Changing Times Require Law Schools to Lead with Educational Innovations

The World is Flat according to Tom Friedman and global competition requires everyone to become better, faster and cheaper.  Customers are more demanding and this reality applies to the legal marketplace.  A New York State Bar Association Report points out that lawyers are facing more and more competition.

“Aware of it or not, virtually every lawyer now operates in a globalized environment with increased competition. A solo practitioner in Elizabethtown, N.Y., can have a client with a legal problem involving a supplier in China. A law firm in Manhattan can send legal work to Bangalore as easily as it can to an associate on its 32nd floor. A solicitor from Toronto can represent a client with legal interests in Buffalo, just a few miles [kilometers] down the road.”

As pointed out in the article, Lawyers Face New Challenges from Global Competition written by Joel Stashenko in the New York Law Journal:

“Recent economic conditions have reduced and shifted the demand for many forms of legal services, forcing many corporate clients to explore cost reductions in a variety of areas, including services for outside legal counsel,” the (New York) task force found. “Law firms have, accordingly, reacted with downsizing, restructuring and the development of new practices. … In our view, the recession has simply accelerated and highlighted changes in the market for legal services and the means of their delivery. We expect these trends to continue, with increased experimentation in alternative fee arrangements and efforts by law firms to compete more effectively in an evolving marketplace.”

The future of the profession is at its best when lawyers use all their skills, vision, and creative thinking and leadership skills to help a client move successfully forward in their business and in the new and demanding legal compliance world.  In order to do this, lawyers must develop new ways of thinking, problem solving and must work across borders and boundaries.  What are these skills?  They are different from our traditional legal skills.  But, it is not an ‘either or’ situation it is an AND.  The new world requires traditional skill sets AND nontraditional skills.  Clients require great analytical skills and great creative problem solving skills; it is effective legal analysis and new ideas of entrepreneurship, leadership and business acumen; it is cross town relationships and cross border, cross cultural awareness. In my experience, here is the list of new skills.

  • Leadership
  • Analytical, innovative and creative thinking skills
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Multiple ways of communication, negotiations, conflict resolution and persuasion.
  • Collaboration, teamwork and networking
  • Cross cultural Awareness, empathy and EQ

This is the way of the future, the way of the 21st century lawyer and the way of the 21st century law school.  The global legal economic environment is radically changing and law schools need to lead the way with new educational ideas in this “new normal”.  We need to educate lawyers to think like lawyers, leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators and give them the skills to become world class client service providers. As pointed out by Phil Weiser, the Dean of the University of Colorado Law School:

“The upside of today’s New Normal is that law schools have the opportunity to develop a new generation of lawyers who are more purposeful than ever before about how to develop and navigate their careers. These graduates will be legal entrepreneurs. By that, I mean lawyers—whether working in government, nonprofits, law firms, consulting firms, or businesses—who take ownership of their career paths and develop the tool kit necessary to add value and succeed wherever they work. Developing legal entrepreneurs, however, requires a commitment to innovation and experimentation that until recently has not been traditionally associated with legal academia.”

Thank you very much,

Bob Cullen
Adjunct Law Professor – Santa Clara Law School

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