The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) recently posted a Legal Operations Career Skills Toolkit on its “Industry Guidelines” page. The toolkit’s stated purpose is to help “individuals and legal departments evaluate and develop legal operations skills.” Law students, lawyers, and other professionals will find it to be an excellent resource for assessing and building their legal-service delivery skills. While the toolkit serves as an excellent roadmap for a legal operations career, it also offers tremendous insight into the legal-service delivery skills that clients value.

Traditional lawyers and law students should take a close look at the CLOC toolkit. Continue Reading CLOC Legal Operations Career Skills Toolkit: Lawyers, Your Clients Value Legal-Service Delivery Skills

The ABA Center for Innovation shared its mission and launched its website last evening at the Chicago Legal Innovation meetup at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP. “We must try new things,” said Geoffrey Burkhart, the Center’s Deputy Director.

The access to justice “crisis” has been known for decades; it is no longer news, Burkhart said. It is well known that public defenders are stretched very thin and far too many lack access to civil legal services. Burkhart voiced concern that we’ve become numb to the word “crisis.” He urged lawyers to take action and “try new things.” On the present course, Burkhart said, “lawyers are squandering a gift.” Continue Reading ABA Innovation Center Urges Lawyers to Try New Things, Identifies Innovative Law Schools

These are the days of great intentions. Around New Year’s Day, it’s energizing to think about future possibilities. The workout plan you’ll follow. The new skills you’ll learn. The career defining moments you’ll create.

But no matter how inspired, most people fail to move forward as envisioned. Many do not make it past the first week of January, overwhelmed by “urgent” tasks related to the return to work, school, etc. Today’s inspiration is insufficient for sustained, long-term career success. The key is converting today’s inspiration into an actionable plan. Continue Reading Simple Steps to Create a Career Plan: Convert Inspiration Into Long-Term Success – Today!

Law students and junior lawyers often worry that they lack sufficient legal expertise to blog. This is driven in part by the emergence of many blogs that feature articles, not blog posts. But blogging opportunities include much more than applying extensive legal expertise.

Kevin O’Keefe, LexBlog founder and CEO, encourages law students and lawyers to share content, provide a take, and talk about the things that they’re doing. You can do these things without holding yourself out as an expert. One of the benefits, in addition to connecting with others, is that doing it well demonstrates interest in a niche and that you are doing the work to develop expertise. Continue Reading Permission to Blog: It’s Not All About Legal Expertise #90MinBlog

When I tell lawyers that I’m teaching the LegalRnD version of “Quantitative Analysis for Lawyers” next semester at MSU Law, I usually get one of three reactions:

  1. Wow, what a great class! I wish I was still in law school!
  2. Wow, what a great class! But I’m not good at math.
  3. Why teach lawyers quantitative analysis?

With all the talk about big data, forensic evidence in the courtroom, artificial intelligence, code, and robot lawyers, the value of quantitative training is becoming obvious. Many lawyers see opportunities to apply quantitative thinking in practice, especially at the intersection of law and technology. At the same time, data and artificial intelligence are transforming legal-service delivery. The challenge of exercising basic math skills in an introductory quantitative analysis class is nothing compared to the rewards from learning quantitative thinking.

But there remain far too many lawyers and law students–especially law students–who do not see the connection between quantitative thinking and the law. Why should law students take “Quantitative Analysis for Lawyers”? The better question is, “How can law students afford not to learn quantitative thinking?”
Continue Reading Why Law Students Should Take Quantitative Analysis: Big Data, Algorithms, Courtrooms, Code, and Robot Lawyers

Is the legal industry evolving fast enough to create demand for #LegalTech- and innovation-trained law students? Yes, is the short answer. In fact, current demand exceeds the supply of law graduates trained in legal innovation and technology. I base this conclusion on both my experiences at LegalRnD at Michigan State Law and the information in Roy Strom’s July 20, 2016 article in the The American Lawyer: “Law Schools’ Tech-Training Conundrum: If We Teach Them, Will They Get Jobs?” (subscription required).

Gary Gonzaelz talks to MSU Law LegalRnD students about his internship at Elevate Services.
Gary Gonzaelz talks to MSU Law LegalRnD students about his internship at Elevate Services.

Employers across the legal industry have had a difficult time finding law students and lawyers trained in legal innovation and technology. Joe Otterstetter, managing counsel and associate general counsel for the nearly 500-employee 3M legal department, says in the article that these skills are so rare right now that they’re incredibly demanded. He says that as more firms and legal departments get a sense for the value law grads trained in innovation and technology can deliver, demand for them will increase. In the future, he said that he expects to hire law grads trained in process management or legal analytics.

Law firms have also found a short supply of law grads with legal innovation and technology skills. AmLaw 100 law firm Baker Donelson has hired law grads with these skills, partner William Painter says in the article. Many of the 25 people that Baker Donelson employs in areas like knowledge management and process management are lawyers. Painter sharply criticizes law schools, saying they have been “for the most part . . . woefully inadequate” and “asleep at the switch” while the skills law students need to succeed in the legal industry have been changing.

Samir Patel talks about how learning blockchain technology and engaging on social media helped him land a summer position with Eris Industries.
Samir Patel talks about how learning blockchain technology and engaging on social media helped him land a summer position with Eris Industries.

Legal startups, legal aid organizations, and other legal-service providers are also looking for innovative and tech-savvy law graduates. Nina Kilbride, Head of Legal Engineering at Eris Industries, which develops blockchain and smart-contract solutions, says in the article that Eris struggles to find talented, tech-focused lawyers. She says there are not enough law schools teaching students skills to solve legal problems using technology. Continue Reading No Conundrum, #LegalTech and Innovation Training Helping Law Grads Get Jobs

Too much of today’s legal innovation and technology talk focuses on disruption, artificial intelligence, and whether robots can practice law. Interesting topics, yes. But this discussion threatens to distract us from discussing fundamental changes that can be implemented immediately to significantly improve legal-service delivery across the industry.

Discussions about artificial intelligence and the like can make legal innovation and technology feel inaccessible and overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be that way. Lawyers, law students, and legal-services professionals can learn fundamental disciplines and begin applying them today to modernize their practices and increase their personal value in the marketplace. Engaging and empowering all legal-services professionals is important for improving legal-service delivery and thereby improving access to legal services for everyone.

Learning is not compulsory[.]  . . .  But to survive, we must learn.”

―W. Edwards Deming

What fundamental disciplines should be leveraged to deliver legal services in the twenty-first century? While this list could include several additional items, the following five deserve your focus now:

  1. process improvement
  2. project management
  3. metrics, data, and analytics
  4. technology
  5. business of law

Continue Reading 21st Century Legal Services? Lawyers and Law Students, You Can Learn These Skills

For some time now, I’ve encouraged lawyers to leverage process improvement and project management to improve legal-service delivery. After I joined Michigan State University College of Law two years ago, I began to explore how applying these disciplines to career development could help us achieve our goals. Two years later, we have seen a 13.64% improvement in law graduate placement into “gold standard” jobs–full-time, long-term, bar-passage required or JD-advantage jobs.

I would not suggest that “lean thinking” deserves full credit for this improvement. First and foremost, I had the pleasure of working with a great career development team. We also engaged with and received great support from the dean, faculty, staff, board of trustees, alumni, and others. But “lean thinking” played an important role in our transformation of career services. At a minimum, it provided a framework and disciplined approach to improving our delivery of services and building a lean, “continuous improvement” culture. Continue Reading “Lean Thinking” Fuels 13.64% Improvement in Law Graduate Placement

Two years ago, I joined Michigan State University College of Law as the Assistant Dean for Career Development and a Professor of Law in Residence. It has been a productive two years. We assembled a great Career Services Office (CSO) team, transformed the office through “lean systems thinking,” and worked with students, faculty, staff, our Board of Trustees, and alumni to improve employment statistics significantly.

Recently, I was presented the opportunity to devote 100 percent of my time to teaching and being the director of LegalRnD – The Center for Legal Services Innovation at MSU Law. While I will miss working with and leading the CSO team, I could not be more enthusiastic about the opportunity to improve legal-service delivery and access to legal services through LegalRnD.

Working with ReInvent Law

MSU Law alumni talk about their nontraditional legal careers and the need for T-Shaped lawyers: Amani Smathers (Legal Solutions Architect at Davis Wright Tremaine), Joe Kelly (Software Engineer at Seyfarth Shaw), Patrick Ellis (Counsel, Office of the General Counsel at General Motors), and Brian Pike (Knowledge Automation Architect at Riverview Law).
MSU Law alumni talk about their nontraditional legal careers and the need for T-Shaped lawyers: Amani Smathers (Legal Solutions Architect at Davis Wright Tremaine), Joe Kelly (Software Engineer at Seyfarth Shaw), Patrick Ellis (Counsel, Office of the General Counsel at General Motors), and Brian Pike (Knowledge Automation Architect at Riverview Law).

My connection to MSU Law began with the ReInvent Law program and its co-founders, Dan Katz and Renee Knake. Dan and I have know each other since our days as students at the University of Michigan Law School. After law school, Dan earned a PhD at Michigan and I clerked for Judge James L. Ryan on the U.S. Court of Appeals. After my clerkship, I joined the Honigman law firm in Detroit, resolving and litigating supply-chain and other business disputes and advising clients on information technology, cybersecurity, and data privacy matters.

Over the years after law school, Dan and I engaged in many conversations about law practice and the need for innovation and technology to improve legal-service delivery. Dan invited me to lecture to his Quantitative Analysis for Lawyers course. Dan and Renee invited me to help with workshops for their Entrepreneurial Lawyering class. Shortly afterwards, I began teaching as an adjunct law professor. First, I began teaching Negotiation at the University of Michigan Law School. Then I worked with Dan to develop and teach Litigation {Data, Theory, Practice, & Process} at MSU Law. In February 2014, I was invited to give a talk at ReInvent Law New York, Law Practice: From Art to Science.

It was because I was an adjunct professor at MSU Law that I received an email notice about the assistant dean for career development opening. I’d been promoted to equity partner at Honigman and was not looking to make a move. But I could not turn down the opportunity to work with students, industry partners, Dan and Renee, and other ReInvent Law supporters and contributors, including Dean Joan Howarth, Adam Candeub, Jim Chen, and Dan Barnhizer.

13.64% Increase In “Gold Standard” Job Placement Over Two Years

I’m proud of the career services team that I assembled and the results that we achieved. A key career services metric is the percentage of graduates placed into “gold standard” jobs–full-time, long-term, bar-passage-required or JD-advantage jobs. In our first year, the percentage of 2014 graduates reporting “gold standard” jobs increased by 9.36% over the prior year. In our second year, 70.45% of 2015 MSU Law graduates reported gold standard jobs, 4.28% more than the prior year and a 13.64% increase over two years.

In career services, we applied the foundational disciplines that hold promise for transforming legal-service delivery: process improvement, project management, metrics and data analytics, and technology. We developed a lean, “continuous improvement” culture, improved core processes, and implemented several new programs. (More on this and the numbers above in my next post.)

Launching LegalRnD – The Center for Legal Services Innovation

LegalRnD – The Center for Legal Services Innovation
LegalRnD – The Center for Legal Services Innovation

In July 2015, we launched LegalRnD, which replaced ReInvent Law. I was honored that Dean Howarth entrusted me to lead LegalRnD. The program has generated many opportunities for MSU Law and our students. Interest in LegalRnD has continued to grow, so much that I proposed that I spend 100 percent of my time leading LegalRnD and teaching. I am thrilled that this has come to fruition.

I am thrilled to announce that I have joined Michigan State University College of Law as its Assistant Dean for Career Development. It was a very difficult decision to leave Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP, particularly when I had just been elevated to equity partner in 2013. I enjoyed working with Honigman’s talented lawyers, professionals, and staff to solve complex legal problems for our clients. I also appreciated the resources and support that Honigman provided for me to develop my career. While my practice was the centerpiece, I also thoroughly enjoyed writing and speaking for practitioners, teaching at the University of Michigan Law School and MSU Law, studying and speaking about legal innovation and technology, and working with law students to help them prepare for legal careers.

As an adjunct professor at MSU Law, I was copied on an email announcing the Assistant Dean opening. Awhile after reading it, I began to reflect on how much I enjoy studying legal practice and the legal industry, fostering legal innovation, and working with law students. Watching the video of my talk at ReInvent Law New York City, Law Practice: From Art to Science, reconfirmed that. The more I thought about it, the opportunity to spend more time doing these things, as well as the opportunity to work with MSU Law administration, faculty, and alumni and legal employers, was an opportunity I could not pass up. I am very excited to begin this new chapter in my career at MSU Law!