In the recent years, law schools have been looking at ways to improve education for their students in areas beyond legal analysis. Law Professor Anthony Luppino of University of Missouri researched and wrote an excellent report to the Kauffman Foundation outlining the ways that law schools can better train lawyers to be effective counselors to entrepreneurs (Can Do: Training Lawyers to Be Effective Counselors to Entrepreneurs). The report is excellent and outlined ways to best teach students how to serve their entrepreneurial clients. Professor Luppino found that many law school clinics were at the forefront of this movement, teaching students how to structure start-up companies, negotiate and draft VC and funding “deals”, protect IP and work with their clients and other experts to develop the best start up teams and processes. The clinics focused on teaching both substantive law and new legal skills. He concluded:

  • Many law schools now have courses on “doing deals” that necessitate attention to practice skills beyond the mere ability to spot and analyze legal issues.
  • Faculty at several U.S. law schools have adopted a “just do it” approach and made forays into truly interdisciplinary courses and programs with business, engineering and other schools and, to some extent, campus-wide initiatives.
  • While inquiries just a few years ago revealed that law students were rarely involved in business planning competitions, a mainstay of many entrepreneurship programs research for this project, now shows more instances of law students entering such competitions in teams with students from other disciplines, or even on their own.

These clinics provide valuable skills to students, but they are not enough.


Law Students, and Lawyers, Need to become Innovative and Entrepreneurial.

In Silicon Valley, where I work and teach, not only have law firms learned to effectively advise entrepreneurial start-ups and serve the needs of the most innovative international corporations (Apple, Google, Intel, which demand innovative lawyering services), the law firms themselves are following the lead of their clients and becoming themselves inventive and entrepreneurial. They are emphasizing change, new forms of team work, cross functional consulting with engineers and with their corporate clients at all levels of the organization. What are they doing?

They are meeting the needs of their clients in new ways, with fresh ideas, relying upon novel and different team processes while improving the customer interface and experience. If they want the next piece of business they need to provide the highest level of substantive expertise, work product and a collaborative process while at the same time providing world class customer satisfaction. And, they need to deliver these services at a competitive price point. They are doing what all entrepreneurs do, developing new and innovative forms of services that meet the needs of their demanding clients in a cost effective way.

To succeed, law students, lawyers, law firms and even corporate and government law departments, need to focus on innovation. We need to upgrade our skill sets, learn about innovation and design, team work, collaboration and improve our communication skills. As Dan Pink, a lawyer turned entrepreneur and business thought leader, says “The future belongs to a different kind of person,”. “Designers, inventors, teachers, storytellers — creative and empathetic right-brain thinkers whose abilities mark the fault line between who gets ahead and who doesn’t.”

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