Jim Walden





Jim Walden

Richard Susskind fears that law schools are not preparing students to be “flexible, team-​based, technologically-​sophisticated, commercially astute, hybrid professionals, who are able to transcend legal and professional boundaries, and speak the language of the boardroom.” He posits that these attributes are the makings of “21st century lawyers.”

Susskind is, of course, right in two fundamental ways. First, some law schools (but by no means all) have insufficient focus on technology and entrepreneurism. Second, given the “overproduction” of lawyers (with a growing glut of new lawyers compared to the number of available jobs), “equipping” law students for the realities of the marketplace, including changes in that marketplace, is a moral imperative. Although the collection of attributes he fancies is both vague (what does it mean, after all, to make students more “flexible”?) and random, he hits the mark squarely by demanding that school commit to curriculum to make students better equipped to serve their clients’ needs with “21st century” skills.

However, his analysis misses a core failing of many law schools, and I would venture a guess that he would agree. It is a minimal requirement of law schools that they equip students—to the extent school learning can—with tools necessary to serve. But law schools should have curriculum that equips lawyers to lead.  We live in a world with greater conflict and a sad retrenchment of the rule of law. We need lawyers equipped with the desire and tools to fill gaps where are business and political leaders have failed us. We have seen lawyers use their legal skills to justify bad behavior, rather than stand at the ready to call it out. Lawyers can be, and have been, a force for good. Law schools should teach this as well.


» Law Firm Leaders React to Susskind’s Take on Legal Education’s Future