April 19, 2010
Minding Our Own Business Forum: Legal Entrepreneurs
Posted by Christine Hurt

Here at the Glom (and elsewhere about once a year), my co-bloggers and I like to talk about Law & Entrepreneurship.  Lately, though, I've been thinking about entrepreneurship and legal education.  The legal world is generally filled with non-entrepreneurs, so when someone comes along with an innovative business model for a law firm or a law school, we take notice.  So how do we instill a sense of entrepreneurism into our graduates?

What made me think of this was the NYT's interview Sunday with Bill Carter, partner and founder of Fuse, a marketing agency that markets to teens and that great 18-24 demographic.  (And probably tweens and toddlers too, but they wouldn't put that on the website.)  He characterizes the people that he hires in relation to their not being like the people that succeed so well in law school:

Their expectation is not necessarily like a junior lawyer who is satisfied to maybe be at the bottom rung and work their way up in a corporate law firm over many years. The expectation of all of the young people in our office is that they’re professionals in their field right now, and that they’re going to have input right now, they’re going to have communication with clients right now, and they’re going to be involved in decision-making across the company.

Ouch. Even when the interviewer tries to push back and suggest that some young people might have confidence or expectations beyond their capabilities, Carter tends to be more sanguine, saying that in the end success depends on being "client-ready," not working the most hours. He would rather take the risk of mistakes and hire confident people that demand to add value now, not later.

In some ways, law schools encourage the risk-averse.  For a long time, if smart people went to law school and did very well, then the most they had to assert themselves to do well was turn their c.v. into career services on time.  The machine picked up at that point and sorted everyone.  But that machine seems to be gone now, and may never return.  So law students are being told to "beat the bushes," but with not much guidance on how to do that.  And to be honest, I would have been the first to say, "That's not why I came to law school.  If I had wanted to cold call people like Bud Fox, I would have gone a different path."  I came to be a professional in this gentlemanly profession we call the law.  But I think that profession is changing.

So, I would posit that the law school of the future should position themselves as the school that can identify, recruit and train law graduates that will have the confidence and personality to be "client-ready" at graduation.  This may require changes in how we do law school, and also on how we do admissions.

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