The only constant is change

Change the profession? Change the education.

In the November-December 2017 issue of Lexpert Magazine, I accepted a challenge and escaped from my comfort zone to write a column for the back page entitled “The Only Constant Is Change."  Here now is my attempt at trying to develop a strategy for effecting that change.

Ten Ways to Effect Change:

10. Develop diversity and inclusive programs at all levels of education and at all law firms.

9. Create a mentorship program within your firm to assist newer associates.

8. Reward new innovation initiatives to promote creativity.

7. Foster next generation programs to develop succession planning.

6. Formulate a strategy to deal with social media.

5. Initiate exchange programs with firms in other provinces and countries.

4. Modernize offices to create space for millennials. Understand how and why they work.

3. Listen as opposed to hear. See as opposed to watch.

2. Change the culture of the firm. We are now in the 21st century.

1. Improve the education in law schools immediately.

Without diminishing the importance of the other nine strategies, this is my number 1. And I give credit on the point to Scott Neilson for his February, 2018 Canadian Lawyer magazine article, “Are Law Schools in Canada Pumping Out Lawyers Without The Skills They Need?" Many of the ideas here appeared in that article.

I am very impressed with those innovative law schools in the United States that are now offering standard courses in such programs as e-discovery, document automation, data analytics, machine learning, project management, app building, design thinking and the user experience.

By contrast, it is unfortunate and short-sighted that many Canadian law school programs are still designed and taught the way they were 20 years ago. They are theory- rather than application-based.

However, the good news is that some forward-thinking schools in Canada such as Ryerson University are planning law schools more oriented to practice-readiness and change management, are training lawyers differently, and within an innovative and entrepreneurial environment.

My strong belief is that law schools must begin to transition lawyers to look through the eyes of clients, rather than the eyes of a lawyer. Osgoode Hall Law School has recently hosted events entitled Disruption in Legal Service Delivery; What Students and New Lawyers need to Know; Hack Justice: An Access to Justice Hackathon; Communication 2.0; and Social Media Best Practices.

In order to prepare lawyers for the real world after law school, the curriculum should be tailored to teaching the “new law” relating to dynamic and emerging fields such as food security, genetic modification, IP, ownership and trade.

The world is a very different place than it was only a few years ago. Lawyers should be trained to practice their craft within the world as they find it. Change is evolution, change is progress, change is disruptive; embrace it or be left behind.

Stephen Messinger is retired from the practice of law and is now a consultant in the commercial leasing field.


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