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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Sponsored Post: A critical foundation for the change agents of tomorrow: Teaching today’s law students the business of law

The following is by Katrina Lee, Associate Clinical Professor at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, and author of The Legal Career: Knowing the Business, Thriving in Practice (West Academic 2017). This post is sponsored by West Academic

I teach a business of law course at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Some assume that I teach the business of law because I want to help students get jobs at law firms and make partner. I hope that my course benefits those students aspiring to succeed at law firms, and I’ve been told that it does serve that purpose.

But, I have another, complementary, goal for my business of law course, and for the business of law coursebook that I recently wrote. I want to help prepare law students to be change agents in the world of legal.

After all, much progress remains to be made. Access to justice has yet to be achieved, by a longshot. Low-income people in the U.S. receive inadequate or no legal help at all for 86% of their civil legal needs. The legal profession has made some strides in diversity, but much unfinished work will be left to the next generation of attorneys. Just 2.6% of law firm partners are minority women. Only 8.05% of partners in major law firms are minorities. 36% of lawyers in the U.S. are women. The legal profession must urgently address issues of lawyer well-being. The National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being’s recent report, referencing two studies, described a profession in crisis, “To be a good lawyer, one has to be a healthy lawyer. Sadly, our profession is falling short when it comes to well-being. The two studies referenced above reveal that too many lawyers and law students experience chronic stress and high rates of depression and substance use. These findings are incompatible with a sustainable legal profession, and they raise troubling implications for many lawyers’ basic competence.”

Law students will be in a better position to make change, inside and out of law firms and legal departments, if they have learned about topics like legal innovation and technology trends; efforts to apply design thinking to law; the consequences of the billable hour; attorney compensation trends and models; the competitive landscape of legal service providers; the Legal Services Act in the U.K.; and lawyer wellness issues. They require a foundation in the business of law—including an understanding of how the legal profession has historically and traditionally functioned, and the reasons why—to be able to create, experiment, and innovate in a way that truly advances the legal profession.

In that spirit, the coursebook that I recently wrote, The Legal Career: Knowing the Business, Thriving in Practice, includes reflection questions and activities designed to encourage law students to explore further and to share ideas. It includes interviews with a broad range of legal industry professionals, including the general counsel of an international company; the senior director of knowledge management at a Biglaw firm; a legal innovator who founded a pioneering legal process outsourcing company; and a legal tech startup CEO and co-founder.

In my experience, law students embrace the opportunity to learn about the connection between the business of law, and what they, future lawyers, want the legal profession to be, to look like, and to accomplish.


Today’s law students may be our best chance at changing legal for the better. Let’s give them the business-of-law foundation they need to achieve progress.

 

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 23, 2017 at 10:13 PM in Sponsored Announcements | Permalink

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