While the primary mission of Colorado Law remains teaching and developing high quality attorneys, the school also is committed to leading and facilitating a candid discussion about important challenges facing the legal profession. In an effort to engage leaders from different sectors of the legal marketplace, third-year law student and U.S. Marine Corps officer Kevin Brown (’13) teamed up with Dean Phil Weiser to conduct three roundtable discussions during the 2012-2013 academic year. Each roundtable focused on a different challenge facing the legal industry: leadership and culture, hiring and recruiting, and law firm organizational structure.
The goal was to bring together experienced organizational leaders to explore innovative, collaborative solutions to the challenges facing law schools and legal employers.
The first roundtable, which focused on law firm leadership, culture, and organization, was held in October 2012. With 29 participants from a variety of sectors—including the federal government and 19 different firms and businesses—the first roundtable was the largest of the series. The group tackled many important issues facing managing partners, general counsels, and government leaders, including the importance of developing core values and a positive culture within an organization; how best to allocate authority for effective decision making, the need to develop leaders within a law firm; and the strategies for tackling the day-to-day challenges of training, mentorship; and work-life balance.
The second roundtable, held in February 2013, focused on legal hiring best practices and opportunities for future innovations. Sixteen legal industry leaders examined the challenges facing law schools and legal employers, shared best practices, and brainstormed innovative solutions to the employment problems beguiling the legal profession in the New Normal. The group acknowledged from the outset that several factors have combined to permanently alter the legal hiring landscape and that in the New Normal, law schools and legal employers need to collaborate to help new lawyers succeed.
The final roundtable in the series was held in April 2013 and explored the challenges and the opportunities presented by clients who increasingly demand industry specialization from their lawyers. Responding to this demand, many law firms have shifted from a horizontal structure to a vertical, industry/domain-focused structure. The group discussed whether this structure can enable firms to better anticipate client needs and to more effectively deliver legal services, as well as whether it can be effectively maintained. Further, the increasing utilization of a vertical model and the increasing selectivity of legal employers during hiring require law schools to critically examine the implications of these trends for legal education.
Building off of these discussions, Weiser is optimistic that the legal community will continue to engage in ongoing discussions and collaboration with Colorado Law. This past July, for example, Weiser moderated a Law Week Colorado panel discussion focused on a recent state-wide survey of the challenges and opportunities presented by the legal profession. Moreover, in August, Weiser, working with his DU counterpart (Dean Marty Katz), brought together a group of law firm leaders to discuss the new CU/DU Legal Residency program, where law firms are encouraged to hire recent graduates in an apprenticeship-like fashion (along the lines of a medical residency).
Finally, to help Colorado Law better position its students and graduates for success in the New Normal, Law Alumni Board member Hugh Gottschalk (’79) is chairing a career development committee composed of an impressive group of alums and community members. In that effort, Gottschalk will be working closely with Colorado Law’s new Assistant Dean for Outreach, Engagement, and Alumni Relations, Marci Fulton (’04), and its new Director of Strategic Initiatives, Bill Mooz (’85), to identify and develop emerging career opportunities for Colorado Law students and graduates.