“Collaboration Is the Key to Innovation”: LawWithoutWalls

LawWithoutWalls (LWOW) is a collaboratory investigating the “intersection of law, business, technology, and innovation.” Launched in 2011 by Michele DeStefano, associate professor at the University of Miami School of Law, LWOW aims to “pull down barriers between business and law.”

In many ways, LWOW has been a response to comments that DeStefano and her colleagues have been hearing about legal education and the business and practice of law:

“‘When are legal educators going to start training our law school students to be the 21st century lawyers of tomorrow?,’ and then at the same time we keep hearing, ‘When are law firms and lawyers going to start innovating and learning how to be successful business entrepreneurs and lawyers at the same time?‘”

DeStefano has also seen that “Business school students are challenged to be entrepreneurs … [and thinks that] … law students should be, too.” So LWOW also aims to break down barriers between legal educators and legal practitioners. And with “30 law and business schools and over 450 academics, students, technologists, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, business professionals, and lawyers from around the world” participating it looks like they are on the right track.

LWOW participants collaborate in project teams consisting of business and law students along with a handful of mentors that provide advice and expertise in research, entrepreneurship and legal practice. The teams first meet in person at a LWOW “KickOff” and then work virtually in an environment that fosters learning by doing. The final LWOW phase is what’s called the “ConPosium.”

The ConPosium is an interactive event where the “Projects of Worth” (i.e. the “solutions to problems in legal education and practice across a broad spectrum of topics“) are presented and evaluated. LWOW judges “assess the projects based on substance, creativity, viability, and presentation style … [and] audience members voice their opinions through live chat and real-time voting.”

Commenting on a question about her predictions for the future of the legal profession DeStefano says:

What I really hope will be the biggest change [in the future] is more interdependency between legal practice and legal education. The successful law schools of tomorrow will shift what and how they teach and the successful law firms will shift how and what they concentrate on in professional development. But more than that tomorrow’s challenge requires more collaboration and permeability between law practice and educatoin an interdependent relationship with recirical obligations and more interaction with non-lawyers and people of different disciplines and really a mentality of law without walls.”

If you’re interested in getting involved with this initiative there are opportunities as mentors, advisers, subject experts, and startup consultants. You can also support them by crowdfunding a student. Drop them a line at lawwithoutwalls@law.miami.edu.

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