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Educating the law leaders of tomorrow

Bryan Hughes, chief executive of global law firm Eversheds, examines the importance of innovative education to produce the lawyers of the future.

Bryan Hughes examines the importance of innovative education to produce the lawyers of the future. Lightspring

The law has come a long way from being a purely academic area of expertise. Although it is still of vital importance to give sound expert advice on legal matters, lawyers are increasingly expected to be able to offer a more rounded business consultancy, always ensuring their advice is aligned with an organisation's wider business objectives. Add to this the fact that the world of business is constantly evolving, and it’s clear that today’s lawyers need to be more business-savvy and globally focused than ever before.

It was with this thought at its heart that Eversheds chose to enter into a collaboration with the ground-breaking international academic programme, LawWithoutWalls. Run by the University of Miami School of Law, this project aims to develop a future generation of lawyers that are commercial, innovative, digitally-savvy and global thinkers.

Over the years, Eversheds has led the way in changing the face of legal services and providing a service that meets the needs of contemporary globalised businesses. We try to set ourselves apart through our people, culture and attitude to change. Of course, we expect our people to be excellent lawyers, but we also realise that businesses require an offering that is always growing to meet their changing needs, which is why LawWithoutWalls is such a fitting partnership.

Now in its third year, LawWithoutWalls is a part-virtual educational project that brings together top law and business students from major institutions around the world and combines them into virtual teams alongside academic, practitioner and entrepreneur mentors.

A key objective of the programme is for participants to develop the skill sets needed to thrive in the new, global legal marketplace. The project also prepares lawyers for the reality of working in a commercial environment, ensuring that participants develop truly commercial skills, covering subject areas that are not traditionally part of legal education. For instance, participants learn how to collaborate across time zones and borders, which is exactly what we and our clients want in the real world.

The standard of participants was incredibly high, and those behind the winning project are currently in talks to secure investment to turn their idea into a real-life business. LawWithoutWalls truly is unlike anything legal education has seen before, and even Eversheds’ own lawyers and clients that acted as mentors on the programme have come away with their own learnings of how they can work better. The really exciting and energising thing about this programme is that we are helping develop lawyers of the future that will shape the global community of lawyers for decades to come.

Involvement in the programme can also give participants a boost to their legal career, giving them the unique chance to gain expertise from and network with thought leaders in the worlds of business, academia and law. It’s clear that experiences such as this can be a key differentiator for students looking to secure their first role in a law firm. But, even those who have not taken part in projects like LawWithoutWalls can seek to build a wider skill set and demonstrate this to employers. This is what will make them be taken seriously by law firms looking to recruit their leaders of the future.

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24 December 2013

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