Bloomberg Law
March 6, 2023, 10:00 AM

ANALYSIS: Innovative Law Schools Answer Call for Business Skills

Mario Guzman Oliveros
Mario Guzman Oliveros
Legal Analyst

As many attorneys seek alternative roles in business and legal-adjacent careers, law schools have responded by implementing courses and programs that provide their students with business-related skills that can be used in both a law firm or legal department setting—not to mention anywhere else in the corporate world.

As part of its Law School Innovation Program, Bloomberg Law is highlighting several law schools that are setting the pace when it comes to teaching business skills in a legal education setting.

Bloomberg Law’s 2022 Law School Preparedness Survey data supports the idea that there is a need for attorneys to learn more business skills prior to entering the workforce. Practicing attorney respondents reported that they wish they would have learned about common business-related skills before they started practicing.

These results can be seen as a call for law schools to teach business—and the business of law—while simultaneously teaching the practice of law.

In our inaugural Law School Innovation Program, our team of evaluators identified the top-scoring law school programs answering that call and teaching, in innovative ways, those high-in-demand business skills.

Here is a short walk through their innovations, in alphabetical order:

Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law

The Program for Privacy, Cybersecurity and Compliance at Drexel University Thomas R. Kline School of Law focuses on teaching students skills beyond the practice of law by providing real-world experience. One of the ways in which they achieve this is by bringing in seasoned professionals to work with students on real-life problems. The program also prepares students to pursue alternative careers beyond the more traditional role of attorney. Graduates are trained to be able to fill a variety of roles within any organization that touch upon the main fields of the program.

Paul Flanagan, director of the Program for Privacy, Cybersecurity and Compliance said that the program offers an alternative in education to “broaden the scope to students as they face a job market that now needs a new type of approach”.

Flanagan said the focus of the program is “not just on becoming a lawyer but becoming a legally trained person in fields that need a broader outlook on education that addresses the risks and cultures they will encounter once they graduate.”

Fordham University School of Law

The mission of the Entrepreneurial Law Program and Clinic at Fordham University School of Law is to prepare students for future careers advising startups and other businesses while using their skills for their own ventures. To achieve this, they provide opportunities for students to work directly in New York’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and directly advise clients in a wide range of legal issues.

Additionally, through the Entrepreneurial Law Program and Clinic’s legal podcast for entrepreneurs, LAWnchpad, students have so far produced more than 30 episodes addressing law initiatives for entrepreneurs.

“Today’s business and legal climate requires fluency in emerging technologies and the appurtenant legal issues, which we incorporate into our curriculum, equipping our students to meet client demands of the future” said Bernice Grant, clinical associate professor. “Whether that involves advising a tech startup on novel legal issues, using AI to prepare a podcast episode, or collaborating with Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business, we always try to have our students stay ahead of the curve.”

Harvard Law School

Through the course Startup Entrepreneurship & Innovations in Legal Technology, Harvard Law School is acknowledging the speed with which the legal profession is changing and breaking some long-standing paradigms. Students are encouraged to find opportunities for automation and optimization in the legal profession while looking into how those opportunities can be turned into ventures they can capitalize on.

The course brings in non-traditional speakers who are legal operations leaders but not lawyers, and features lecturers who are Harvard Law School graduates who became successful entrepreneurs without ever practicing law.

“Several industry trends—like the rise of in-house legal departments, the emergence of legal operations, and the evolution of legal technology—mean that there is greater demand for lawyers who are able to better understand the business side of work earlier in their careers,” said lecturer Memme Onwudiwe. “We expose students to an important side of law they don’t often see.”

Northern Illinois University College of Law

The Business Law Innovation Clinic at Northern Illinois University College of Law seeks to develop the free market economy—and law students’ client relationship skills—by offering market entry assistance to individuals who otherwise might not have started a business of their own. The clinic’s approach is focused on structured communication between the client and the student; no one else in the clinic participates in this interaction, although a supervising attorney works with students as they come up with legally correct and sufficient solutions.

Larry Stein, assistant clinical professor of law at the Business Law Innovation Clinic, compared the first time lawyers engage in a task to the anxiety people feel when they travel somewhere new, getting less anxious and inefficient with practice.

“The same is true for legal tasks,” Stein said, adding that students “who enrolled in our clinic will serve their firms and their clients better by eliminating the anxiety and inefficiency” of performing those legal tasks.

Northern Kentucky University Salmon P. Chase College of Law

The W. Bruce Lunsford Academy for Law, Business + Technology at Northern Kentucky University Salmon P. Chase College of Law offers a core curriculum of courses in law, business, and technology. The Academy, through its Center for Law and Entrepreneurship, Small Business & Nonprofit Clinic, and Law + Informatics Institute, aims to provide students with the tools and skills to be competitive—not only as lawyers, but also as entrepreneurs and business innovators. The academy’s underlying premise is that the best law students will want to focus on law, business, and technology as an investment into their future.

Jeanine Lambert, executive director of centers & programming, says the Salmon P. Chase College of Law’s innovation is helping students gain experience outside the classroom.

“Students at Chase take one or two courses in basic accounting, finance and economics so that they can better read financial statements, balance sheets, and have an understanding of the market in which their clients operate on a daily basis,” Lambert said. “In addition, we take students to workshops, conferences, and industry meetings that focus on business, such as a workshop on fintech, an Association for Corporate Counsel meeting, or the Association for Corporate Growth’s awards event, where almost all attendees are business people and not attorneys.”

University of California College of Law, San Francisco

The Startup Legal Garage at University of California College of Law, San Francisco allows participating students to take classroom courses on startup law and IP protections and spend two semesters of fieldwork with an assigned client, all under the supervision of an expert volunteer attorney. Students get an entire year of direct experience before joining a law firm, legal department, or business by providing free legal services for startups on a budget.

Paul Belonick, director of the Startup Legal Garage, says he has seen the positive impact it has on students’ business knowledge and preparedness for the workforce.

“A big part of our students’ job is to help promising startups prepare for investment,” Belonick said. “So, part of the client service we provide is setting up their legal structures, and part is listening to their goals, advising them on their business strategies, and giving them a legal path to bring their plans to fruition. In this way, the students learn business skills and best practices along with legal doctrines.”

In previous articles in this series: Francis Boustany’s Jan. 17 article announced the Law School Innovation Program’s top 10 overall innovations, his Jan. 25 article provided details on each of the overall finalists, Abigail Gampher’s Feb. 6 article highlighted the top-scoring applicants for justice and innovation, Jessica Blaemire’s Feb. 14 article focused on schools that rated high in student development, Francis Boustany’s Feb. 16 article discussed schools being recognized for high ranking programs focused on pedagogy, Stephanie Pacheco’s Feb. 22 article walked us through top scoring schools focused on technological competence.

Bloomberg Law subscribers can find related content in our Law School Innovation Program page.

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