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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Innovation in Legal Education

Innovation in legal education – what a novel concept. The opening of the article is set out below as a teaser, with a hat tip to “legal rebel” Pat Lamb for flagging the article:

Over the last several years, legal practitioners and educators have recognized that their industry’s reluctance to develop or accept innovative ideas is among the reasons for the profession’s current challenging times. But this recognition has yet to cause a stampede of new approaches.

That’s why Gillian Hadfield is sending new law graduates into the working world with the tools to think and respond creatively to problems that plague much of the legal system. Hadfield, the Richard L. and Antoinette Kirtland Professor of Law and Professor of Economics, designed a new course called Legal Innovations to encourage students to pursue transformative solutions to legal problems.

“One of the reasons we don’t have very much innovation in law is because it’s a very closed system,” Hadfield says. “The idea pool is very homogenous. Everybody in the legal system is trained as a lawyer. It’s all lawyers talking to lawyers.”

Hadfield says that students become ingrained with the idea that risk is something to avoid – at all costs – early on in law school.

“Law is careful, and law gets very focused on examining the risk of what you’re trying to do. [Students] spend all their time reading cases about disasters in relationships: contracts that fell apart, products that blew up, rights that were violated. They end up with a message we don’t actually intend, which is, ‘be afraid, be very afraid.'”

After graduation, lawyers practice in a risk-averse manner, further hindering advancement across the legal sector. It’s a cycle Hadfield aims to break.”

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