Institute for the Future of Law Practice


“Some things are clearer from a distance.”


20 years ago, I didn’t know very much about law firms, though I was curious and knew law firms were important, at least to students attending law school.  Thus, why not dig into the primary vehicle for a successful and rewarding legal career?

That was my reasoning back in the fall of 2004 when I first taught a course called “The Law Firm as a Business Organization (B573).”  As a junior professor, it was an early win for my career. Foremost, the students gave it strong reviews, which enabled me to teach it again in 2006.  Second, it put me in direct contact with practicing lawyers, as I invited them to class to bring color to the assigned readings. Third, it launched some novel and original research that earned me tenure and opened doors to do challenging applied work in the legal innovation space, including Lawyer Metrics, the Institute for the Future of Law Practice (IFLP), and Legal Evolution.

Now, for the first time in 16 years, I am teaching the Law Firms course, prompting much reflection.  See 2022 Syllabus.  What’s changed more—the law firm market or my perspective?  It’s a close call.
Continue Reading Learning about law firms, 20 years in (330)


Illinois Court Help is changing how people interact with the court system.  Let’s hope it’s the beginning of something big.


[Editor’s note: Today’s feature post is written by Amanda N. Marino, a very talented recent law grad (Maurer Law ’22) with stellar journalism credentials.   Back in the summer of 2020, when the pandemic disrupted the summer internships of so many law students, Amanda ended up in a special summer version of my How Innovation Diffusions in the Legal Industry course.

I’ve taught the Diffusion course several times at three different law schools. And certainly, Amanda is among the most engaged and creative students I’ve encountered. But on one dimension, she’s completely unique.  One day during class, she spoke her truth, which I paraphrase here: “I understand the importance and power of diffusion theory — that it can help companies successfully drive adoption of their products and services. But I want to use its power to improve the legal system.”  Okay, I thought to myself, if I can use my network, connections, and resources to help this student, I will.

In the spring semester of her 3L year, Amanda asked if I would supervise a short independent study project to earn one more course credit needed for graduation. I agreed on one condition — that she digs into some topics in the PeopleLaw realm that are relatively time-intensive to research yet likely important and useful to the underresourced #A2J movement.  I had a few ideas on where to start and primed the pump with some initial phone calls and email introductions.  But Amanda Marino did everything else. I hope you enjoy today’s unique and special feature.  wdh]
Continue Reading Illinois Court Help: A case study in court customer service (310)


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.
Continue Reading Just not good enough (226)


When taught in context, one-to-many law practice is relatively simple and intuitive.


Many of my colleagues in the NewLaw elite often laugh that there’s no such thing as legal project management or data analytics for lawyers.  And I get their point.  The application of decades-old disciplines to the practice of law does not change

bio card for Elmer Thoreson


[Editor’s note: The IFLP archives include several student profiles that document the impact of the program on students’ lives.  With the students’ permission, the IFLP leadership team wanted to share these with a broader audience. Regarding Elmer Thoreson, after three weeks at the IFLP Boot Camp at Northwestern Law in the spring of 2018, he


TermScout is a direct outgrowth of the IFLP ecosystem.


We formed the Institute for the Future of Law Practice and its predecessor, the Tech Lawyer Accelerator (collectively “IFLP”), to test a number of concepts about legal education.

One such concept involved seeing whether an appropriately designed law program could duplicate the results of a leading


We have a rare opportunity for a large immediate impact on the legal sector. Let’s not miss the boat.


It’s now ten years since I became aware of Professor Bill Henderson and his efforts to evolve the legal profession, and roughly eight years since Bill invited me to join a small group called the Skin


A story for the New Year.  Maybe you can relate.


I recently turned 57 years old.  Although I am dismayed and disappointed by many things happening in our republic, and impatient with an industry, profession and educational complex that is supposed to operate in the public interest, whatever quantum of cynicism I possessed went away in 2019. Moreover, it happened quickly, albeit many of the pieces were put into place more a decade ago.
Continue Reading Losing my cynicism (131)