Jared Correia: And it’s almost the perfect segue to my next question, which is to talk with you a little bit about what your programs do or have done. So tell me specifically, what a student graduating from the program you’re involved in would be able to pitch herself as, as a law firm associate in a way that was unique as compared to a non-program participant?
Now Fred talked about students starting their own law firms, let’s focus first on how does involvement in a clinical or accelerated program help a law student to get a job at a law firm or to better succeed at that law firm. If it’s all right, Dan, let’s start with you again.
Daniel Linna: Sure. Well, I think that the key thing is it really allows our law graduates to distinguish themselves from other law graduates. And law firms, legal departments are really struggling right now, trying to figure out how to improve legal service delivery, and they’re turning to many of the disciplines and skills that we just talked about in the last answer.
So our law graduates can go into a law firm, and during an interview talk about having learned about project management classes and actually haven’t implemented it when working on projects in different environments from projects and classes to hackathons they may have participated in or legal aid organizations say that they worked at during externship, that can really help them differentiate themselves from others.
So actually learning these skills during law school gives them a great advantage. They are able to talk with some of the things that partners and law firms are struggling with right now, and you’re seeing more and more law firms train their partners in project management because that’s what the clients are asking for.
Jared Correia: Yeah.
Daniel Linna: They are asking partners to learn how to use technology to automate processes and improve legal service delivery, and that’s what we’re doing in the classroom, and I think there’s a lot of space first to continue to do more projects as well, and that’s one of the things we’ve been focusing on this semester. In the class I’m teaching litigation, data theory practice and process, we partner with ThinkSmart and we’re using their translation automation platform and doing automation projects in the class.
And starting with not just focusing on technology but thinking about bringing in elements of lean thinking and design thinking and getting them to think about really what provides value to the clients. And we’ve had an opportunity also to work with the corporate legal operations consortium. So hearing from the heads of legal operation at places like NetApp and Google, Yahoo!, Oracle; hearing directly from clients how we as lawyers and how law firms need to do more to add value.
Well, when you have a law student, who goes into a law firm and interviews with a partner and has a better understanding of what legal services really look like and an understanding that goes beyond just understanding substantive law like torts and civil procedure, well, that really goes a long way towards helping them differentiate themselves and get a job.
Jared Correia: Yeah, some excellent points there, and saving the cost and time of law firm training, certainly very important.
All right, let’s now move to Ilene, who may be eating chicken soup on a brand-new couch right now.
Ilene Seidman: Exactly. Well, the Accelerated Practice Program is something that’s really designed to prepare students throughout their legal education to join or start small or solo practices, mindful of the fact that even for those who start at a large law firm almost — well an overwhelming number of lawyers practicing in the private sector are in firms of 10 or fewer ultimately, if not from the beginning.
And so starting with their first year of law school when they join the program, they’re spending time in their summer internships, they have two summer internships each small partner firms, where they are mentored not just to the practice but to the business and technology practices. So the firms and to some extent they may be introducing technology practices into firms as part of their use to them.
So part of it is very simple entity formation, how do I keep my books, how do I get clients, how do I keep my clients. And really the business practices in addition to all of the other kinds of practices that Dan was referencing, which they are also learning. So for them the students in the program there’s targeted experiences, there’s curriculum and then there’s their entire third year spent in a degenerating law firm, with a focus on access to justice so that they’re doing the practice during their third year in a way that we hope is replicable and income-generating for them.
Jared Correia: Excellent. All right, Margaret, you are up.
Margaret Hagan: Yeah, I would say that the students who come out of Stanford, especially our Legal Design Lab mixed with CodeX, which has more technology focus, they come out as new kind of problem-solvers, so they’re not necessarily going into the firm or another organization with their eyes shut just kind of slotted into the typical way things are done or statistical work product to create.
They’re coming in with the idea of we can disrupt things from the inside, we can make things better and they’ve got the literacy in these other areas outside of the world of law to solve problems in new ways; whether that’s building active websites, another technology tools, bringing in data and AI, and knowing that the future trends are going to be or even just taking kind of the more approach to what have the service or organization could be re-engineered to function better.
But they’re coming out with this proactive attitude, not just kind of sliding along their career path but really trying to make the systems better and define their own career.
Jared Correia: And it’s great to see law students coming into law firms as new associates and having a real effect on those firms, especially in regards to technology and efficiency. All right, Fred, last but not least.
Fred Rooney: It’s very exciting because when we started the whole postgraduate movement back in the late ’90s, there was virtually nothing being done to prepare law students to get out and practice law; didn’t really matter if they were going into large firms or into solo or small firm practices or legal services programs. It wasn’t being done.
Over the course of years, I’ve watched the development of the skills that new graduates bring to the practice of law. But I really do have to say though in all the years that I’ve been involved in legal education I never was a faculty member, I never worked directly with students. I always worked with lawyers and year after year, initially it was very depressing because we would have to mold people to develop the kinds of very basic skills that they needed to survive professional skills and business skills.
Jared Correia: Yeah.
Fred Rooney: But when I look at something like what Ilene is doing at Suffolk and I think to myself, our job in programs like Incubators, where new lawyers are coming in to develop their skills for a period of sometimes a year, 18 months, two years, they are coming in with much stronger skills than they ever had before. And that’s really because of the innovative approaches that schools like Suffolk have taken to making sure that the graduates, when they get out have strong enough skills to be able to jump in.
Because a lot of times, you’re not giving a whole — if you’re going with the firm; oftentimes, you have someone to hold your hand, your senior partner to help you through case development or if you go with legal services or some – a social NGO type of organization, you have somebody there, but if you don’t, if you’re going on your own, which again is really the norm, it’s very, very difficult, but it’s very encouraging to see the development through teaching of technology and the development of professional and business skills going on.
There are law schools now, I know I was at Touro Law School, and they have a concentration on small firm practice. A concentration in a law school in a third year would have been unheard of a number of years ago, and more and more I witness law schools across the United States developing very practical approaches to teaching law and graduating students who come out with almost they have a head-start on those who are not graduating from schools, that have the innovative programs like Suffolk.
Jared Correia: Yeah, I think that’s some great perspective historically as well.
Ilene Seidman: Thanks Fred.
Jared Correia: Yeah, and Michigan State and Stanford as well. Anyway, let’s also ask sort of the same question, but let’s flip it to a student, who is going to start a practice right out of the law school, which Ilene talked a little bit about, Fred talked a little bit about, that’s really hard to do.
So since Ilene was talking about that a little bit with Suffolk’s program, let’s let her address this question first. How is a student in an Accelerator or Incubator Program better prepared to start a law firm than colleagues in law school?
Ilene Seidman: Well, I think they’re certainly better prepared because through the two summers of mentoring, that’s very targeted with our partners small firms, where we give specific direction to the small firms as to the kinds of — not just tasks but the kinds of learning that we’re asking the partner firm to engage in teaching with students really opening kind of their books in a way.
And I think that students really have a more realistic, both for good and for bad sense of the challenges and the risks of starting a practice or being in a small practice. But I think that they’re — as Fred said, they’re not starting from ground zero, they also understand, see how the various things that Dan and Margaret are also addressing, about design thinking, process improvement, project management, courses that they are required to take, and the use of technology to create automated systems, both internally and for client use.
Jared Correia: Yeah.
Ilene Seidman: How all of those things can create efficiencies in the hope that they actually could earn a living and really think about one of the things we focus with them on particularly in the capstone third-year is risk management, bringing in risk management people from various firms around Boston and case selections. How do you pick a case and how do you decide what is economically feasible for your firm? And I think that people have never graduated from law school understanding those things.
Jared Correia: No, but there’s a first time for everything, right? All right, Margaret, what do you think of this topic?
Margaret Hagan: Yeah, I would say that the students are more client-focused because we have them do so many interviews and almost following people around as they are trying to figure out help for their legal problems. So they see it not just as the law student or the judges’ perspective, which I think most traditional law schools tend to teach students to take on that persona, but instead we try to flip them to see it from the normal person’s point of view.
So especially if they are starting a practice that’s focused kind of on that main street law market, the family law market, all of a sudden they are seeing how people talk about these things, what kind of other services they might need, how to present yourself in a way that’s transparent and that kind of works with what people want from lawyers, and also what they are afraid of lawyers based on.
So we are trying to craft these students who can then see the dynamics that are at work right now that are usually pretty dysfunctional when it comes to client-lawyer relationships and then devise new ways, either in a traditional legal practice or in the new type of startup that can make those relationships a little less dysfunctional and serve clients and laypeople in better ways.
Jared Correia: I think I may have misheard, but I think you just said that lawyers are not normal people.
Margaret Hagan: I just don’t like using the word non-lawyer. I am trying to avoid the non-lawyer, lawyer distinction.
Jared Correia: Like everyone else who is not a lawyer.
Margaret Hagan: But what do you call a non-lawyer, a normal person, a layperson?
Jared Correia: I understand. Apparently. All right, let’s ask the same question of Fred.
Fred Rooney: What I have noticed is that I have spent a lot of time looking at the way lawyers learn as opposed to the way students learn, and so I will give you an example. When we first started the Incubators, there was a professor, an adjunct professor at CUNY by the name of Laura Gentile and Laura taught semester after semester of small firm practice.
And it just so happened that when we started the first Incubator in 2007, we landed space in Laura Gentile’s law office in midtown Manhattan. And so when the first group of lawyers who had graduated from CUNY came into the Incubator and they saw that they were being housed in the same suite as their former professor, they realized almost from the get-go that so much of what she taught them during their last year of law school they learned in the way that was more focused on how to get the grade.
In other words, they developed business plans and they were somewhat theoretical, because they were not really basing it on anything other than potential projections. And a lot of the coursework that Laura was teaching, they tried to digest and assimilate, but when they got into the real world they realized that so much of what she was teaching they really didn’t learn, because, again, it was in a controlled environment where getting the grade was the goal.
When they became lawyers then Laura said to them, you are welcome to come back into my class and you can audit the class for the second time, and they did, and they came back and they learned the same material, but this time not to get the grade, but they learned it because they needed to survive economically. And so it was interesting to see how that — in a very short period of time the whole mode that they were using to learn changed dramatically.
I do think one of the most important elements that I have seen in American legal education today is again what Ilene was talking about, the experience of working in a firm. That’s not a classroom, it’s not a law school classroom; it’s true, real life experience, where people are seeing the day-to-day operations of the law firm. And law schools are developing — increasing number of law schools are creating programs where their law students get out into the real world and develop real world experiences.
Jared Correia: Yeah, and that’s certainly a good thing. Legal Toolkit Producer Laurence Colletti suggests that non-lawyers be called muggles from now on. So if that works for everybody, I think that’s what we are going to go with.
Now, last, but not least on this question, Dan Linna, how do you think your students at LegalRnD are better prepared to start a law firm?
Daniel Linna: Well, I am really not encouraging law students to go out and start their own law firm. I think there is this idea among — well, and I think that to answer the question directly —
Margaret Hagan: I agree with that.
Fred Rooney: I agree with him to.
Daniel Linna: I mean, I think students who go through the Incubators, that like Ilene has set up, that Fred has helped set up, and who take the classes that Margaret is offering at Stanford and that we are offering here at Michigan State are definitely better prepared that they could start their own law firm.
But I think there’s also this idea among some that law graduates can — if they don’t get a job, they can hang out their shingle, do some wills, divorces, and small contract disputes and so on and make a living, but like you pointed out Jared, that’s extremely difficult to do.
But those same skills, I really think you need to take that kind of thinking. And even if you are going into a law firm, even a large law firm, then you really need to be thinking about, how am I going to build a practice? How am I going to develop the skills and legal expertise that clients want?
And I think Margaret really touched on something when she was talking about training our students to really be proactive. And one of the things that we have been doing at Michigan State, I was working in career development and now I am focused on LegalRnD, but when I was doing that, we have been really building out this Summer Career Jumpstart Program. And before students even start, we are getting them to read ‘The Start-Up of You’ and getting them to think about, well, where do I want to be, what do I want to be doing, what are the unique skills I bring to the table, what kind of skills can I develop when I am in law school so I can have the career that I want to have.
And part of that and what I have been talking about so far is a lot about legal service delivery, and we teach a lot of that in the LegalRnD program. But there’s also a lot of opportunities at the intersection of law and technology, and I have got so many examples of students.
Like, for example, a student, we had Pamela Morgan on campus last year talking about blockchain technology. And one of our students jumped on that and started learning about it, started experimenting with it, got active on social media, and before he knew it there were employers who are reaching out to him and offering him internships, because they are hungry to find people who are interested in this, and lawyers who want to learn about the area and try to help solve the problems in that space.
And there are tons of emerging areas where students can carve out a niche for themselves; information privacy and security law, 3D printing, drones, driverless cars, automation and artificial intelligence and the way it’s being implemented in so many places; criminal justice, medicine, credit scoring, human resources. I mean, we have got so many lawyers who have no idea what an algorithm is and who just kind of don’t want to dig in at all to what it means and how artificial intelligence works.
It’s not a black box. It’s something that we can teach in law schools and our students can start learning about it and they can develop a niche for themselves and really help build a really great career for themselves.
Ilene Seidman: All right. Just to follow up on that for a minute –
Jared Correia: Yeah, go ahead.
Ilene Seidman: If I could just follow up on that for a minute that one of the things that our current Dean, Andy Perlman, who founded the Institute on Law Practice Technology and Innovation, has created something that we hope will catch on, which is a Legal Technology Audit for students so that they do not graduate from law school without some basic technology skills that they can bring into wherever they are working in the private sector or the public sector. And law firms and certainly in the private sector are looking for that kind of efficiency in the lawyers that they are sometimes paying huge fees to, who cannot perform very basic technology.
Jared Correia: Yeah. And I think two other points to extract from what Dan was talking about is, one, just because you start working at another firm doesn’t mean you are foreclosed forever from starting your own law firm. And it does help get some experience first.
And the other thing is, yes, there are a lot more jobs now than there have ever been before for lawyers in legal technology and nontraditional legal careers. So I think those are all great points that you guys have brought up.
All right, so I am almost trolling now, but here’s the last question for the first half of the show, and my challenge to you all is tell me in 30 seconds or less your description of the perfect Incubator Program. Margaret, go.
Margaret Hagan: Students are paired with a possible client and they have to build a project with a strong business model that serves that client. And then they have to actually launch it and get to market.
Jared Correia: Very nice. I hope the muggles understood that answer. All right, Dan, you are next.
Daniel Linna: Well, just to build on, I think, to something Fred said earlier, to have a perfect incubator program, I think it would really help to have law schools providing a stronger foundation and legal service delivery. We need to be doing more in the law schools, and I think then the Incubator Programs can really unleash students to be innovative and entrepreneurial.
Jared Correia: All right, Fred, you are next.
Fred Rooney: Perfect law incubator would be one that has a focus, and this is perhaps my own prejudice, but the focus would be on access to justice. It would be using the 18 months that lawyers are in a legal incubator to help address the unmet legal needs of people all over the country.
Lawyers would be trained in specific areas like immigration, housing, family law to be able to, during the period of their 18 months, use the skills to resolve or try to deal with the unmet legal needs of millions of people in this country, who have no hope or prayer of ever being able to get access to a lawyer.
Jared Correia: Certainly a noble goal. All right, Ilene.
Ilene Seidman: I agree with everything Fred said with one change, I think the perfect incubator should be a substitute for the third year of law school.
Jared Correia: Oh, wow, bold, I like that. All right, we are going to end on that note. That’s equivalent to a mic drop I think.
Now, we are going to stop innovating for like 30 seconds, but we will back before you know it, with more from Fred Rooney, Ilene Seidman, Dan Linna and Margaret Hagan. But before you go grab a snack I want to tell you a little more about our sponsors.
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Thanks for rejoining us. How was your kombucha? We are continuing with our deep dive into innovation in law schools with Fred Rooney, Ilene Seidman, Dan Linna and Margaret Hagan, and let’s jump right back into it.
So what is or was the interplay like in your schools between traditional substantive classes and those instructors and the more innovative curriculum and the new faculty that teach them? And let’s start this time with Ilene.
Ilene Seidman: Well, this is a really tough challenge. Law faculty mostly, unless you are in the clinical program, and in our experience in the legal writing program are pretty removed from practice, and that’s the cause of some great scholarship innovation in law schools, but also for innovation in the new ways that legal services are being delivered and certainly in technology.
Although, one of the things I have found is that we have members of the doctrinal faculty who are actually very technologically-oriented and have never thought about or have been given the opportunity to think about how they can bring those skills into the classroom and into the concept of lawyering. So that’s been a new and interesting development.
But that is a huge challenge that law schools face and that’s always been a challenge with differences between people who practice, like clinical faculty, and people who do not, namely the doctrinal faculty.
Jared Correia: It sounds like it’s drawing some of the doctrinal faculty out of their shells, which is good. All right, Fred, you are up.
Fred Rooney: Yeah, I am probably not the best person to address this subject, simply because I have not worked as a member of the faculty. I sort of say I have always prided myself on the fact that I have never been on a faculty, because I didn’t —
Jared Correia: We will let you wing it though.
Fred Rooney: No, no. I would just like to say that I am a product of CUNY Law School. I started CUNY in 1983 and that was a brand-new law school that had a brand-new mission; it was a social justice mission and all of the methods that were used in teaching legal education were completely innovative, some thought to be unorthodox. But the bottom line is, I learned so much during the years I was at CUNY and, again, we are talking about the Dark Ages.
But I really loved law schools, especially the law schools — the folks who are in this particular program come from some of the most innovative law schools in the country, and I just realized the value of when your law school is willing to kind of go out on a limb, take some risks in trying to incorporate new ways of teaching law, new concepts for teaching law, that has an impact, the transformative impact on students.
And so not having the background as a faculty member, that’s about all I am going to say, but I really do love the efforts of the institutions that are represented in this podcast.
Jared Correia: All right, Mr. Dan, you are faculty.
Fred Rooney: It’s not the norm either.
Jared Correia: Oh yeah.
Daniel Linna: Well, I mean, just two years ago I was still at Honigman litigating troubled supplier disputes, so I haven’t been in the academy for long, and it’s really only recently that I turned to teaching full-time.
But we have got some of our full-time faculty members who are doing some really interesting things here, and picking up on some of these concepts and thinking about how blockchain technology, for example, can be introduced in contracts classes and things like that.
I think it’s the same though across the industry, and it’s a change management component to all of this, and change is hard for everyone, and maybe lawyers and law students especially. And I think that those of us who are interested in legal innovation and technology, including, because it being so important to expand access to legal services, we need to do a better job of explaining to faculty, students, practitioners and the public why this is so important. And most of us that are involved in law, we want to help people, and what better way to help people than to expand access to legal services, and there is tremendous promise here.
And lawyers have a very important role to play, but too many lawyers, too many of us, we are standing by the sidelines while technologists and others push things forward, and if we are not careful, we could become irrelevant.
So that’s one of the things that I think is so important too about, it’s not just the technology, but it is thinking about process improvement and project management, and in connection with process improvement we talk about lean thinking, we also talk about design thinking, and as Margaret pointed out, that’s all about being client-centric and thinking about how do we provide value to clients.
And when we decompose legal matters, we are finding more and more things that don’t need to be done by lawyers, that can be done by allied professionals, that can be done by others. And it’s important to think though that we as lawyers are involved and study this, because we can provide great value, but we need to do a better job of explaining the value that we provide in these different areas. We need to kind of have a seat at the table. We need to contribute more to improve access to legal services for everyone in this space.
Jared Correia: Dropping a bunch of great segues there, Dan. So first, we are going to move to segue number one, which is Margaret, and then we are going to move to segue number two, which is allied professionals. So before we get there though, Margaret, what do you have to say on the subject of faculty?
Margaret Hagan: Well, I agree with everything that’s been said, and I would say that it’s a delicate balance. Faculty don’t tend to take this type of innovation approach to legal services or to teaching law, and they are really in control of the law school. They are the stakeholders that need to be convinced that these new approaches are really worthwhile and that they belong inside the university and not in a more private sphere.
So I found a lot of luck in coming to them on their own terms, which is trying to make their own research more public, more available, and generally more appreciated. So a lot of them are a little bit intimidated by technology or kind of new methods.
So I have done a lot of co-teaching with more traditional faculty to expose them to how these new methods can benefit their own research, whether it’s in making websites of their databases, making things kind of come alive with these new approaches and showing them the payoff that it can have for their own practice, and make them just a little bit less intimidated and a less a first time situation, which often it can be, even among the students. There are a lot of students who want the more traditional type of law education, but increasingly there are those who want the more entrepreneurial path, and that’s often the biggest leverage that the new types of teachers have is the student demand and the payoff that we can have for those different kinds of law careers that they can then build.
Jared Correia: Yeah, absolutely. Clearly there are some generational issues here as well, but we are not going to get into those, because we only have so much time.
Margaret, we are going to stay with you. So tell me, what do you think the role of non-lawyer professionals is in an innovative law school curriculum?
Margaret Hagan: So I am a big believer in having non-lawyers in the room, both when teaching law students and then also when they are launching their projects. So I try to have designers, technologists, computer scientists, business people come in and review the students’ work, tell them why it will work, why it won’t work, when they are coming up with new ideas or new projects.
And I also am trying to have the lawyers or the law students think about a team-based approach to whatever they are going to do after law school and how to bring — how do I not phrase it as non-lawyers, other types of professionals.
Jared Correia: Muggles, I thought we went over this.
Margaret Hagan: Muggles, bring the muggles in. So basically trying to — I am trying to take down that approach that lawyers are always the smartest people in the room and always know how to solve a given problem the best way. So we are trying to build the interdisciplinary link in law school, with the goal that when the law students become practitioners, they know how to draw upon technologists, designers, business leaders to build those new types of solutions and not always think that the lawyer knows best.
Jared Correia: So it’s all right to be one of several smart people in the room, absolutely. All right, Ilene, you are up on this one.
Ilene Seidman: Well, we actually long ago had a rule that the only people who could be in the classroom teaching students had to be lawyers, and we obliterated that rule in favor of, we have had social workers working in clinics, many clinics do; we have a design course taught by someone who has actually worked with Margaret at Stanford, who is a lawyer with a partner of his at Fidelity, who is not a lawyer. We have a client retention — client services course that is taught by a professional in that field. And increasingly students have to see that they will be working with people who are not lawyers who bring a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience to what they need to learn to be good at whatever it is they do.
I think for the students, I don’t see it for them as an issue. They are used to a different approach in their medical care and in many other areas, and I don’t see that it’s an issue for them.
Jared Correia: Fred, bringing the non-lawyers, do you agree?
Fred Rooney: Oh, absolutely. There’s not a lot of it going on, I don’t think, in areas of solo or small firm practices across the country, and I think that the reason that is the case is because there’s not enough of it being taught, or there’s not a lot of the interdisciplinary approach to the teaching of law, and so therefore when students graduate, they don’t have a sense of what it really means to work in conjunction with healthcare providers or social workers.
I mean, they do win a case that may involve a contact with a social worker, but it’s really — it’s quite backwards in terms of the day-to-day practice of law. And so as it expands, it’s very encouraging.
I think the most interesting movement that’s happened is the movement of physicians and lawyers, starting out of Boston and the medical-legal collaborations that have developed. But there’s also the need for eh lawyers to be working indirectly with people in all kinds of other disciplines, and so it just makes the practice of law, I think, more interesting and the ability to really serve the needs in a holistic approach to our clients.
Jared Correia: Yeah. Now, Dan, what do you think of the interdisciplinary approach?
Daniel Linna: Well, I am a big fan of it, and allied professionals is the term that Bill Henderson at Indiana has been talking about here, and I think, yes, there’s a lot of room to work with allied professionals. I am excited to be here at Michigan State, at a major research university where there’s no shortage of people for me to work with.
All last year I worked with Jim Manley, who is at the Broad Business School. He has been doing process improvement in the automotive industry and also in different service settings, including hospital settings for a long time now, over 30 years.
We did a Lean Thinking Project at Elder Law of Michigan. We were there for a year with a team of students and working with their lawyers, looking at how to apply lean thinking to improve legal service delivery. We have been working with, there’s a Design Thinking Program here, been working with their Dean and with some faculty there.
We have got one of the top-ranked supply chain schools and the people in the supply chain school are excited about how service supply chain research can be applied to law practice and legal service delivery, Data Analytic Program in the business school, been working there.
We have got some of our students who are going over to that program; one who was just hired by Juristat to go in and work as a data scientist. Opportunities to work with the Computer Science School; we have them coming in and talking about all the technology topics that are hot, and then things like security for lawyers, getting to learn in those areas. So, so many opportunities with allied professionals.
I think in that same realm one of the things I have mentioned is that, I think it’s great that Margaret with design thinking and with lean thinking, we are talking about the clients, and Ilene and Fred are doing things and actually working with clients, there’s so much more I think we need to do with clients and bringing clients into the fold here; corporate clients, talking about consumer clients, and there’s a lot that needs to be learned about how we can improve services for clients by working with clients.
Jared Correia: Yeah. And it’s also true that one of the easiest ways probably to access allied professionals would be other schools at universities. So let’s talk about access to justice and we are going to start with Fred, because I know this is near and dear to his heart. So what immediate effects can law schools with innovative curricula have on access to justice issues?
Fred Rooney: I think that the biggest contribution that law schools are making in access to justice can be seen through students who graduate and have been through a clinical program, because whether it’s dealing with family law issues or immigration issues or a consumer debt, you name it, when they have had some practical exposure to these areas of law that are so pressing across the country, they can almost from day one get in and begin representing clients. There’s not this six months, one year period where they are learning the law; they have learned it.
And so I really think that the clinical types of approaches, whether it’s creating incubators in the third year or just increasing clinical programs across the country, really makes it a much more practical approach to learning. And ultimately provides students and law graduates with the skills that they need to begin to practice immediately and practice well.
Jared Correia: All right, let’s move to Dan.
Daniel Linna: Yeah. I would like to do more projects, like the one we are doing with Elder Law of Michigan, where we bring out students, and we are working with the lawyers and paralegals and other professionals at Elder Law and thinking about how do we improve, how do we serve more people with the resources that they have there?
I think it’s also important that — it’s interesting because I think — I don’t know that all students get exposure as far as that they need to understand the real scope of the access problem, and they get bits and pieces of it, but I think it’s really important that we raise awareness about the problem. And the statistics, 80% of the impoverished don’t get the legal services they need, more than half the middle class and many businesses don’t get the legal services they need.
And one of my favorite statistics is just talk about the work The World Justice Project did, where it ranked 99 countries on accessibility and affordability of civil justice, and the United States ranked 65, tied with Botswana, Pakistan and Uzbekistan. Now that to me is shocking and embarrassing as a lawyer. So raising awareness I think is also an important piece of that.
Jared Correia: Yeah, absolutely. All right Margaret, what do you have to say on access to justice issues and innovative curriculum?
Margaret Hagan: Well, this has become my focus over the past year-and-a-half especially. I started out broadly with innovation in law, but I really think access is where law schools can be a real driver for change. And also, there’s so much hunger and willing to experiment, at least here in the courts in California, that is a really ripe area with willing partners who want students to come in and kind of mess around the organization and say, what if we tried this, can we run a pilot for three months on this, what can we transform, like people are hungry, especially for law school involvement. So there’s a real chance of leadership here.
So we have been working on two tracks here at Stanford on trying to increase access. One is on the Internet, because we know more people are searching on Google and other search engines to try to find help, to figure out the problem and then find the process.
So we are working with the search engines to develop kind of standard ways of tagging up and marking up the content that lives out on the web, on court sites, on pro bono sites, on public health sites, that all of that can then be searched and served up to people on search engines in better ways.
So that involves kind of the more tech approach, where we are teaching students what ontologies are, how to mark up documents, how to mark up websites, how to make things smarter, and that kind of goes into the computable contracts and computable law area. So that’s for our techie students.
But then for more public interest students who aren’t as tech-oriented, we are doing the kind of frontline classes, where we are having students show up to court and kind of do the tag along walk-through of what it’s like to try to get a divorce, get child custody, work out child support, deal with debt issues.
We are then using that student on the frontline experience to brainstorm and come up with really quick pilots and prototypes that are not expensive to implement, that are not time-consuming to implement. But how we change signage, how we change language, how we change all the paper documents and things on the frontline experience of access, that is kind of easy to fix, but just the courts don’t know where to start and don’t have the capacity to actually change it.
So the students are learning design skills, how to actually make the service and the visuals better, and they also can see their projects actually implemented in a really quick way.
So we are trying lots of different types of classes to solve this problem and trying to get as many students who aren’t typically access to justice oriented involved in this type of work.
Jared Correia: You sound really excited about that. Those sound like cool projects. Now, last person on this question is going to be Ilene, so have at it.
Ilene Seidman: I feel like this is my life’s work of 40 years that is just changing form every decade or so. So here is what I would say. I think we have to — law schools should rethink the concept of pro bono and really look at access to justice as being what we are really focusing students on, and that every student should have an experience that increases access to justice before they graduate from law school, and that includes things like Margaret was talking about.
Marc Lauritsen introduced a course, Lawyering in an Age of Smart Machines for us, and is now being taught by a member of the faculty, and every student in that class does a project that is for a legal aid across the country or another nonprofit to help increase access to the justice system, and I think all of our students should be engaged in that kind of work.
We have somebody who is the state — until recently was the state access to justice coordinator in the state court system teaching a course at Suffolk. And I hired her specifically for that reason, to bring that issue into the law school.
I think that we worked with our Supreme Court and the state access to justice is now a topic on the Massachusetts Bar Exam, and we are very involved in the State Access to Justice Commission.
I think that when law schools have a presence on these issues that students are aware of it and it becomes part of what they understand their obligation is, and I also think we should be looking at student practice rules which limit students’ abilities to represent clients in certain income groups and types of practice, and I think we really should look at those in light of the crisis in the justice system.
And finally, I think that law schools really do have a role to play in scholarship on access to justice and on evaluating and doing data analysis and really the kind of expensive work that people in the field do not have either the expertise, the money or the time to do, because they are on the frontlines, and that is a role law schools should play, and we have not been playing that role.
Jared Correia: Not yet at least. And that brings me to my next question. Now it’s your chance to become prognosticators. So, name one thing that law schools are going to be doing in the next five years that they are not doing yet in terms of innovation. And we will start with Dan on this one.
Daniel Linna: Sure. I think Ilene pointed out a great thing is that the opportunities for scholarship in this area, especially working with different industry partners in the legal aid space, you are going to see more and more law schools with innovation and technology programs looking for ways to move that into the first year, move it into doctrinal classes. There’s lots of space to do that right now, under the current regulatory regime, but to really allow law schools to innovate I think we are going to have to see reform from the ABA level, reforming the Bar Exam.
I think despite that there’s still lots of room for law schools to innovate, so that really shouldn’t be an excuse. But I think a step forward is the Uniform Bar Exam; I wish we had that here in Michigan, but there’s a lot that can be done, so we really don’t need 200 law schools that all look very, very much the same, more so than they do different. I would like to see a lot more differentiation across law schools, and we are going to start seeing that over the next five years.
Jared Correia: You are a rebel, Mr. Linna. Margaret, what’s your prediction?
Margaret Hagan: I would say the third year is going to be very, very different, and I think increasingly so, but I think the third year is going to be less a continuation of the same old same old block classes and more of that runway for students to choose their point of view, choose the type of career that they want to be planning for, and then having a much more project-based year, whether it’s placement with an existing organization or incubating their own new startup or new initiative. But I think the third year is going to be much more student-driven and much more career-focused.
Jared Correia: Excellent response. Ilene, your turn to predict the future?
Ilene Seidman: I don’t know if this is what I think will happen or this is just what I desperately hope will happen, but I do believe that at some point, even into the first year of law school, we will have the incorporation of new ways of thinking and the use of technology. It really doesn’t make any sense for people to learn the law of contracts without also understanding the mechanisms and tools out there to help them draft contracts. And that’s my hope and I am going to believe it’s going to happen.
Jared Correia: That’s a good point. And last, but not least, and the last response for again this whole podcast, Fred, in the next five years, what do you think law schools are going to be doing differently?
Fred Rooney: Sure. I agree that the biggest change will probably be seen in the third year of law school, and just like others have said, I hope that it’s revamped in a way that makes it a lot more practical.
I also think that law schools are going to be brought in kicking and screaming into the age of technology, because I travel across the country, and with the exception of some of the schools that are represented in this podcast, schools are still way behind in technology. Faculty members don’t have a deep sense of what it means to get on board and learn just how technology can be used to increase learning and ultimately increase access to justice.
So, as has been mentioned, there’s a real change in the way law schools deal with the first year, and then hopefully there will be a dramatic change in the third year, so that after the second year people have the ability to start putting into practice what they have been learning.
Jared Correia: Thanks Fred. So we will do this again in 2021 and see if you guys are right.
Margaret Hagan: Okay.
Fred Rooney: Sounds good.
Jared Correia: So that’s going to do it for another episode of The Legal Toolkit. This was a great one. But I will be back next month with further insights into my soul, the soul of America and the legal market.
But if you are feeling nostalgic for my dulcet tones, you can check out our entire show archive anytime you want at HYPERLINK “http://www.legaltalknetwork.com” legaltalknetwork.com.
So big thanks to Fred Rooney, Ilene Seidman of Suffolk University Law School, Dan Linna of Michigan State University College of Law, and Margaret Hagan of Stanford Law for hanging with us today to talk about innovation in law schools.
So Fred, can you tell folks how to get more information about you?
Fred Rooney: Sure. For people interested in learning more about incubators, I can be reached at HYPERLINK “mailto:FredProoney@gmail.com” firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be happy to answer any questions that people may have.
Jared Correia: All right, send those emails in. Now Ilene, can you tell people how to find out more information about you and about Suffolk Law?
Ilene Seidman: Sure. I can be reached at HYPERLINK “email@example.com” firstname.lastname@example.org. I am happy to hear from anyone. And people can also read about the Law Practice Technology & Innovation Program and the Accelerator-to-Practice Program on the Suffolk website.
Jared Correia: Excellent. All right Dan, your turn to tell everybody a little bit more about yourself, how to find you, and LegalRnD.
Daniel Linna: Sure. You can find me on Twitter, @DanLinna is my handle there. LegalRnD is also on Twitter, that’s @LegalRnD. Our LegalRnD website is HYPERLINK “www.legalrnd.org” www.legalrnd.org. And my email is HYPERLINK “mailto:email@example.com” firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are an aspiring law student interested in innovation and technology, I encourage you to reach out and consider coming to a place like Michigan State.
Jared Correia: Leading with Twitter, I like it. Last, but not least, Margaret, can you tell folks how to find out more information about you and about Stanford Law’s efforts in legal innovation?
Margaret Hagan: Sure. I think Twitter is the best place to find me. I am @margarethagan, and come visit Legal Design Lab’s website. It’s HYPERLINK “http://www.legaltechdesign.com” legaltechdesign.com, and there you will see our projects, our workshops, our students, all of that.
Jared Correia: All right, check out all these folks, their affiliated institutions. Clearly they are great, they put up with me for an hour, and so have you.
So thanks again to Fred, Ilene, Dan and Margaret, and especially thanks to all you out there, our listeners. We will talk to you next time.
Outro: Thanks for listening to Legal Toolkit, produced by the broadcast professionals at Legal Talk Network. Join Heidi and Jared for their next podcast covering the current business trends for law firms. Subscribe to the RSS feed on HYPERLINK “http://www.legaltalknetwork.com” legaltalknetwork.com or in iTunes.
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