Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better.
Nothing I have read over the last several years haunts me as much as the following line from Gillian Hadfield: “People who feel as though the rules don’t care about them don’t care about the rules.” Rules for a Flat World at 79 (2017).
When I first read those words, I can remember thinking, “this explains the 2016 presidential election,” though the name Donald Trump appears nowhere in the book. Likewise, for the next four years, Professor Hadfield’s observation offered a remarkably concise explanation for the public’s growing indifference to democratic norms, democratic institutions, and the Rule of Law. Then the events of January 6th offered a disturbing punctuation point.
I have never heard a lawyer argue that Alexis De Tocqueville got it wrong—that lawyers don’t have a critical role in the preservation of the American system of government. Yet, what we’re doing as a profession is just not good enough.
The purpose of this essay is not to chastise my fellow lawyers. God knows you’ve got better ways to spend your Sunday. Rather, it’s to share some recent work of the Institute for the Future of the Law Practice, which I believe (we believe) is the beginning of an industrywide solution—one that can renew and expand the entire legal profession across disciplines and national boundaries and put us in a position to build critical new “legal infrastructure” (another Gillian Hadfield term, see Post 207).
Below is the video for Course 1, Chapter 1 of the soon-to-be-released IFLP Modern Law Practice certification program. In lieu of reading a Sunday longform essay, I ask that you invest 12 minutes in watching this video:
The key point of Course 1, Chapter 1 is that the legal industry is in the early stages of a transition from one-to-one consultative services, which most people and businesses can no longer afford, to one that includes a growing array of legal products and solutions; and that our very best move as a profession is to build the necessary infrastructure to dramatically speed up this transition.
Obviously, one-to-many products and solutions require lawyers to learn new skills; but even more important is the expansion of the profession to include other disciplines, such as data science, process/project management, technology, design, and business operations. Does anyone believe data scientists and product designers are less distressed than lawyers by the profound division and alienation that affects our politics and system of government?
The IFLP Modern Law Practice certification is designed to be an online asynchronous program composed of six total courses:
- Course 1: Legal Services Landscape (Bill Henderson)
- Course 2: Legal Process and Project Leadership (Kim Craig)
- Course 3: Principles of Legal Business Design (Josh Kubicki)
- Course 4: Data Analytics for Lega Professions (Andrew Baker & Karl Haraldssen)
- Course 5: Understanding & Working with Legal Technologies (Monica Goyal)
- Course 6: Business Operations (Jeff Carr & Carl Lukash)
We believe that this offering is an attractive option for many early and mid-career professionals who are seeking to expand their skill set. Further, it is designed to fulfill the ABA-accreditation requirements for one law school credit. Ideally, IFLP Modern Law Practice certification will be synched up with an IFLP applied simulation, creating a flipped classroom for learning T-shaped knowledge and skills. Indeed, this is the purpose of the IFLP case studies, which are now being piloted at Southern University Law Center. See Post 202.
Like all of life, the IFLP story continues to deliver valuable lessons to its founders and professional staff. Perhaps the most valuable is that education on one-to-many knowledge and skills must itself be taught using a one-to-many medium.
A second valuable lesson is that a very limited budget can be a powerful asset. Thanks to the generous support of Baker McKenzie, Chapman and Cutler, Dentons, Elevate, Hermes Law, and the Sieja Family Foundation (Andrew Sieja is the founder of Relativity), we’ve had enough funding to pay for content creators—but only content creators.
Thus, with no prospect for additional funding, our Executive Director, Kevin Colangelo sent out guidelines on how we could each DIY the production, as all we needed was a small investment in lighting and a microphone to go along with the technology already installed on our PCs and MacBooks. Kevin himself was modeling the DIY approach by vetting e-learning platforms and learning how to build interactive quizzes. In effect, Kevin Colangelo took away all my excuses. In fact, it was a conversation with Andrew Sieja in late 2020 that put us in a pure whatever-it-takes production mindset. Sometimes advice is more valuable than money. As a result, all of us climbed into the trenches and started to figure things out.
Below is the hacked studio I put together in my office, teaching myself the basics of scriptwriting, teleprompters, background, lighting, and making videos. Then I hired a 20-year old, Jaelle Cassara (IU Poly Sci ’23), to teach me the basics of iMovie editing. So glad I climbed into this trench, as it feels great to live my professional values.
IFLP began as a pilot at Colorado Law in 2014. See Post 018. Our band of fellow travelers then incorporated as a nonprofit in January 2018, see Post 043, and scrambled to include more students, see Post 046, and employers, see Post 078, which resulted in surprisingly impressive outcomes, see Post 118. But for the support of all our stakeholders (those listed above plus the Cisco legal department, Quislex, LSAC, and dozens of individual contributors, see Post 119), we would have failed long ago.
Now IFLP is beginning a new chapter with a more refined focus. We’ve been given just enough funding to pack and roll a snowball. And in a remarkable stroke of serendipity, the global pandemic has provided a downhill slope.
I encourage all readers to sign up for notifications on the IFLP Level I rollout. You can sign up at the bottom of this page. Enjoy your Sunday!