Will Legal Education Change to Keep Pace with the Business World?

Lawyers are notoriously slow to adopt new technologies. Like the court system itself, law firms tend to move slowly and deliberately. To make matters worse, the law school experience has changed relatively little in the past century, and it continues to focus students on “thinking like a lawyer” instead of providing practical management skills. In this age of escalating technological changes, some observers believe legal education needs to get with the times.
In the past, it was expected that a new law firm attorney would receive a few years of on-the-job training before becoming a profit center. According to Forbes, legal employers are pressuring law firms to teach aspiring attorneys non-legal schools, such as finance and IT. Because law firms are higher fewer attorneys than in the past, law school graduates need to be ready to work in non-frim settings, like corporations and government agencies.
One solution to this education problem would be to encourage more law students to pursue the JD/MBA degree (a traditional law school education with an extra year of business management training included). That extra year of school would come with a cost, of course, and not all law students would be willing to pay it.
A more likely innovation model for law schools is to add non-legal elective courses. For decades, many law schools have offered an “accounting for lawyers” course. Additional courses could include “business management for lawyers” and “technology for lawyers.”
The third year of law school is often viewed as non-essential, and most law students use it to explore topics of interest. Law schools could require a small set of non-legal courses to be taken in that third year.
Legal academics are unlikely to be the driving forces behind such changes in the curriculum. Instead, demand might come from the bottom up, as law students come to realize that they need skills other than case analysis to succeed in the modern workplace.

March 10, 2017

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