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Penn Law announces new ‘Future of the Profession Initiative’ focused on legal education innovation, profession-wide thought leadership

October 08, 2019

The Initiative will “Teach, Lead, and Transform” by examining new ways law schools can adopt a holistic vision for the formation of lawyers.

To advance its mission of educating the next generation of lawyers and catalyzing change throughout the profession, Penn Law is launching the Future of the Profession Initiative. The Initiative will “Teach, Lead, and Transform” by examining new ways law schools can adopt a holistic vision for the formation of lawyers – both during law school and throughout their careers to create true Lifelong Learning for Penn Law lawyers. The Initiative will lead profession-wide conversations about a changing legal landscape and create a destination for future-oriented and creative professionals from an array of disciplines to address disconnects among clients, lawyers, and legal systems.

The Future of the Profession Initiative, working with its Board of Advisors, has developed several upcoming events and projects, including a “Five-Year-Out Academy” to support the career acceleration of Penn Law graduates entering the next stage of their careers, a Dean’s Innovation Prize competition to support exceptional ideas for innovating in legal service delivery, a “Future of the Profession” symposium that will bring together thought leaders from the legal sector and other industries, an entrepreneurs-in-residence program, and the launch of a podcast featuring conversations about change.

“As lawyers, we find ourselves at an important inflection point in the history of our profession,” noted Penn Law Dean and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law Ted Ruger. “Change in the legal field is accelerating as technology evolves, new entrants join the industry, the practice of law becomes more globalized, regulatory frameworks governing lawyers shift, and attorneys approach their careers differently. As a result, law school applicants, students, and graduates are thinking in new ways about how they imagine their careers, underscoring the need for a solution that promotes innovation, thought leadership, and enhanced interdisciplinary education and engagement.”

The development of methods that respond to these changes and enhance the way Penn Law prepares its lawyers will build upon new Penn Law initiatives that include the integration of lawyer well-being into the curriculum and robust professional development programming for students and alumni.  

The Initiative will also investigate how the same dynamic forces that will shape the way Penn Law lawyers practice in the future create opportunities for innovative thinkers from across disciplines to design solutions that make legal systems accessible to a broad and diverse client base, an estimated 90 percent of whom currently lack meaningful access. Penn Law’s Initiative will approach this access to justice crisis by extending its innovative leadership into the profession to work across disciplines and design new solutions, consistent with Penn’s guiding principle of “Advancing Knowledge for Good.”

“Penn Law—because of its future-oriented approach to legal education and its position within a mature innovation ecosystem in the broader Penn community—is uniquely situated to host forward-thinking and creative minds to develop new models and tools that will reduce disconnects to the legal system, and by extension, will grow access across the income spectrum to better serve all clients,” said Jennifer Leonard L’04, Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Director of Penn Law’s Future of the Profession Initiative. “This initiative will be the hub that brings together students from across disciplines, practicing attorneys, and experienced professionals from fields like engineering, business, design, education, and the sciences to think in new and translational ways, all with an aim to serve the public good.”

Members of the Board of Advisors for the Future of the Profession Initiative include Legal Services Corporation President Jim Sandman L’76, Dechert partner and former Philadelphia City Solicitor Sozi Tulante, ProBono Net’s Claudia Johnson L’97, LawVision Principal Susan Raridon Lambreth L’83, EY Managing Director Joe Borstein L’05, Hunton Andrews Kurth CFO Madhav Srinivasan WG ’89, Burford Capital Managing Director David Perla L’94 and award-winning legal innovator Aaron Katzel L’97.

Board member Sozi Tulante expressed enthusiasm about the Initiative’s launch, noting “Now more than ever the profession is undergoing exciting and challenging change on a number of fronts.  These shifts demand active collaboration among law schools, employers, lawyers, clients and other stakeholders in the legal system to think in new ways about how lawyers evolve throughout their careers.  We also need to consider how we can learn and adopt from our peers in other professions better ways to serve the many clients whose needs now go unmet.  This exciting Initiative embodies that partnership and will be the powerful connector that advances all of these interests.”