Why I went on the IFLP journey.

If you’ve read Legal Evolution Posts 154 and 155, you know that the Institute for the Future of Law Practice (IFLP, “I-flip”) is at critical juncture.  On Friday, we launch our third year of boot camps (a special Coronavirus version for 48 terrific law students from the US, Canada, and Europe).  Unless we get funding sufficient to scale, however, this will also be our last boot camp.

This possibility flows from our original strategic plan, which contained two parts:

  1. Build a program that demonstrates the tremendous value of T-shaped curriculum for law students and employers;
  2. Use the resulting proof of concept to attract funding for more scalable offerings that will benefit both law students and mid-career legal professionals.

Well, Step 1 is complete. See Post 118 (student and employer feedback, net promoter scores, diversity data). Our volunteer army is driven by a desire to improve the legal system for all stakeholders, not to provide subsidies to a failing status quo.  Step 2 is our goal. If we get there, we’ll all be a part of a true transformation. Otherwise, it’s time to go home.

Of course, we still have time to bring in the necessary funding.  See Post 154 ($500,000 is absolute minimum nut). In service of this goal, Bill Henderson, our interim director of development, asked me to document why I’ve spent the last 2+ years of my career with the IFLP and what the experience has meant to me. It’s really hard to say no to anything that Bill asks you to do. Thus, it’s with pleasure that I write about my perspectives on IFLP.

Forward-thinking change agents

First and foremost, the people who are committed to IFLP are some of the most forward-thinking change agents in the legal profession. Co-founders Bill Henderson, Bill Mooz, and Dan Linna have a vision that IFLP will transform legal education and the legal profession through modern practice skills training. The innovators on the IFLP board of directors have bought into this vision and they are working to make it a reality.

The organization has an A-team of well respected leaders. But what compelled me to jump into this new start-up was that they have big hearts 💗. The IFLP leadership team is mission-driven and they want to leave the world in a better place than they found it. And that is a very worthy endeavor.

Building something in the public interest

I became involved with IFLP shortly after it formed as an independent non-profit in early 2018. I was looking for my next career adventure after serving for nearly 17 years as Executive Director of Illinois Legal Aid Online. As someone who is a builder and a life-long learner, this was an attractive challenge that I couldn’t pass up. Given my public service orientation, I envisioned IFLP bringing modern practice training to the government and public interest sector. Perhaps even more than their private sector colleagues, government and legal aid lawyers need to upskill in allied disciplines like project management, technology, data, process improvement, and business operations. IFLP can provide that opportunity. 

As in any start-up, there has been chaos and unexpected unknowns, along with struggles to secure sustainable funding for the enterprise. All of that comes with the territory. What I didn’t know I would encounter was a growing collaborative community focused on changing the profession. It has been really fun to work with so many people who want to blaze new paths and make the profession better. It is the 200+ volunteers I’ve  had the pleasure to work with that have made this journey special. 

Cutting-edge employers

Dozens of legal employers of all stripes, in the U.S.,Canada, and Germany, have jumped on the IFLP bandwagon. Big, medium, and small firms, corporate legal departments, legal tech companies, alt legal services providers, and yes, public service organizations. They understand that today they need to hire based on skills and experience instead of pedigree, GPA, and whether or not someone made law review. They have come to trust the training that IFLP provides and they hire IFLP alumni because they have the skills that are required for today’s practice. These employers get it, and they will lead the profession into the future.

Progressive law schools

This year 31 law schools became IFLP partners, which means they want their students to have access to IFLP’s skills training programs and the above-mentioned employers. These law schools range from T-14 to unranked, and all have in common a desire to give their students opportunities to succeed in a fast changing practice landscape. Faculty and career development professionals at these law schools are working to change institutions and colleagues that don’t want to change. They are building tomorrow’s legal workforce, and it has been a thrill to work with them in that pursuit.

Motivated, diverse, talented students

Hands down the most fun group to engage with have been the law students who participate in IFLP’s Modern Practice Boot Camp and Internship Programs. They are some majorly impressive folks who must jump through many hoops in a very competitive application process in order to get into the program. They bring with them a wealth of skills from past education and employment, and understand the need to differentiate themselves by learning the skills that today’s employers want. They are a diverse and motivated lot. One of the best parts of my job is getting to know our students. I am so looking forward to seeing what this year’s cohort of 48 students can do in IFLP’s first online-only Modern Practice Boot Camp.

The people who have been involved with and supported IFLP have inspired me to dream of a better legal profession. Here’s to all of those people – you have made a wild ride a lot of fun! 🎢

Ways you can help IFLP continue

There are four:

  1. You personally have the capacity, affinity, and propensity to help fund the IFLP build. If so, please email Bill Henderson.
  2. You potentially know someone one with the capacity, affinity, and propensity to help fund our cause. If so, please forward a link to this post along with a brief personal note.
  3. Donate any amount you can afford. For any amount in excess of $20, you’ll receive a personalized IFLP Patron Card. See Post 119.
  4. Share this post on social media (LinkedIn, Twitter, your own blog), briefly describing why you and others should support this build.

Thank you!  Lisa Colpoys