June 27, 2019

Winds of Change (Part 6): Learning to Think Like a Lawyer an Entrepreneur

A June 2011 NBC News story profiled law grads who went solo. They’ve got hutzpah, no doubt:

“I say screw the economy. You worked hard, you got your law degree, so make something happen with it.”

Where did they learn the entrepreneurial ropes? Not at law school. Here’s what they said about that:

“Law schools are not equipped to help you start your own firm.”

“I love some of the classes I took at [law school], but virtually none of them are useful.”

“Considering this amount of debt and that most classes deal with theory rather than everyday, practical law… three years of law school are unnecessary and should be shortened.”

“There’s a whole economic engine behind law practice and to not get that business side of it in law school sucks.”

That’s not the case everywhere. The NBC News article tells this story:

When Dr. Silvia Hodges first proposed a “Law firm as a business” course, Sheila Foster, the associate dean for academic affairs of Fordham University School of Law, was skeptical.

“I wasn’t completely convinced that was a subject that our students would catch on to, so I asked her to further develop the concept,” Foster said.

But Hodges remained persistent. Now students consider the law firm management class and the law firm marketing class Hodges recently began teaching among the most useful courses at the school.

“Just having that technical knowledge is not enough in today’s world anymore. They need a more well-rounded picture,” Hodges said.

Chetson agrees, saying that if law schools really want to place their students in good jobs, they need to teach them to be self-sufficient.

Closer to home, I was recently interviewed by a CU Law student as part of an assignment for a class led by Dean Weiser, in furtherance of his commitment to promoting the “New Normal of legal entrepreneurship.

Private initiatives have also stepped up to fill the gap. Solo Practice University bills itself as “The Practice of Law School” that “picks up where your law education left off.” It offers web-based instruction and opportunities for virtual networking. The Lawyerist blog is chock full of practice management how-to’s. There are others, too – a whole new industry forming around the need to educate and support legal professionals as the practice of law reinvents itself.

The days of hiring law students who’ve been taught to think like lawyers and hoping they’ll learn business development and practice management skills by osmosis are over. The winds of change are blowing; they’re bringing in a sea change. Some lawyers are embracing it, and some are literally dying from it. How about you? Are you sails up, or are you battening down the hatches?

(For those who might be interested, a couple new ABA publications related to topics I’ve been writing about in this series came to my attention this week. One is about reinventing the practice of law, and the other is about different generations working effectively together.)

Kevin Rhodes is a lawyer in private practice and a registered mentor with the Colorado Supreme Court’s CAMP program. He offers career coaching for lawyers and leads workshops for a variety of audiences, including the CBA’s Solo and Small Firm Section and the Job Search and Career Transitions Support Group. You can email Kevin at kevin@rhodeslaw.com.

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  1. […] This series is about happiness as a success strategy. Before we go on with it, here’s a quick update on a post a couple weeks back about lawyers learning to be entrepreneurs. […]

  2. […] earlier this year. See Future Shock and the Business of Law, The New Lawyer Entrepreneurs, and Learning to Think Like a Lawyer an Entrepreneur. […]

  3. […] Law schools will restructure curriculums to both teach the new rules and to offer classes in legal organization structures and business management that entrepreneurial lawyers are currently getting elsewhere. […]

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