Over the weekend, I had opportunity to speak with a high school student about the path to law school and into the legal profession. We spoke at some length about the importance of her pre-law education, in terms of ensuring her grades were high enough to get into law school but even more in terms of ensuring she has a strong background in relevant skills, e.g. business administration, project management, accounting or engineering. I urged her to be practical in terms of making her under-graduate choices so as to position herself well for a future in a changing profession.
The importance of those early choices was underscored for me when I spent a morning this week with others from the non-profit sector learning about the use of logic models as a tool in the evaluation toolkit. We learned about the difference between outputs and outcomes, inputs and activities. We drew visual representations of the programs we work in. We talked about indicators and participants and stakeholders.
It was an entirely new language for me and I found myself struggling, floundering even, to grasp the import of this concept, never mind the tool itself. I trained as a lawyer, you see, not as a non-profit executive, but my current role as Executive Director of Legal Help Centre of Winnipeg requires me to be a bit of both.
Surrounded in this workshop by many who’ve made their careers in the non-profit sector, I realized how little I know of the world they operate within. I don’t fully understand the culture, certainly not the language and haven’t a history of sector experience or a team of experienced colleagues to learn from.
My current cross-sectoral experiences are bringing home to me the importance of having a wide range of tools in my toolbox. In this role, I need to draw upon skills in persuasive writing, risk management, project management, corporate communications, human resources, organizational finance, corporate board governance, office management, information technology and more.
Many of these skills were noted in the CBA Futures Report as essential both for new lawyer training and for legal professionals in the future. I can’t help but wish these areas had been part of my early training, though I have found learning with others doing similar work has its own rewards.
If the future of legal work does indeed involve greater collaboration and cooperation across professions as predicted by CBA Futures and many others, it seems to me that law schools will need to create more opportunities for students to learn from and engage with other professional faculties. Continuing professional development providers, whether law societies, bar associations or others, would also do well to facilitate such learning opportunities.
Knowing the law and how to apply it, essential skills for lawyers in the past, likely won’t suffice for lawyering in the future. Much more is needed and for some of us, is needed now.