Innovation: A New Key Discipline for Lawyers and Legal Education

Abstract:

Over the past two years, I have interviewed hundreds of in-house and law firm lawyers from around the globe to explore the changing legal marketplace, expectations of clients, and innovation in law. One of my main conclusions is that we are experiencing an Innovation Tournament in Law and almost everyone is playing in it. As I explain in more detail in my book, Legal Upheaval: A Guide to Creativity, Collaboration, and Innovation in Law, driven by a combination of technology, socio-economics, and globality, we are witnessing innovation on almost every legal dimension, including how legal services are priced, packaged, sourced, and delivered. Importantly, this innovation is not only coming from legal tech startups and new law companies. Law firms, the Big Four, and corporate legal departments are creating innovations of their own including new services, products, tools, and, importantly, new processes. Even those that aren’t creating innovations are playing in the Innovation Tournament by utilizing the innovations (or exapting them) to become more efficient and deliver better service. Although we are not yet seeing disruption in the law marketplace in the Clayton Christensen sense, all lawyers should care about the Innovation Tournament regardless and here’s why:

Lawyers of all types, from big law to small and mid-size firms, from government to in-house, and even solo lawyers, are being challenged to change the way they work. Clients are asking their lawyers to innovate (and often with others outside their organization or departments). However, lawyers don’t know what their clients are asking for when they ask for innovation or how to do it—or both. The good news is, however, that my interviews and my experience working with over 210 teams of lawyers and their clients on innovation journeys, indicate that what clients are really asking for with “the call to innovate” is a new type and level of collaboration and client service. The evidence suggests that our clients’ call for us to innovate is actually a call for service transformation in disguise. Whether they want an innovation in and of itself or not, our clients want lawyers to hone the mindset, skillset, and behavior of innovators. The problem with this is that many lawyers are ill-equipped to meet these new demands. Some combination of our temperament, training, and professional identity seems to work against us when we try to espouse the DNA of innovators. This is why the new discipline for practicing and aspiring lawyers needs to be innovation.

This chapter was first published by Stämpfli Verlag in the book: New Suits: Appetite for Disruption in the Legal World, co-curated by me and Dr. Guenther Dobrauz. It begins by demonstrating that clients’ call for innovation is really a call for transformation in service from their lawyers. It then explores why answering this call can be problematic for lawyers. It seeks to show that lawyers’ professional identity, training, and temperament (along with extrinsic and intrinsic motivation) make it difficult for lawyers to adopt the collaborative, creative mindset and skillset of innovators. This chapter recommends that innovation be incorporated as a new key discipline at both the law school and executive education (continuing education) level because in the process of learning how to innovate, lawyers hone the mindset, skillset, and behaviors that clients desire. In support of this contention, it reveals that, as an added benefit, by honing the innovator’s DNA, lawyers also grow into inclusive leaders our society needs us to be. The chapter concludes with some suggestions for lawyers to help them better collaborate towards innovation along with a pie-in-the-sky call to the legal universe to make innovation the new key discipline for practicing and aspiring lawyers.

Citation:

DeStefano, Michele, Innovation: A New Key Discipline for Lawyers and Legal Education (June 27, 2019). New Suits: Appetite for Disruption in the Legal World co-curated by Michele DeStefano and Dr. Guenther Dobrauz (Stämpfli Verlag 2019). Available at SSRN.

Law School as a Consumer Product: Beat ’em or Join ’em?

Abstract:

With rising costs, pressure on performance metrics and competitive high-profile rankings, law schools are more than ever before being judged on a consumer satisfaction basis by both students and the public. While this perception has been growing over the past two decades, it has reached a crisis point in legal education. When students have their choice of educational institutions, they may act like consumers, and choose to spend their money based on metrics that satisfy them as buyers. This consumer mindset not only impacts admissions, but also can play out in the retention of students. The loss of students transferring out can take a serious toll on a law school, including potential detriments in bar passage, productive classrooms, the loss of future high performing alumni, and the cost of replacing the tuition generation. Schools are thus pressured to address the consumer issue.

Many of the conflicts that arise as between students as consumers, and their institutions, are not necessarily based in the substance of rules. Instead, much of the complaints can easily stem from the institution’s transparency and communication about various aspects of the educational experience, from in the classroom, to a student’s prospects on the job market. As such, institutions should be considering the student perspective in formulating how they present their program of education, and the various aspects within it.

While others have asked the question outright whether college students are consumers, this article does not debate whether law students treat their institutions with a consumer mindset. It presumes they do and seeks to solve the problem for institutions. Part II of this article summarizes how this mindset arose in education and specifically how it arose in legal education, and examines previous conflicts between students and institutions as a result. Part III examines different areas of law school operations where traditional academic mindset and student consumer mindset may clash, and offers solutions and strategies as to where and how the consumer pressure should be embraced to make institutional change, and where it should be resisted to ensure the consumer pressure does not result in changes that are not in students’ best long-term interests. Part IV offers some conclusions on the approach.

Citation:

Vollweiler, Debra Moss, Law School as a Consumer Product: Beat ’em or Join ’em? (July 10, 2019). Available at SSRN.

Singapore launches ‘China-Ready Programme’ to deepen legal services cooperation with China.

The Ministry of Law (MinLaw) in Singapore, has recently launched a new programme targeting the legal industry. The educational programme is designed to help Singaporean legal professionals understand Chinese culture, business environment, legal systems and laws, as well as improving their understanding of Mandarin used in a legal context.  The programme, as well as a series of secondments and networking events, is part of MinLaw’s three-pronged strategy helping to increase opportunities in the legal services market between China and Singapore.

The programme hopes to meet the growing Chinese market for legal services. China has been Singapore’s largest trading partner and Singapore has been China’s largest foreign investor for six consecutive years since 2013. Whilst in 2018, Singapore was the largest foreign investment destination for China along the Belt and Road, capturing close to 23% of total investment flow from China to Belt and Road countries. Whilst the launch is well-timed to meet the signing of the Singapore Convention on mediation.

More information on the programme, which will be developed and delivered by the Han Culture & Education Group (HCEG), which is a subsidiary of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) is available here.

Revised SRA approach to CPD is well recieved by law firms

Newly published feedback received by the Solicitor Regulation Authority (SRA) on continuous professional development (CPD) requirements introduced in 2016 has indicated that the changes have been well received by solicitors and law firms. The requirements, known as ‘Continuing Competence’ are available in full here and include requiring solicitors to make an annual declaration of their own training and development as part of their renewal application, allowing for greater time flexibility and more targeted development.

Feedback from firms was very positive with 40 per cent of law firms reporting that the changes have increased the amount of learning and development support offered to their solicitors, 52 per cent of firms saying that levels of learning and development have remained unchanged, and only 9 per cent reporting a reduction in the focus given to this area. SRA comments are available here, whilst the full report is available here.

 

LSK calls for ending of law school monopoly

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has called for the ending of the monopoly on Bar education in Kenya, following an inquiry into high rates of failure in the Bar examinations. Results from November 2018 revealed that 80 per cent of those who sat the test failed, with only 308 of the 1,572 candidates qualifying.  The results led to calls for investigation into the Kenyan School of Law (KSL) which holds a monopoly on bar education in the country.

The exams which are set and marked by the Council for Legal Education (CLE) costs students KES 47,000 (USD455) on average in fees. Reports suggested that there is a lack of clarity over the content of the curriculum compared to the exam, meaning that students may find themselves being required to answer questions on topics they are unfamiliar with, as well as a lack of clarity over the relationship between KSL and CLE. Further information is available here.

The Secret Sauce to Teaching Collaboration and Leadership to Lawyers: The 3-4-5 Method of Innovation

Abstract:

It is a hard sell to convince lawyers that they need to learn how to innovate. However, when we consider the skillset and mindset that is honed in the process of learning how to innovate, this decision should be a no-brainer. This is because, as discussed in the prior chapter (Innovation: A New Key Discipline for Lawyers and Legal Education), the call for innovation by clients is also a call for service transformation. When clients ask their lawyers to innovate, they are asking for their lawyers to co-collaborate more proactively and with a different mindset and skillset. The easy sell is that, in the process of learning how to innovate, lawyers learn to do just that: they learn to co-collaborate and hone the mindset and skillset that clients desire. An additional and under-emphasized benefit to learning how to innovate and honing the innovator’s DNA is that we also hone the DNA of leaders. When you compare the key qualities of an inclusive, adaptive leader with the key qualities of an innovator, they overlap. Research demonstrates that innovators, like leaders, have high emotional intelligence and communication skills: they are empathetic, open- and growth-minded, self-aware, associative, and audacious. This is why I believe that all lawyers should try their hand at innovation, even if their business model is not broken. This is also why I believe that innovation should be the new, key discipline in legal education for practicing and aspiring lawyers. By teaching practicing and aspiring lawyers how to innovate, we are, in turn teaching collaboration and leadership—and the lawyers don’t even know it. It’s like getting away with putting broccoli in someone’s ice cream—it’s the secret sauce.

But it’s not an easy sauce to whip together. That is, although these benefits may make the need for teaching innovation an easy sell, teaching lawyers how to innovate is not an easy task. This chapter (first published by Stämpfli Verlag in the book: New Suits: Appetite for Disruption in the Legal World) begins by explaining why this is so and why we need to utilize a method of innovation designed specifically for lawyers. It then describes the method of teaching innovation that I designed, re-designed, and tested over the past 10 years on over 200 multidisciplinary teams that included lawyers, business professionals, and law and business students: The 3-4-5 Method of Innovation for Lawyers. It then explains the secret sauce, why this new method works. Finally, this chapter concludes with a call to action for law schools, law firms, and legal departments to put on “New Suits” by creating a culture that inspires lawyers and aspiring lawyers to learn how to innovate (i.e., that cultivates intrinsic motivation) and that provides external rewards (the extrinsic motivation) to those that do.

Citation:

DeStefano, Michele, The Secret Sauce to Teaching Collaboration and Leadership to Lawyers: The 3-4-5 Method of Innovation (June 27, 2019). New Suits: Appetite for Disruption in the Legal World, co-curated by Michele DeStefano and Dr. Guenther Dobrauz (Stämpfli Verlag 2019); University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper. Available at SSRN.

New Skills for New Lawyers: Responding to Technology and Practice Developments

The legal profession is facing a convergence of forces, most notably significant advances in the capabilities of technology, economic pressures challenging existing business models and globalisation, that herald momentous change to the practice of law. In Australia the lead in seeking to understand these developments and formulate responses has been taken by the Law Society of New South Wales and its report on the Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession (FLIP). The Law Society conducted a commission of inquiry which culminated in the recognition of skills or areas of knowledge that were identified as essential for the successful future practice of law. In short, this involves two main inter-related streams of knowledge: first, the ability to understand and employ technology, and second a collection of skills that result in a “practice-ready” graduate, namely: • Practice Skills (both interpersonal skills and professional skills) • Business Skills • Project Management • Internationalisation and Cross-Border Practice of Law • Inter-disciplinary experience • Resilience While technology is in many ways the ‘headline act’ there are also a range of other skills that are required because of the changes technology is facilitating and the need for lawyers to focus on what is central to their role or truly provides value to the client. This article discusses and elaborates on the findings of the FLIP inquiry in relation to legal education.

Paper Available Here

Michael Legg, University of New South Wales (UNSW) – Faculty of Law