There is no getting around it: Until business fundamentals are taught in the core curriculum, even the elite law schools will continue to come up short. Only one top school, Boston University Law School, has taken the necessary leap. In so doing, BU has established an appreciable lead over competing institutions in offering meaningful business and financial training— preparing its students for a job market where employers and clients alike want much more from them than legal analysis and hard work.
Every client worth having wants a lawyer who understands her business, one who’s studied the industry and markets in which his company competes, and one who speaks the language of business, whether in contract negotiations or the courtroom. [Previously published in the ABA Magazine, October 2015]
Business development is about relationships, first and foremost. What goes around comes around. Treat people right or pay the consequences in missed opportunities, broken relationships, burned bridges, and bad word of mouth….
A confession: I really really love charts. They help me think clearly. They entertain me. They keep things organized. So this year I offer all you summer associates my customarily blunt “best practices” advice in chart form. Three charts to be exact. Enjoy! And pass them on to the chart-less souls among your friends and family.
If I had the time and capital to invest, I’d partner with Coursera or ApprenNet (Law Meets) and Wharton and build a “personalized” MOOC business training curriculum with wrap-around guides for three or four BigLaw practice groups. I’d hire the best and brightest JDs and KM professionals to write tailored content applying the B-school material to the real world of law practice. Then I’d license this product to premier law firms for a fraction of the cost of a business bootcamp. My client firms would, ideally, assign partner instructors to coach their associates through the curriculum–connecting the dots along the way. Just a thought.
It’s not as easy as it was for me–but much remains the same: Industry and skills specialization is still the fastest and smartest route to practice growth. Client contact, on the client’s turf, is still critical. Developing a reputation within your target industry or practice area still requires vastly more than a thorough understanding of the laws and regulations that affect it.
Law firms must accept responsibility for the ways in which they have failed their associates, both young and seasoned, and their young partners, setting them up to be set adrift when, inevitably, client demand for high priced legal services began to fall off. As “Legal Rebel” Ed Reeser suggests, in so many words, in a terrific ABA Journal article I read just this morning, law firms need to get back into the “people business”.
A new school year is upon us, the first phase of summer job interviews – blessedly- is over, my website and blog have been charmingly wordpressed, and a new class of law school graduates is preparing to enter practice in law firms around the country…..
A few weeks ago I interrupted a rather heated exchange on one of my favorite blogs, The Lawyerist, with a lengthy comment that was graciously received by both author and publisher. The original article (you can read it here, comments and all) was …
Last week, Stanford Law School channeled Captain James T. Kirk (via its affiliate, the Sacramento Bee), to announce the completion of the first phase of its very substantial curriculum reforms. I described the claims included in the press release …