William Henderson (“Bill”) is a Professor of Law at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, where his research...
THE ORRICK YEARS Ralph served as Chairman & CEO of Orrick for nearly a quarter century, leading the firm...
Law Technology Now host Ralph Baxter welcomes Bill Henderson to discuss his career and current work as co-founder of the Institute for the Future of Law Practice (IFLP). Bill shares highlights from his professional journey from blue collar worker to law professor and legal researcher and writer and then discusses the motivation behind the founding of IFLP. In today’s quickly changing legal landscape, IFLP facilitates programs and internships that help both law students and practicing lawyers develop skills that complement traditional legal education.
Bill Henderson is a professor and Stephen F. Burns Chair if the Profession at Indiana University Maurer School of Law, editor of Legal Evolution, and co-founder of the Institute for the Future of Law Practice.
Special thanks to our sponsors, Headnote.
Law Technology Now
Innovations in the Future of Law Practice with Bill Henderson
Ralph Baxter: Welcome to Law Technology Now. I am Ralph Baxter and I will be your host for this episode, and going forward I will be a regular co-host on this show with Dan Linna.
I am delighted to participate in this show and to be part of the Legal Talk Network. I am inspired by the work of the hosts who have come before us, Bob Ambrogi, of course a pioneer in legal podcasting and a good friend and someone who has been very helpful to me as I have thought about this show, and Monica Bay, the original host of Law Technology Now, someone who is a great friend to everyone in the world of law and who has been a star in all legal media for many years.
And I am delighted to be part of this with Dan Linna, one of the clearest voices about where law is today and where it is headed.
Let me share with you some thoughts that motivate me as I take over this responsibility on this podcast. I think law is more important than it ever has been. Law is in everyone’s life, it’s in every business’ business. There is more law. There is more jurisdictions. Data makes it exponentially harder to comply with. So, law is vital in our lives going forward. We are blessed to have thousands of outstanding lawyers, well-educated, prepared, dedicated, principled, trying to serve the needs of their clients.
But we can do better. Law has not kept pace with advances in technology and advances in process design in the way that other professions have, nor in the way that our clients have the way industry has. We can do this. We could deliver legal service better. We could do it faster. We can do it more transparently and we can do it cheaper. Cheaper both in the sense of how we incur cost as we deliver legal service and cheaper in the sense of what we charge our clients, what the fee levels are, so we can do it better.
Now, for all of us to do it better we, number one, have to work together and number two, we need really to understand how did we get to where we are today and then understand what are the things we can do, the steps, the technologies, the process design improvements that we can make to deliver legal service better. And those two fundamental ideas are the motivational objectives of Law Technology Now for me, to talk about how law works today and to talk about how we can make it work better for everyone. We hope to reach as broad an audience as we can. We want lawyers to listen, but we would like everybody else who cares about law to listen too.
We are going to try in this program to translate issues that can be very complicated, issues of law, issues of technology into a conversation that is understandable for everybody.
We are going to bring the personalities on to this show, who are the people who educate the lawyers, the people who regulate the lawyers, the people who are the legal service professionals and the people who are the clients. We think it’s important for everyone to understand how each of the human beings sees what we are talking about. We will try to keep it interesting and we might even succeed at keeping it entertaining, we shall see as we go along.
So for today’s first episode we have an ideal guest. We have Professor Bill Henderson. We recorded this episode in August when Bill was at the annual meeting of the American Bar Association. Bill is one of the most popular figures in law today. He travels all over the country talking to audiences about where things are and how they can be better, and in particular as you will hear, he has got great new ideas about how to educate lawyers and others in legal service, so that they have all of the skills they need to make the most of the 21st Century as they serve their clients.
So I hope you enjoy my first episode on Law Technology Now.
Ralph Baxter: Hello and welcome to another edition of Law Technology Now. I am Ralph Baxter and I am the host for today’s show. For those of you accustomed to hearing Dan, Monica, and Sean, I have recently joined the faculty here of Law Technology Now and we are now one larger family and will be co-hosting this program from here on.
Before we get to our show today, I want to thank our sponsor Headnote, helping law firms get paid 70% faster with their compliant e-payments and accounts receivables automation platform. Learn how to get paid quicker and more efficiently at headnote.com.
Our guest today is Bill Henderson. We are doing this podcast at the ABA Annual Convention in San Francisco, so if you hear a little noise in the background, it’s because we are doing it in a hall here in the middle of the ABA Convention.
So Bill, it’s really a pleasure to have you on this episode of Law Technology Now and I mean that sincerely. You have come to occupy a distinct position in the ecosystem of the profession of law in the United States. You are a professor and of course you write, you do research, and that part is what professors are supposed to do, but you have done so much more with your position as a law professor.
Importantly, you are the Founder of Legal Evolution, which is an online publication that focuses on the changing legal industry and people can go to that site and get really thoughtful in-depth writings about what’s really happening in the profession and learn ideas about what they might do to do better in the setting in which they find themselves.
You were the Founder of Lawyer Metrics, which everyone has come to know as a business that really helps you understand the metrics that undergird the practice of law. And you are now the Founder of the Institute for the Future of Law Practice, which we call IFLP, which we are going to talk about in the main here in this podcast.
You are as active as a speaker as anybody I know; in fact, every place I go, including here at the American Bar Association meeting, you appear at meeting after meeting. You have become really one of the true visionaries and thought leaders in law and that’s why the California Bar selected you to write its Groundbreaking Legal Landscape Report, which is then the foundation for the work they are doing now that we consider the Bar Rules here in California.
But as important as anything, people like you Bill, they trust you, and I think that’s a lot of what enables you to occupy the position that you do. So I am just delighted to have you on this episode.
So let’s get going and talk about how you got to where you are.
Bill Henderson: First of all, Ralph, it’s a real pleasure to be on this podcast and spend time with you. We have had many conversations over the years here, so this will be the first one that’s taped live here. But I always enjoy the conversations and this will be no exception.
I went to law school when I was 35 years old; I did have another career. If you go back to the 1980s and Ronald Reagan is in the White House and there was the Reagan revolution, and I was at the London School of Economics doing my junior abroad and I saw kind of an attitude of careers had sent in with a lot of my peers and said, you know what, I don’t really want to be a Reagan revolutionary, what corporation would ever hire somebody that’s a college dropout.
So I actually dropped out after my third year of undergrad after my junior at the London School of Economics, much to the chagrin of my mother, and I went back to Cleveland, Ohio, and ran a small business, a small landscaping business, eventually got a job as a firefighter paramedic in the suburbs of Cleveland and I thought that that was a life.
I think I was influenced by Eric Hoffer, the blue-collar philosopher that wrote a series of books in the 50s and 60s, that all I really needed was a library card and I would be happy working.
So I was just having a pretty good life, got married, and started a family. I was a firefighter paramedic in the suburbs of Cleveland. And I got involved in union activities and it was negotiating contracts and doing grievances on behalf of the IIAFF that really was the first time I had been intellectually engaged in probably a decade. And I was reading the annotations on the Ohio’s Collective Bargaining Law. Ohio Revised Code 4117, which launched my legal career; I didn’t realize that I was reading case annotations. And so as I sometimes kid, it was those bastard management attorneys that I negotiated against that inspired me to go to law school. The folks at Duvin, Cahn & Hutton, now a part of Littler, who inspired me to go to law school.
So I had to go back to finish my undergraduate degree, so I reenrolled at Case Western Reserve and did my senior year there, married, had a kid, and finished my senior year while I was still at the fire department, and I had a mentor there, his name is Andy Morriss, he is now the Dean of the Texas A&M School of Innovation, used to be the Dean of Texas A&M Law School and is a revered law professor, but his junior career, he was on the faculty at Case Western Reserve in the Business School and law school.
And I finished my — took law and economics as a senior at Case Western Reserve as a 33-year-old, and we ended — and he said, you should go to law school. I said I am not going to go to law school, I am going to go to Cleveland-Marshall night law school like a bunch of other cops and firefighters. And he goes no, you might be able to do something different, and he coaxed me into becoming a law professor.
He said if you get into the University of Chicago, you should go there, and the world was changing in the 1990s, and I got in and I had a supportive spouse and that’s pretty much how it happened.
Ralph Baxter: So it’s not a typical journey into law, but increasingly I think we are finding that people do things before law school and I think your story is an encouraging one for people that you don’t have to go the traditional route through venture capital or a technology company before law school, you can do something different. If we get a chance we will talk about what some of your research shows about people who have blue-collar jobs before law school.
So how did it happen — well, first of all, was it your goal to begin with to be a professor after you finished law school?
Bill Henderson: This is an honest-to-god statement that I made to my wife. She can verify that. I said I want a job where they pay me a decent amount of money, I can do what I want, and I give periodic updates; that is the job description for a law professor.
So Andy talked about the freedom you got to pursue intellectual interest and have an impact on the world here and I thought lawyers have long had an outsized influence on society and I thought well, I am going to become a lawyer because I want to influence the direction of the world.
Ralph Baxter: So how did it happen, and I think you are already giving us part of the answer, how did it happen that you became so public in what you do? I don’t think it’s common for law professors to have such a reach beyond the law school or the university where they are as you have developed, how did that happen?
Bill Henderson: Look, step one is luck, okay. So I would start with step one, luck. I can remember being a little bit older and watching the on campus interview process take place at the University of Chicago, where my classmates who were the smartest people I have ever been around here suspending critical faculties as they began to plot their careers here, really adopting careers where they were trying to really kind of have a sense of belonging and impress other people as opposed to really what mattered to them.
And I thought this all comes about here because people are making career decisions in an information vacuum, where they are getting all information from the OCI process and they are not really thinking about legal careers in a systematic way. So if I become a law professor, I am going to have a course on law as a business.
And so when I got on the faculty at Indiana, they allowed me to create that course and I started — I created the course and I started pulling data from American Lawyer, just to use in my class and began to realize that there were some interesting patterns in there. So I thought, well, I will publish a couple of papers on it. I built a substantial tenure file based upon that research that came out of that class.
But then the world changed on me. If you remember 2007, 2008, first the market got meteoric and we didn’t have enough elite law school graduates to fill the massive demand for the rise of big law, and so I was the right person at the right time because I had studied this and I was able to commentate on it and there was a lot of public interest on it, and then the market crashed.
And so it was the rise and fall, put a big spotlight on my academic research and I started blogging about it, Empirical Legal Studies Blog. To boil it down Ralph, it all turns on luck. Luck plus opportunity.
Ralph Baxter: So what were the breakthroughs that got you on these public podiums? I mean you are as frequent a speaker at meetings of law firms and Bar Associations as really anybody in the country.
Bill Henderson: If I could give myself credit for one thing, it was realizing the power of a demonstrable. So I can remember at this meeting, it was in 2007, it was literally at the ABA Annual Meeting where a lot of things going on, like the Council of Legal Education; I went to the Council of Legal Education meeting and I was kind of a backbencher there, just observing what’s going on here.
But I cared about legal education, so I showed up for — Jim Leipold, who is the Executive Director for NALP and I think one of the good guys in legal industry, a farsighted person, who sees the big picture and also can do the little stuff in a meticulous way, came in with what was called the bimodal distribution, where labor markets shouldn’t clear based upon a — they should clear in a normally distributed fashion a bell curve, but when you have a group of law school graduates that are making $50,000 a year and nobody making between 50 and 160 and then another large group making 160, it’s called a bimodal distribution.
And I knew when I looked at it, I said this market is dysfunctional. And so Jim handed out, he said it’s hot off the press, and I went back in and I can remember where I was. I was in a hotel room writing a blog post, realizing that I had something that was a huge a blockbuster story. And that was the most widely read blog post I have probably ever written, and then I ended up writing a paper on it that became my — it’s an unpublished paper, it’s a working paper on SSRN here and it’s the one that’s got me the most downloads, that literally launched my career, it was Jim Leipold handing me a sheet of paper and me knowing what it said.
Ralph Baxter: Right. And those of you who have seen Bill speak, Bill is one of the best in the country at presenting graphics to support the talk that he is giving.
The other thing you find with Bill when you get a chance to hear him is that he always is honest about every subject, no matter what the answer is, and informed.
Let’s turn now to your most recent initiative, the Institute for the Future of Law Practice. This is still at a relatively early stage and we will talk about it, it’s not a startup anymore, you have some years under your belt, but let’s talk about what it is and what its objectives are. So let’s start with that. What is IFLP?
Bill Henderson: Institute for the Future of Law Practice, and you got it right, we call it IFLP, is a nonprofit intermediate organization that creates what I would call multidisciplinary training modules for the future of the profession, paired up with paid internships. If you want an economic engine, it has to lead to jobs. And so one thing that gets everybody’s attention in the legal education world is you are placing people in jobs.
The curricula is what we hear from the legal ecosystem is valuable to do more with less, but if you pair it up with paid internships, it gets law schools’ attention. So it’s that one-two punch that we put together. We are in the process — early stages of scaling, but it traces back to 2014, maybe we should talk for a second about the early stages of that.
Ralph Baxter: Right. Let’s talk about what motivated you to organize this effort. What was missing or what were you trying to achieve by organizing IFLP?
Bill Henderson: I was witness to a conversation in 2012 by a guy named Phil Weiser, who at the time was the Dean of Colorado Law School or UC Colorado Boulder, and he is now the Attorney General of Colorado. And at the time he was convening the series of roundtable meetings on the future of legal education and there was a guy named Bill Mooz there that was the — was high up in VMware, a big technology, a global technology company, and he told Phil, he said, what I am doing in my legal department, which is multinational, very sophisticated is so little connected to what’s going on in legal education. There should be a program that connects these two things up here.
And Phil said, well, why don’t you become a professor, practice and stand it up here. And I helped Phil and Bill get some grant funding and we had this Tech Lawyer Accelerator that was running for a few years, that was a three week boot camp, basically focused on the in-house practice, got a lot of technology companies interested in tech; I mean Cisco, Adobe, NetApp, basically the early people of CLOC were very interested in this program, and so we ran it for a few years, but we ran into some difficulties scaling it.
A lot of success with employers, a lot of success with students, we weren’t getting academic support at the time here, but if you will indulge me, is it okay to tell a Steve Harmon story from Cisco?
Ralph Baxter: Sure.
Bill Henderson: Because that’s the lynchpin.
So at the CLOC or the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium meeting in 2017, I was there, I had just finished my tour of duty with Lawyer Metrics, so we had sold the company. I had done a one year tour of duty and left and I was getting my whitespace back, and Steve Harmon says to me in the hallways of CLOC in 2017, when are you going to get your act together and scale the Tech Lawyer Accelerator here? We would love to hire a bunch of people out of that program in seven month field placements. When are you going to do it?
I said Steve, it can’t happen, we can’t scale it, the schools won’t grant credit for it, it’s logistically impossible. And then I went back to my hotel room and I thought about it some. Well, maybe just change the rules so that you can get pay in academic credit the same time. And I had a little bit more time on my hands and so I called up Bill Mooz and I said, Bill, this is a conversation I just had with Harmon and he is willing to back this.
And so we did a needs analysis with a group of about 40 people and over the course of the, from probably June until December of 2017 we talked about it and we planted our flag in December of 2018. We incorporated it as a Delaware non-stock corporation and created this organization.
And I want to just give one shout out to Dan Rodriguez, who is the Dean of Northwestern Law School, who we had had many conversations over the years and Dan said, I think legal education needs to collaborate. And he hosted the first IFLP Boot Camp in May of 2018 at Northwestern; it was the first one out of Colorado, and now we have one in Osgoode Hall in Toronto, we have got one at Northwestern, we have got one at Boulder and we are in the process of scaling.
Ralph Baxter: Okay, so let’s help the listeners understand some of the elements of this program.
Bill Henderson: Sure.
Ralph Baxter: Let’s go back to the idea, that Bill Musse observed that the legal education was not connecting to what was really needed, what the lawyers really needed to know to be able to do the 21st Century job, that’s essentially what he was saying. So, what were some of the skills in learning and knowhow that the law school graduate didn’t have?
Bill Henderson: So, some of the things were just basic business fundamentals regarding how your business made money, and how the business needed to think in terms of scale. It needed to think in terms of revenue recognition, just fundamental things about the business that if lawyer didn’t understand it, they were going to be across purposes of the client. So, business fundamentals and professional communication, finance accounting; just an eyedropper full of that stuff.
Second thing would be project management and process improvement. Everything done on a sophisticated level multi-nationally is done through a process.
Third thing was leveraging technology. Bill had all sorts of teams in India, he had document automation, he had a bunch of initiatives that were all put together very much knitted together through a process, and so that was part of it. Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence was part of the initiative, and then last thing was kind of connecting with what I said at the beginning, industry orientation, understanding the ecosystem that your client operates in here.
So that was the original three-week curriculum and that’s still kind of our core offering and we had a — we’ve built out an advanced bootcamp that we use for the upper level students that pertains to software subscription, software licenses, corporate transactions, and scalable contracting.
Ralph Baxter: So, I’m sure any listener who has been — who hires lawyers today to come into the 21st Century setting of law practice, wherever you are especially in a commercial setting listening to that list, nods her head, his head, that’s exactly what law students need some grounding in to be successful lawyers.
Bill Henderson: Yeah.
Ralph Baxter: So, at the moment where IFLP is, these skills are being taught as part of a program that happens periodically, the students show up at a place, they go through what you call —
Bill Henderson: The end of the 1L year, the end of the 1L year and the end of the 2L year.
Ralph Baxter: Yeah, right. And so they show up at a place.
Bill Henderson: Yeah.
Ralph Baxter: And then you have several of those now, right?
Bill Henderson: Yeah, Boulder, Northwestern, in Toronto, the students show up the schools grant the academic credit, and so it’s a kind of a consortium.
Ralph Baxter: Right, and those references are to the law schools located in those places?
Bill Henderson: Yeah, the schools host them but we had 18 schools participate last year. If we’re able to pull it off for 2020 it will be 40 schools. So we’re creating something that will eventually can be bolted back on to legal education. We’re not a rival of legal education, we are an intermediary organization that’s trying to get ahead and eventually take what we built and gifted back to law schools.
Ralph Baxter: And so, a part of the program is that the students engage in the learning and then you facilitate them having an internship, working at a law firm or a law department?
Bill Henderson: A law firm, law department, new law, legal tech, in public interest we have all of those employers in the program, and I want to say, who is our biggest employer? It is law firms and this idea that law firms they’ll get it, is not true. The law firms have embraced this — several, not all of them, there’s a lot room for growth but the law firms are definitely get this.
Ralph Baxter: Okay. So as the program expands what is your ultimate objective? What will this look like when you’ve got this at its — at the full scale that you’re seeking to achieve?
Bill Henderson: So, two things, one of them is that a portion of this program facilitates seven-month field placements and so that was that ABA accreditation standard change, so that we actually have 10 students now, we had three last year, we have 10 this year, we’ll have more in the future where there’s seven — there is fifth semester of law school starting in May or June of the end of their 2L year until December of their 3L year is actually spent on site working a nine-to-five job in a sophisticated legal environment. You get eight academic credits for that and with the bootcamp credits you got or the academic credits you get from your law school you graduate on time, but you’re making $1500-$1800 a week and so a lot of practicing lawyers say why can’t the third year be an apprenticeship? Well, we’re building it and it’s done through what the ABA has enabled, that’s the legal angle, but the issue for the future a lot of practice ambitions are much, much bigger than that here. We think that the intellectual property that we’re pulling together, the e-learning platform we’re putting together, will be used to upskill the entire profession.
And so, we think we’re going to be around here a long time to top skilled profession and develop perhaps a certification system that signals these, what we call t-shaped skills in allowing people to get these skills very rapidly and very effectively.
I want to just point out the producer here, Larry told a little story before we went on about how has legal education enabled him to learn a technical manual in about five hours, that was mission-critical, and actually we do think at IFLP that lawyers are quick studies and we’re not trying to throw the baby out with the bathwater here, we think that the three years of legal education is critically important, but with a little bit of tech process, technology and business principles and design thinking maybe about the equivalent of six credit hours, that’s going to be that that will multiply the value of your legal education, and so, and plus the internships, you got to learn the stuff in context.
So the internships plus a little bit of this training here we think will be a game-changer not only for legal education but the industry.
Ralph Baxter: So, as I’ve come to understand IFLP, as you say that you’re going to upskill the entire profession, it seems to me there are two parts to that. So one is the education that you’re enhancing that students experience going through law school in the ways that you’re talking about it, and so, for example, you talk to be referenced the t-shaped skills, those skills are the ones that you described earlier learning about business, learning about technology data.
Bill Henderson: Top of the T.
Ralph Baxter: Right, that’s the top of T. The other way — and within that you’re going to create something that every law school can use effectively to bolt onto, it’s otherwise the curriculum, the faculty and everything.
Bill Henderson: Yeah, this is the design problem, education when it’s done at the highest level would be highly engineered, so it’s a highly relevant, highly time efficient, per unit delivery cost is very low and it’s fun and engaging and so that you can learn the knowledge asynchronously but the skills and the judgment is done in context too.
Well, we use our valuable scarce life time to do that, but we’re going to engineer something that everybody is going to want to use like the iPhone will work so well because it was so well-engineered. We think that this product will be so well-engineered, everybody want to use it.
Ralph Baxter: All right, I want to ask you about a second dimension of upskilling the profession but before I do it’s past time for us to take a break to hear a message from our sponsor.
Advertiser: Hey, law firms, getting paid is fantastic, but dealing with accounts receivable is such a pain, what-if there was a better way? Enter Headnote, an industry-leading compliant e-payments and AR automation system. Their unique blend of features cuts through the noise and helps you get paid 70% faster. Skip the paper checks, spreadsheets and awkward calls due to overdue clients. Get paid faster with less effort. Visit headnote.com for more information.
Ralph Baxter: Okay, we are back. Now, Bill, there was the second dimension I wanted to ask you about in upskilling the profession, so beyond offering this IP as you refer to it.
Bill Henderson: E-learning platform I think maybe one way to think about.
Ralph Baxter: Okay, so an e-learning platform beyond the academic setting, you plan to offer this to mid-career professionals as well?
Bill Henderson: Yes.
Ralph Baxter: Tell us about that.
Bill Henderson: One of the challenges that we have is, is that when lawyers graduate and they get a job here, their time gets very, very expensive and so there might be a better way of doing something but if I have been a sconce in the practice of law, I’m immersed in it and then somebody says, oh, I’ve got a better way of doing it and they start talking about technology, they start talking about process and I’ve never been trained on this one, I’m in a huge disadvantage and I’m actually going to be a point of resistance I’m going to be an obstacle. And the idea that I’m going to take a week or two weeks to go learn about these things here so I can receive the information, I can understand the opportunity is very, very unrealistic.
And so what we really do need is an opportunity to have this well-engineered education where we can do some of it on-site, we can do some of it online, we can do some of it through open enrollment, but in educational experience where what you do on Monday and Tuesday you can use on Wednesday, we think that has a chance to get hold and you want to do it on a reasonable per unit cost, so that if I’m in an organization I can send a few of my people to this program here, they can come back, they can give a review on it and they can share some learning to the e-learning platform. So we’re really trying to design this so that it can be propagated as fast as possible through the profession.
We are doing this as a service to the profession. We are a nonprofit organization that’s trying to come up with an industry-wide solution.
Ralph Baxter: So this connects back up to where we started the podcast. Bill Henderson devotes his energies to improving the profession and without a profit motive for him or any other selfish motive, which is part of I think what will make this work.
Now I want to emphasize something that you just came to before we move on. Throughout this, part of your objective is to keep the cost that you incur and the cost to the participant as low as possible, right?
Bill Henderson: Yes, well, that generates an operating margin that you can use to reinvest the profits and non-profit doesn’t pay taxes on its profit but it doesn’t exist unless it turns a profit.
And so, the per unit operating cost allows us to offer it at a price point that everybody’s going to want it. It’s high quality but the profit can be used to plow it back into new innovations. That’s what we wanted to use it for.
Ralph Baxter: Nice. And everybody will want it and they can afford it no matter who they are.
Bill Henderson: Yes, so the quality will go up per unit, the cost will go down.
Ralph Baxter: Okay, so that was great to hear about IFLP and I know all of us will be hearing more as you proceed to build the institute.
Okay, let’s turn to a really different subject and that is a recent podcast that you did with Malcolm Gladwell, which must have been a lot of fun and I’d like you to share that with the audience, but this was part of a two episode podcast that Malcolm Gladwell did, stimulated by some writing that you did. So, tell us about how that came about and how it went?
Bill Henderson: Great, Ralph. I had a blast doing the podcast with Malcolm Gladwell. Earlier this year, I got an email from Malcolm Gladwell introducing himself saying he was a writer from New York like I had never heard of him saying he wanted to do something on some research I had done, and I was excited.
It was an article I wrote called The LSAT, Law School Exams and Meritocracy: The Surprising and Undertheorized Role of Test-Taking Speed and if you’re a fan of Malcolm Gladwell, he’s always talking about going on SSRN and finding these interesting social science topics that he can basically write a popular book or a podcast out of and he picked mine because he thought he was smitten by the word surprised and under theorized and also the LSAT. And so, he said I’d like to do a podcast, and so I was going to be in New York and I went to his brownstone in the village and we spent two-and-a-half hours talking about this exam or this article that I wrote.
And the basic premise of the article was the LSAT is the primary testing device we use to give admission to law school. It’s very high stakes and it determines whether you go to Harvard or go to a less elite school and I took this exam, I got into University of Chicago but it was the most time-pressured thing I ever did.
And the second most time-pressured thing I ever did was take law school exams and I’m a mathematically oriented person, I thought to myself during my clerkship after I graduate, I can remember in the shower at one time thinking about this idea of — I wonder if the time pressure explains the high correlation of LSAT with law school grades.
And I started getting all of these literatures on this one and looked it up and found out that basically your reasonability with the LSAT measures is completely uncorrelated with test-taking speed here. So I put together a proposal for the Law School Admissions Council, they funded it and that turned into about the first published article that I wrote when I got the Faculty of Indiana published in the Texas Law Review articles.
That was the article that Malcolm really enjoyed hearing. People should listen to the podcast because Malcolm does a wonderful job of it using the metaphor of the hair and the turtle and the tortoise and his suggestion would be the tortoise is being undervalued here and that he’s a tortoise. So he had a lot of fun with that.
Ralph Baxter: Right, it proposes a really important question, which is whether, in this case the LSAT, but there are other moments when decisions are made that are critical to the future of individuals. Is there a real correlation between, in this case, the LSAT and success as a lawyer?
Bill Henderson: A lot of people believe that there is but as I told Malcolm and this has led to part two of that episode that I was not in. I was referenced but it led to the work that I did eventually in legal education and with a company called LawyerMetrix. We were doing a bunch of Moneyball studies that were looking at the relationship between successes of lawyer and where you went to law school and grades, et cetera.
And it turns out that there’s really no relationship between academic pedigree, academic success and success as lawyer. I should take that back here. Grades actually matter but grades don’t matter in relation to where you went to law school. You can go to Harvard, you go to Hofstra, that’s not particularly relevant to your success as a lawyer but your grades matter.
But that probably is a proxy for motivation and the director of Analytics for LawyerMetrix was interviewed in that second episode for the Malcolm Gladwell podcast, and Evan Parker and he did a magnificent job just walking through study after study after study of the results we got.
We got the same consistent results, so really you become a great lawyer through deliberate practice and opportunity and you have to have the motivation. You have to have this drive to become great and then you need the opportunity to practice your skills.
Ralph Baxter: Right, and I want to have with you a separate episode of this podcast and talk in much more detail about what are the factors, what are the predictors that do correlate with success as a lawyer and we can address some of the — what appear to be myths about things that don’t have much of a correlation and you’ve gone through a part of it now.
But I think that would — it will be illuminating for everyone. Everyone that employs lawyers, everyone that runs a law department or that runs a law firm or any other organization that delivers legal service, what is it about a candidate that will predict whether or not the candidate really will be successful in as a lawyer, as a contributor to the organization and its objectives, and we’ll get to that subject in another occasion.
Well, Bill, it’s really been a pleasure to have you on this episode of Law Technology Now. Is there anything you’d like to say before we conclude?
Bill Henderson: It’s always fun spending time with Ralph Baxter. That’s the truth.
Ralph Baxter: Well, that is mutual Bill. If the listeners to this episode have any questions for you, how can they contact you?
Bill Henderson: I’m on the faculty of Indiana University Maurer School of Law, so contact me at my Indiana email address, [email protected].
Ralph Baxter: And lastly, I want to thank our listeners for tuning in. If you like what you’ve heard, please rate us and review us in Apple podcasts or Google podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.
I’m Ralph Baxter signing off for Law Technology Now. Until next time, thank you for listening.
Outro: If you would like more information about what you have heard today, please visit legaltalknetwork.com. Subscribe via iTunes and RSS. Find us on Twitter and Facebook or download our free Legal Talk Network app in Google Play and iTunes.
The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.
Law Technology Now features key players, in the legal technology community, discussing the top trends and developments in the legal technology world.
Dorna Moini joins Dan Linna to discuss how tools like her own company Documate can affect significant change in the legal industry as well...
Ralph Baxter sits down with Professor Richard Susskind OBE to discuss Richard’s latest book, Online Courts and the Future of Justice.
Law Technology Now host Dan Linna welcomes his new co-host Dan Rodriguez for a conversation about legal education and the role of innovation for...
Jeff Carr shares insights on best practices in modern legal departments.
Judy Perry Martinez shares an overview of current projects and activities at the ABA.
Shannon Salter joins Dan to discuss Online Dispute Resolution and the broader implications of rethinking how claims get resolved.