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A New Collaboration for New Legal Practice Skills

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In 2019, Osgoode Professional Development is expanding its participation in the Institute for the Future of Law Practice (IFLP).

What is IFLP?

IFLP is a collaboration amongst participating law schools and legal services employers of all kinds to develop and deliver training and paid internships in skills including; the business of law, project management and process optimization, legal technologies, and data analytics.

The founders of IFLP observed that some of the skills that legal services employers are looking for in the 21st century are not taught in many law school curriculums. Furthermore, many of the innovations in legal services delivery are happening in the field of law practice – they’re not generally within the expertise of many in the legal academy. Why not put the strengths of the academy together with the expertise of practice? This happens in many kinds of long-standing legal skills programs such as Trial Advocacy and in many programs at OsgoodePD. IFLP’s focus is on a different set of skills.

Bundled together, these skills are called “legal operations”. While there is a whole new career track developing for people in the domain of legal operations, even those lawyers fully engaged in law practice (and their clients) will benefit from being “operationally aware”.

The way I see it, it’s about impact. Not long ago, I read a tweet stating something along the lines of “of all the skills I think of great lawyers having, a knowledge of technology is somewhere near the bottom”. Fair enough. Having these skills alone will not make anyone a good lawyer. But if you have good lawyering skills, you will have more impact if you use approaches, disciplines, and tools designed for efficiency, with clients as the focus.

Why is OsgoodePD involved?

For a couple of years or more, I was on the hunt for a well-designed outcomes-based curriculum for early to mid-career legal professionals, using “tell, show, do” in these skills. We don’t need yet another conference to tell us that lawyers need these skills. What we need – whether they’re law students or mid-career lawyers – is to teach them those skills. Many of those who had the knowledge and skills to teach were so fully engaged in entrepreneurship or change initiatives that they had no capacity to design and deliver the curriculum.

In the summer of 2017, William Henderson, whom I had met some time before, tweeted that he had sent some students from University of Indiana Law School to the University of Colorado for a three-week summer boot camp, attaching a mini- syllabus.  It was exactly what I had been looking for, and I knew that if Bill Henderson was involved, it would be good. (If you don’t know Bill’s work, you should.  Among other things, he’s the editor at www.legalevolution.org where you can see some of his work).  I reached out to Bill and ended up involved in a larger initiative just then getting off the ground, to develop a Boot Camp and internship program in collaboration with 3 other law schools – Northwestern, Colorado and Indiana – and a group of multi-national companies such as Cisco.  The focus in the pilot would be law students with an interest in legal operations, with a view to eventually curriculum for legal professionals.

Collaboration with innovation leaders and cross-border opportunities made a lot of sense, and with the support of Osgoode, I joined the Board of IFLP embarked on a pilot with very little lead time.

The 2018 pilot

Since students needed a paid internship following the Boot Camp, we needed jobs before students.  I banged out an email to firm contacts whose names I could remember off the top of my head, and almost immediately got positive responses back from Blakes, Oslers, and McCarthys.  “We must be on to something”, I thought, but at that point, I was not sure whether students would be interested in a summer job that was not the traditional summer law job.  They were.  We advertised the legal operations Boot Camp – without telling them who the employers were – and got dozens of applicants.

After a tough selection process, and with 5 internships confirmed (Bennett Jones and Kira Systems joined in), we sent five (5) Osgoode students to the inaugural Boot Camp at Northwestern in Chicago in May 2018 followed by 10 week paid internships.

Students worked on legal operations-type projects including developing expert systems : checklists, compliance automation, document assembly, and workflow templates; using predictive modelling to create machine learning tools that predict case cost, outcomes, and timelines; process mapping  specific case type, then draft standard pleadings, discovery, litigation documents, and checklists for every stage of this case type;  and technology evaluation, selection, implementation, testing, and training.  They also worked on traditional kinds of legal tasks such as drafting software service and licensing agreements, updating privacy policy and data usage and protection policies, and M & A due diligence.

What kind of intern does IFLP attract?

IFLP is not for everyone.  Of the 5 students we selected to go to the 40-person Boot Camp last year, two were JD/MBAs, one had a Masters in Supply Chain Management before law school, one was a successful entrepreneur in the Professional LL.M. and another had a background in software.  The one thing they had in common was a strong interest in innovation and technology.

The plan for 2019

In 2019, IFLP, and OsgoodePD’s participation in the program is expanding and we are looking for more legal operations internships.  A tremendously exciting development is the addition of public interest curriculum and internships.  The analytical and design-thinking skills learned at IFLP are useful not only in a corporate in-house or firm context, they are valuable and needed in government services, non-profit or public interest contexts.

IFLP is in its early stages, an innovative collaboration amongst law schools (more have joined for next year), joining forces with legal services providers to equip both students and lawyers with a new set of knowledge and skills.  Whether you call what we’re aiming for the T-shaped lawyer, the 21st-century lawyer, or my current favourite, the Delta model lawyer, it’s an exciting step forward, and an important addition to OsgoodePD’s rich array of opportunities.

Click here to join us for the Toronto launch of IFLP’s 2019 Skills & Internship Program. If you’re interested in employing an IFLP intern and want to learn more, contact me (vwatkins@osgoode.yorku.ca) or Amy ter Haar (aterhaar@osgoode.yorku.ca) soon.

 


vwatkinsVICTORIA WATKINS
Assistant Dean and Executive Director, OsgoodePD

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