The demand for good lawyers is nothing new and, each year, law schools churn out graduates equipped with virtually the same skills as decades of law students before them. But one school is trying to change that.
The University of Richmond’s Legal Business Design Hub has students focus on the strategy, design, and operations of legal services in addition to their regular coursework, applying what the program calls “an entrepreneur’s mind” to their studies.
“We’re taught how to apply laws, regulations, policies, to unique fact patterns. That’s the lawyer brain,” says Josh Kubicki, director of the Legal Business Design Hub, which launched two years ago as a program within the law school. “We need that entrepreneurial, creative mind that [also] has business sensibilities.” The Legal Business Design Hub is the winner in the Learning category of Fast Company‘s 2022 Innovation by Design Awards.
Students enroll in courses like Kubicki’s “Building Blocks for Solo & Small Firms,” where they unpack the business model of starting a law firm. With the goal of learning how to best serve clients, students read case studies on firm operations, discuss branding, and explore potential avenues for their own careers. The Legal Design Hub currently offers four courses, including the Legal Business Design Challenge, where students work with an existing law firm to find out-of-the-box solutions to a challenge the firm is facing.
One of Kubicki’s goals is to better prepare students for a career in law that they can actually enjoy. Kubicki himself took a hiatus from practicing law in part because of the professional environment. Studies conducted by the American Bar Association have found that lawyers suffer from alcoholism and depression at higher rates than other similarly educated workforces.
“There’s an opportunity here to re-acclimate this profession to understand that we’re human,” Kubicki said. “We tend to use grinding it out and billing hours like some badge of honor. Meanwhile, we’re destroying ourselves.”
The Legal Design Hub also asks students to reconsider traditional attributes, like being risk-averse, that people often think lawyers should have. According to Kubicki, lawyers are too often seen as people who “kill deals” rather than come up with innovative solutions.
“The more lawyers that have the sensibilities and behaviors of iteration, experimentation, and risk tolerance, which are not traditional qualities of the legal profession–we stand a better chance of not being viewed as [people who just block deals],” he said.
Kubicki hopes that this program will grow beyond the University of Richmond. He’s currently overseeing the development of a one-credit lesson plan that any law professor could adopt in their own classroom.
“One of the biggest obstacles to law schools doing this is they don’t have anyone to teach these skills,” Kubicki said. “It’s going to take a community to really get this to the next level, all of us working in our silos.”
This story is part of Fast Company’s 2022 Innovation by Design Awards. Explore the full list of companies creating products, reimagining spaces, and working to design a better world.