Jul 28, 2020
Episode 17 of the Legal Tech StartUp Focus Podcast -- Interview with Bill Henderson, Law Professor, Editor of Legal Evolution and Interim Director of Development, IFLP
In this, one of the most wide-ranging episodes of the Legal Tech StartUp Focus Podcast (www.legaltechstartupfocus.com/podcast), Charlie Uniman welcomes Bill Henderson. Bill is a law professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, editor of the online publication, Legal Evolution (www.legalevolution.org) and Interim Director of the Institute for the non-profit Future of Law Practice (IFLIP) (www.futurelawpractice.org). Charlie and Bill kick off the podcast with Bill describing his interesting journey from college to law school to a law professorship (interesting, especially, because of Bill's spending over a decade between starting and finishing college as a fireman and EMT in the Cleveland area).
Next, Bill discusses IFLP's mission, which consists principally on offering online and real-life boot camps (for law students and mid-career professionals) and working internships (at law firms and legal departments) that aim to "equip lawyers with the knowledge and skills that are essential in modern legal practice." In this regard, Bill talks about educating so-called "T-shaped" lawyers who can supplement legal (doctrinal) knowledge and skills with skills that involve technology, design, business decision-making, data analytics and project management. Bill also describes how the traditional "one-to-one consultative" aspects of law practice have involved to include a more "one-to-many" way of practicing law. We learn from Bill about IFLP's ambition to take its programs to a much larger scale than they operate at currently and IFLP's efforts to raise the funds necessary to achieve that scale.
Given Bill's role as a law professor, Bill and Charlie turn next to legal education and consider what have been both the accelerators and the retardants of change in how law students are taught in most US law schools. Bill distinguishes how so-called "top tier" law schools can persist in avoiding, to a greater degree perhaps than other law schools, classroom teaching in areas that, while outside the area of traditional doctrinal learning, can have a positive impact on a law student's readiness to practice law upon leaving school for a law firm or an in-house legal department. Bill draws a distinction between (i) on the one hand, the AmLaw top 150 law firms that hire predominantly from the top-tier schools to do clients' "bet the company" lawyering and (ii) on the other hand, in-house legal departments and the remainder of the law firms in the US that handle more day-to-day, but vital, operational client work. With this distinction in mind, Bill calls out the day-to-day work as a "contested area," where an client desire for efficiency and, therefore, cost-effectiveness allow in-house counsel and law firms outside the AmLaw 150 to battle successfully with the upper-echelon firms in garnering legal work and, thereby, to increase hiring demand for law students trained in disciplines that enhance efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Finally, Bill delves deeply into what impedes the adoption of innovative approaches to law practice at so many law firms (and even in-house legal departments) both inside and outside the US. Bill and Charlie talk about cultural and financial barriers to innovation and discuss the impact of exogenous factors (like the worldwide financial crisis that began around 2008 and the worldwide COVID crisis) that can act as forcing functions for the adoption of innovations in the practice of law and the business of delivering legal services. As Bill, quoting a friend, puts it: "necessity [in the form of exogenous factors] is not only the mother of invention, it's also the mother of adoption."