Design and Delivery of Legal Services is a Profession & Not a Law Firm Placement

Think Outside The Law Firm Envelope When Looking Into Legal Careers

Research by leading edge legal services educators and law practice consultants such as Heidi K. Gardner, Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession, suggest that “millennials want to be able to make independent decisions and choose their own path[1].” They want to pursue professional opportunities as client capable service providers. They envision a professional career that will have them transition into and out of a number of law and law related careers that complement their life and lifestyle. Law students will need undergo a fundamental reverse engineering and transition from being recruited to becoming recruiters in legal and law related professional services opportunity markets.[2]

This is the message that prospective law students and professionals interested in pursuing law related careers in the private and public sector need to hear. Law is a knowledge management discipline.  A knowledge management information paradigm shift[3] is taking place.  Law is being integrated into a dynamic professional services market. The professional services market is opening the door to an increasing number of legal and law related professional careers. Disruptors in the form of technological applications and a growing breed of savvy professional service providers are providing clients with options that are now challenging the dominance of lawyers as the preferred first choice for legal services. The big fourconsultancies are dominant disruptors in the knowledge management spectrum. Their strategy, as elucidated by Deloitte Touche, is as follows: “From a professional perspective, it’s more interesting helping clients solve the whole problem than just the technical legal aspects.”[4]

Opportunity markets tend to be linked with curated groups[5]. These are professional associations with missions and mandates to promote best practices and professional development among aspiring and established professionals who ascribe to the curated groupsmission and goals. Law societies are the curated group that prospective law students who aspire to practice law are familiar with.

Outside the Envelope Professional Legal Services Career Examples

However, there are a number of law related curated groups in emerging opportunity markets that utilize the generic LL/JD law degrees as the foundation for professional development of specialist skills. The Society of Trusts and Estate Practitioners (STEP) combines trust and estate law with financial management courses to create a curated group of wealth management professionals; a career door opener to the burgeoning wealth management departments in banks. The Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA) combines law courses with ethics and corporate governance courses to create a curated group of in-house counsel and corporate secretaries; a career door opener to careers in corporate legal departments.

 A combined LLM in Medical Law & Ethics enables a student with a baccalaureate psychology or health science degree to combine graduate study in a medical/health science niche with the regulation of health services by governmental agencies and become the in-house expert or patient consultant/ advocate. This is a new age professional services response to a frustrated public demanding dramatic change to health services design and delivery.

 A combined LLM in Human Rights and International Law enables a student with a degree in politics to combine study in human rights with international law and asylum and open a career door to the burgeoning field of NGO and nonprofit law related professional services.

 The Judiciary and Federal Government are emerging as the leaders in setting the bar and establishing parameters for new economy law related professional services providers. The Supreme Court of Canada’s Family Justice Action Group found that well in excess of 50% of divorce claimants were choosing to self- represent rather than engage the services of a lawyers. It made the following recommendation.

The UK “Combined” ( 2+1) LLB/ LLM: A Law Degree and Curated Professional Qualification

The UK  two- year senior status LLB enables law students to attain competency in the critical foundation law courses. The foundation courses introduce the law student to the learning experiences and knowledge management competencies core to law and the design of legal services. Case law illustrations expose the law student to niche areas of law. This is where law students can and should look to discovering and exploring opportunity markets. This is where law students should be thinking of a preferred professional career rather than limiting yourself to the law firm mindset. The third year LLM equips you with the competencies to label yourself as an expert. You’re then well positioned to open professional career doors in the practice of law arena or a law related legal services niche with the value-add professional qualification as an  expert.

The future lawyer with professional aspirations is going to have to acknowledge that the JD/LLB degree is an entry level professional degree that is the foundation for specialization through an LLM.  In many instances it will be a combined LLM that integrates the graduate  study of law with graduate study in a law related discipline.

In short, in serving clients today, it’s not enough simply to know how something is usually done; you have to come up with ways that it could be done far better, faster and cheaper, and ideally in a way that makes the recipient feel special- all of which generally require both specialization and collaboration.[

Making Law the MA Law Way

“Resolving these questions is too important and too complex to be left to lawyers alone, who are often trapped by the perspectives of a closed profession and conventional solutions: new legislation, new rules, new arguments in complex litigation.” This quote is attributable to  pioneering University of Toronto law professor Gillian Hadfield author of the must read for new generation legal services professionals, Rules for a Flat World[. Professor Hadfield is referring to the ongoing setbacks and defeats encountered by lawyers and governmental agencies in attempting to force fit new economy entities such as Uber and Airbnb and emergent Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications into  conventional regulatory niches.

Getting to the “right regulation” will require aspiring professionals to think very differently. Specialist graduate education rather than the stand alone traditional disciplinary professional educational approach that underpins JD/LLB legal education is the key to understanding the full scope and nature of issues emerging in a new information age paradigm.

The  specialization can be acquired through a series of innovative LLM (Masters of Legal Laws) and MA Law (Masters of Arts Law) Degrees. The JD is now “just a degree”, as is the case with all other baccalaureate degrees. (Yes, the Canadian JD and UK LLB are undergraduate professional degrees). Aspiring legal services professionals are coming to terms with the need and opportunity to  obtain and LLM or MA Law that opens the door to a specialized professional legal services niche. In the UK the great majority of LLM/MA Law degree are direct entry graduate degrees. In many instances they’re combined graduate degrees that blend law and a law related discipline into integrated professional knowledge capability.

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[1] Heidi K. Gardner, Smart Collaboration. Boston. Harvard University Press. (2016) at P59.

[2] Reid Hoffman and Ben Cashocha, the start-up of YOU. New York. Crown Business Random House. (2012)  at P.30

[3] Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago. University of Chicago Press. (4th ed. 2012).

[4] David B. Wilkins and Maria Jose Esteban, The Re-Emergence of the Big Four in Law.  Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession The Practice Volume 2, Issue 2. January 2016.

[5] Diane Mulcahy, The Gig Economy. New York. American Management Association (AMA). (2017) at P.74