By Bill Henderson
The Institute for the Future of Law Practice (IFLP), a new nonprofit collaboration between law schools, law firms, corporate legal departments, NewLaw service providers, and legal technology companies has kicked-off recently. Details of this new venture can be found online at www.futurelawpractice.org.
Per the picture above, IFLP (“i-flip”) will be hosting training bootcamps in May 2018 in Chicago (at Northwestern Law) and Boulder (at Colorado Law). The bootcamps are designed to prep law students for sophisticated legal and business work settings. Each student admitted to the program is paired with a legal employer for either a 10-week summer internship or a 7-month field placement. All internships and field placements are paid. The IFLP program currently includes four law schools — Northwestern, Colorado, Indiana, and Osgoode Hall (Toronto) — though the plan is to build an infrastructure that will support and serve a significantly larger number of law students, law schools, and legal employers.
1. What problem is IFLP trying to solve?
Legal education and the legal profession are at an inflection point where traditional models of education and practice no longer fit the shifting needs of the market. The biggest driver of change is increased complexity. Historically, the legal profession has dealt with complexity through specialization and division of labor. However, the legal profession is now at a point where its members need to learn new tools and methodologies that were not, and are not, part of traditional legal education.
Unfortunately, law schools are unable to make this transition on their own. This is because (a) the shift in practice requires an integration of law with problem-solving methods that are not legal in nature (e.g., data, process, project management, technology, and team-based collaboration); and (b) the state of the art for these new approaches to practice are currently being developed in the field by practitioners and other allied professionals.
IFLP can help fill this void by identifying industry-leading practitioners and distilling their know-how and experience into an organized body of knowledge that can be taught to law students and mid-career legal professionals.
2. How will IFLP be successful?
IFLP will be successful if it can create training and internship programs that serve law students (through high-quality employment) and legal employers (through a rich pool of applicants with an expanded set of skills and knowledge). In its simplest form, our goal is to use education to build demand for new and better pathways to sophisticated modern practice. The larger the demand, the clearer the signal to legal education on how to retool to meet the needs of a changing market.
IFLP is fortunate to have an anchor set of legal employers who want to create a talent pipeline that combines traditional training in substantive law with foundational training in data, process, technology, and business (T-shaped lawyers). Further, as we develop IFLP curricula and training modules, these resources can be used to cost-effectively upgrade the skills of mid-career professionals.
IFLP is designed to be an intermediary organization that coordinates the interests of law schools and legal employers. We want to improve the content and quality of legal training in ways that widen the pathway to practice. Under the best case scenario, students, law schools, and legal employers will converge on an industry standard that better serves the interests of all stakeholders. A half century ago, organizations like NALP, LSAC, and NCBE sprang up to fill an important industry gap. Similarly, in 2018, IFLP fills a pressing industry void.
3. Where did IFLP come from?
The founders of IFLP were inspired by their experience with the Tech Lawyer Accelerator (TLA) program at Colorado Law. Since 2014, approximately 80 students (most from Colorado Law, some from Indiana Law) have participated in a 3½ week bootcamp at the end of their 1L or 2L year. The TLA focused on technology, process, and business skills, with students spending the balance of their summers in 10-week paid internships. In some cases, the internships were extended to seven months (the summer and fall of students’ 3L year). Colorado Law’s TLA is the foundation for the first iteration of IFLP. For additional background on the TLA, see Post 018 (summarizing topics covered in the 2017 TLA).
During four years of operation, TLA has garnered very favorable feedback from students and employers. But more significantly, we received “pull” from several employers to expand the program’s breadth and capacity. In response to this pull, a small group of us conducted a needs analysis during the fall of 2017. This involved the formation of several exploratory committees drawn from our professional networks. One committee focused on law schools; a second on legal employers; and a third on the viability of an ongoing nonprofit business model.