Some realism on the regulatory reform movement


Imagine a legal sector neatly divided into two groups: the Rule Makers and the Risk Takers.  With evidence piling up that the legal market is not working for ordinary citizens, the Rule Makers come together to evaluate possible changes. After the new rules are enacted, the burden shifts to the Risk Takers to build out workable solutions.

If we apply this simple model to the US legal sector, it appears that the Rule Makers are struggling to deliver, as the most high-profile liberalization efforts at the state and national levels are now being shelved or slow-walked. See, e.g., Cheryl Miller, “California State Bar Puts Brakes on Proposed ‘Regulatory Sandbox,’” Am. Law., Mar. 13, 2020 (citing “political headwinds” as reason for tabling ATILS Task Force recommendations); Brenda Sapino Jeffreys, “ABA Approves Innovation Resolution, With Revisions to Limit Regulatory Changes,” Law.com, Feb. 17, 2020 (discussing passage of watered-down resolution that disavowed any changes to nonlawyer ownership or the unauthorized practice of law).
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Without effective communication principles, advanced statistics are useless. Some of my key lessons from the field.


The graphic above provides a breakdown of 2018 law school graduates with diverse race/ethnicity backgrounds. Each hand represents 100 JDs. The colors represent four different categories in the U.S. News law school rankings. Thus, the Tier 3/4 schools have the largest number of diverse race/ethnicity graduates—4,500 JDs, or about 45% of all diverse 2018 JD grads. Likewise, only 1,300, or 13%, attended elite T-14 schools, which is clear, useful information for legal employers who have urgency regarding diversity.
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No matter what happens, we’re all going to learn something.


In 2014, I was invited to lunch with Joe Andrew, the chairman of Dentons, in his DC office.  The invitation came from John Fernandez, an Indiana Law alum who joined Dentons a couple of years earlier after two decades in government.  Joe and John came up through the ranks together in Indiana Democratic politics, with Andrew eventually becoming Chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party (from 1995-1999) and Chairman of the Democratic National Committee (1999-2001).
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The legal profession’s commitment to diversity has a credibility problem.


Since the early 2000s, law departments and law firms have advanced ambitious public initiatives to diversify the legal profession. In law firm power centers, however, the disconnect between public proclamations and empirical reality is staggering.
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Our profession evolves through people. Some are stepping up.


Everyday, when I am paying attention, the world is nudging me to let go of something wrong and unhelpful. A friend of mine calls it “dropping the rock.”  The rock is an assumption about how the world operates that can’t be reconciled with an honest evaluation of facts and experience.
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Photo by Markus Spiske via Unsplash

The last decade saw a sustained uptick in funding into the legal vertical. So what is all that capital accomplishing? Quite a lot, actually.


The legal industry is full of opinions – and so it is full of noise. In 2019, 🤦‍♂️ facepalming and 🙄 eyerolling at innovation hype is still very much in vogue, and so a lot of the noise is 😒 negative 😠 in tone.

Amidst all the noise, though, I see very clear signals of meaningful change.
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