Law Profs, Some Students, and Handful of Companies Make a Big Move Toward Efficiencies in Business Law (Part 1 of 2)

Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities famously begins:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness ….”

On one hand, the legal profession’s hourly billing-based business model rules the day in most law firms. And company law departments that resist this are so rare they make headlines.

On the other hand, an innovative minority in business law (for instance, here and here) pursue meaningful productivity in the way that lawyers support their client companies. And legal technology applications are increasingly accessible, though actual adoption by lawyers in law firms and in-house departments is slow.

In the midst of this there are law professors, law students, and some chief legal officers of companies who are part of that innovative minority in business law. Their focus — spelled out in greater detail in Part 2 of this post — relates to what I’d call development of management skills. These center on project management techniques, the adoption of legal technology, and other skills typically missing from both law school and law firm apprenticeships for new attorneys.

More about these areas in Part 2.

Here a recent update on their efforts by one of their leaders, Professor Bill Henderson of the University of Indiana’s Maurer School of Law:

“Later this month, the Institute for the Future of Law Practice (IFLP, or “I-flip”) will celebrate its one year anniversary. Before that, it was just an idea in the minds of a few dozen lawyers, legal educators and allied professionals.  In the fall of 2017, this “Group of 40” participated in a needs analysis.

“There were two questions: Is an intermediary organization needed to align the interests of law schools, legal employers and clients around the educational requirements of 21st century law practice?  And if so, could such an organization become a viable nonprofit operating company?

“The Group of 40 concluded that the period of industry-wide discussion and debate, which began in earnest after the 2008 financial crisis, had run its natural course.  It was time to start building the future. Thus, an organization like IFLP was worth a try.

“The Group of 40 endorsed the creation of a skills bootcamp in spring 2018 for a group of roughly 25 students. A key feature would be paid internship employment for every admitted student. By hiring students, IFLP employers would be signaling the value of IFLP training. Eventually the rest of the market would catch on.  In a nutshell, that was the model.

“Initially IFLP’s only assets were relationships, albeit that was huge. In November of 2017, Cisco Systems committed to six paid 7-month internships ($300,000+ in salaries). Northwestern Law committed classroom space for the inaugural bootcamp.  In addition to hiring IFLP grads, Chapman and Cutler and Elevate Services agreed to provide year-one operating capital (later Quislex provided additional founding sponsor support). A wonderful group of professionals agreed to serve on our volunteer board. Another dozen-plus industry leaders agreed to serve as volunteer instructors. All this happened because of a network of professional peers with significant history and a reservoir of trust ….

“The inaugural bootcamp went well. We faithfully collected metrics on all of it. In the fall of 2018, as we began to plan for 2019, we finally had the bandwidth to create a logo and refresh the website with content that reflected our longer-term aspirations.

“As we approach our one year anniversary, IFLP is immensely grateful to the above roster of 2019 IFLP employers. These are the legal industry’s innovatorsearly adopters, and opinion leaders.  To fill all the employment slots, IFLP will be running skills bootcamps in Boulder (Colorado Law), Chicago (Northwestern), and Toronto (Osgoode Hall) for 75 to 90 students. We have room for approximately ten additional employer slots before we hit maximum capacity. Our existing funnel of prospective employers is likely to yield that. Likewise, in 2019 we are fortunate to have 18 participating law schools, see list on IFLP website, with plans to add more in 2020.”

More about what these law students learn in their bootcamp in Part 2.