Building a Better Lawyer: Interview with Katie DeBord

Topics: Client Relations, Government, Law Firms, Law Schools, Legal Education, Legal Executive Events, Legal Innovation, Legal Technologists, Videos

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — This the second in a series of blog posts and videos highlighting the recent workshops held by LegalRnD – The Center for Legal Services Innovation at Michigan State University College of Law. The workshops focused on the intersection of legal education and the skills and competencies required in today’s increasingly tech-centric and innovation-driven legal industry. In this and subsequent articles, we’ll highlight some of the interviews with participants at the workshops.

One such interview was with Katie DeBord, the Chief Innovation Officer at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner. Her first comments in this interview reveal her interest in the process of innovation. She notes that, when faced with some kind of problem, lawyers tend to leap ahead to solutions right away, without fully understanding the scope of the problem to be addressed.

The design-centric format of the workshops slows that process down, and forces participants to collectively develop problem-statements more fully, which ultimately leads to better solutions. That type of process, when implemented in law firms or other legal organizations, helps lawyers beat the “tyranny of the urgent” that so often drives reactive responses to problems rather than allowing more thoughtful innovation processes to flourish.

One strategy that Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner has implemented is a joint-internship program with the University of Colorado Law School and its Tech Lawyer Accelerator program. This is a seven-month program where interns work first with a client in order to identify some operational needs, then with the firm’s Client Technology Group, a team of software developers and analysts, to actually create and implement the solution with the client. It helps the students learn real-life business problems, and helps the firm get a good look at students and their capabilities.

DeBord says law school programs like LegalRnD are going a long way to change expectations for how lawyers are being trained to be better equipped to deal with the many ways that innovation is transforming the practice of law.