A handful of farsighted legal employers are seeking to build a better talent pipeline. You’re invited to join them.
Practicing lawyers have long complained about the content of legal education – too much theory, not enough practical skills. If you’re one of those lawyers, do you also believe in the power of markets to improve the value of goods and services? If so, what market signal are legal employers sending to legal education?
As someone who has studied this market for more than 15 years, here is my paraphrase: “We want to hire smart, hardworking, and diverse law graduates, ideally from highly ranked national law schools or those at the top of their class at regional law schools.”
This describes how the majority of law firms, federal judges, and prestigious public interest employers sort through resumes. This is an observation, not a judgment. Information costs are high. Even for pedigree skeptics — and there are quite a few in the legal profession — the road of least resistance is to favor candidates with strong academic markers.
This leaves legal education in a bind – if we build it, you won’t come. Instead, legal education expends enormous energy, and a lot of scholarship dollars, to move up in a rankings competition where quality is determined primarily by pre-law credentials. Indeed, over the last 20 years, there has been a consistent .90+ correlation between schools’ median LSAT scores and their U.S. News rank. This is an input-driven market that does not materially reward improvements in legal education. How do we fix that?
Call to Action
If you are legal employer, here is a simple, low-risk way to send a powerful signal to law schools: Hire an IFLP intern.
IFLP (pronounced “I-flip”) is the Institute for the Future of Law Practice, a nonprofit created by innovative legal departments, law firms, legal service companies and law schools seeking to build a better talent pipeline. IFLP’s core initiative is a 3-week skills boot camp for law students followed by internships (10-week) and field placements (7-months) with IFLP employers. In 2018, 40+ students from five law schools participated in the program. In 2019, we hope to expand to 90+ students from 15 law schools. See 2019 IFLP Curriculum and Internship Program. The long-term goal is to make future IFLP curriculum and internships available to all interested law schools and law students.
This will happen if legal employers send a clear market signal.
If your organization hires an IFLP intern, you are supporting the creation of a curriculum that maps onto the demands of modern law practice:
- Basic accounting, finance, and industry analysis. According the After the JD Project, law graduates two and seven years into practice report lack of business training as the most significant shortcoming of their legal education.
- Introduction to legal operations (data, process, technology, design). Legal budgets are not keeping up with the growth in legal complexity. The emerging field of legal operations is dealing with this challenge head-on. The profession needs more operationally aware lawyers.
- Real-world case studies and simulations. Knowledge can be taught in a classroom, but skill acquisition requires practice within a relevant context. IFLP designs experiential modules so that students can efficiently acquire both knowledge and skills.
- Teamwork, communication, collaboration, feedback, leadership. Sophisticated law practice has become a team sport. This is reflected throughout IFLP’s curriculum.
If you hire an IFLP intern, you’ll get the benefit of a well-trained law student who takes work off your plate. Your lawyers and professional staff will also react with curiosity rather than defensiveness to the skills and know-how of IFLP interns. This can soften the soil for future change initiatives; it also reflects how a truly effective talent pipeline can deliver second-order benefits to all stakeholders.
If your organization becomes an IFLP employer, you are helping to align the interests of legal education with the long-term needs of clients. Indeed, this is part of being self-regulated profession. IFLP is just trying to make this easier.
IFLP Wave One Launch
If you’d like to learn more about IFLP, please consider attending (or sending someone from your organization to attend) IFLP’s Wave One Launch, which takes place on Wednesday, Sept.12 in Chicago (in Loop) from 5:30 to 7:30 pm. Registration details here.
During the 60-minute program, IFLP instructors from legal departments will discuss their talent needs. Speakers include:
- Steve Harmon, Cisco
- John Albright, HUB International Limited
- Steve Beard, Adtalem Global Education
- Wendy Rubas, VillageMD
- David Silverman, JPMorgan Chase & Co.
You’ll also learn about the history of IFLP (our initial pilot was in 2014), hear from past and current students, learn how clients and law firms have used internships to create win-win benefits, and obtain information on the supervised internship program (no supervision, just results) in conjunction with Elevate Services. Again, see 2019 IFLP Internship Program.
Industry pioneers behind this effort include IFLP founding sponsors Chapman and Cutler, Elevate, and Cisco, as well as IFLP employers Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Auto-Owners Insurance, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, Fenwick & West, Hermes Law, Honigman, Neota Logic, Orrick, Relativity, Seyfarth Shaw, Thompson Hine, Univar, Colorado Law, Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, and Osgoode Hall Law School. In Canada, IFLP industry pioneers include Blakes, Bennett Jones, Kira, McCarthy Tetrault, and Olser.
Originally published on LinkedIn on August 23, 2018. Republished here to help spread the word. wdh.
What’s next? See Legal Evolution’s 2018-19 publication schedule (065)