William D. Henderson is a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law; Director, Center on the Global Legal Profession.
[These are my notes from the 2013 Ark Group Conference: Knowledge Management in the Legal Profession. Since I’m publishing them as soon as possible after the end of a session, they may contain the occasional typographical or grammatical error. Please excuse those. To the extent I’ve made any editorial comments, I’ve shown those in brackets.]
- What’s Wrong With Law Schools? In the current approach to legal education, professors have an amazing amount of autonomy to create and deliver their courses. The result too often is law students with uneven educations who may lack the necessary problem-solving and collaboration skills. (There are some obvious parallels to how law firm partners operate.)
- Change Management Basics.Change often doesn’t come about until people believe that they are standing on a burning platform and, therefore, they must take action. Interestingly, Henderson’s poll of the audience indicated that only one firm present believed that their platform was burning. [Only one!!!] As for the rest of the firms represented, they were willing to admit that perhaps their platform had caught fire. Without a sense of urgency, how can there be a drive for change?
- Why do we lack Urgency? (1) There has been too much prosperity for too much time. (2) Law firms noticed that clients were willing to pay for senior talent. So law firms have beefed up their senior ranks and stripped their junior ranks. Henderson calls this leveraging older talent. However, this is not sustainable over the long-term. To begin with, older lawyers are a finite resource. Further, while firms pursue this strategy, they deprive themselves of a deep bench. Worse still, while this strategy is in place, law firms give themselves too much time to make a lot of dumb business decisions.