We’re down in the weeds planning for the next round of the Institute for the Future of Law Practice (“IFLP”) bootcamp in May 2020. IFLP is growing rapidly. It started in 2018, with 1 bootcamp, 4 schools, 24 students and 24 employers. In 2019, we had 3 bootcamps, 18 schools, and 64 students. More employers wanted students than there were students. There are now over 50 law schools who’ve expressed interest in joining this year and the momentum is building.
Osgoode was there on the ground floor with 5 students and employers in Year 1, and 15 of each in Year 2. With more bootcamp capacity, we could boost that number significantly in 2020.
Why has IFLP taken off the way it has?
First, what is IFLP? Despite its academic-sounding name, IFLP is at its core, an initiative to bring together important skills that legal services employers increasingly need, with what new law recruits have to offer.
I say “skills,” but it’s not just skills. It’s an introduction to a way of thinking about legal services and how to provide them. What’s taught in IFLP is more of a “systems” vs. the traditional “transactions” way of looking at legal work. In settings where there are many of the same kinds of transactions, taking a systems approach makes good sense, especially since many repetitive legal tasks can be partially or fully automated with technology. That applies for private legal services providers as well as public service providers, where examples of “systems” thinking in action such as the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal show that new approaches can also move the needle on access to justice.
Many law firms and law departments are well down the path of re-engineering processes, automating routine legal services, and collecting and using data for decision-making. Others know they need to get there but don’t know how to approach or solve the problems involved in making a change. Legal employers are looking to recruits to help them change the way they think about how to manage legal work.
That’s where IFLP comes in, and why it has so much momentum.
IFLP selects law students who have an interest in technology and thinking about the “business” of law. Some have pre-law backgrounds in engineering, computer science, business and other disciplines where systems-thinking is taught. Many others come simply with strong curiosity, an entrepreneurial spirit and a demonstrated proficiency in common office technology.
Students attend a three-week intensive boot camp in Chicago, Boulder or Toronto (at Osgoode PD’s downtown facility). They work in groups tackling problems of all kinds in the “business of law” including legal process improvement using Lean Six Sigma and Toyota Kata methods; automating workflows and legal documents; data-driven lawyering; and much more. The approach is “learn-by-doing” and the students create and present solutions. The bootcamp is supported by a small village of instructors, coaches and presentation evaluators drawn from legal practice. In 2019, Monica Goyal was the director of the Toronto boot camp. Instructors included Bill Henderson and Dan Linna (both founders of IFLP), Dera Nevin, Paul Saunders, Jordan Furlong, and Gérman Morales. The mix of expertise and field experience of its instructors and coaches brings to IFLP cutting-edge practice relevancy that complements the traditional law school curriculum, the same way that litigators bring practice into Trial Advocacy courses in the JD.
Students go from the bootcamp to working in paid internships in various settings. In 2019, employers of Toronto bootcamp participants included Blakes, McCarthys, Bennett Jones, Gowlings, Faskens, Dentons, Epiq, and the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal. Past IFLP students have been retained by their employers to work part-time when they return to school following their internships. IFLP alum have reported that their IFLP experience was highly valuable for future employment prospects. Internship employers have moved important initiatives forward with the help of motivated and trained interns.