The University of Pennsylvania Law School has announced a new program focused on what’s next for legal practice in an effort to support legal tech innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as to prepare students for a changing landscape.
The Future of the Profession Initiative has several projects already in the works. It will support career acceleration of Penn Law graduates through its “Five-Year-Out-Academy,” sponsor a Dean’s Innovation Prize competition to support legal service delivery advancements, and establish an entrepreneurs-in-residence program.
“Change in the legal field is accelerating as technology evolves, new entrants join the industry, the practice of law becomes more globalized, regulatory frameworks governing lawyers shift, and attorneys approach their careers differently,” said Penn Law Dean and Bernard G. Segal Professor of Law Ted Ruger in a statement.
Penn Law is joining the ranks of other top law schools with innovation-focused programs, including the Stanford Center for Legal Informatics, known as CodeX; the Duke Center on Law & Tech; and the Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession.
Part of the goal of the Penn initiative is to make legal systems accessible to a broad and diverse client base.
In the announcement of the program, Penn Law noted the ongoing problem of a widespread lack of meaningful access to the U.S. legal system.
Members of the initiative’s board, including Legal Services Corp. President Jim Sandman, have been outspoken on the issue of access to justice, which also has recently been addressed by several state bars seeking to change their law firm ownership rules.
“I think we have a unique opportunity to serve the public good,” Jennifer Leonard, chief innovation officer and executive director of Penn Law’s program, told Bloomberg Law.
Leonard, who is planning to teach a law school class next fall on innovation and legal service delivery, said she’s been getting pointers from the innovation directors at several other Penn graduate schools, ranging from Penn’s nursing program to The Wharton School.
One main goal, she said, is to provide “true, life-long learning” to Penn Law graduates.
In addition to Sandman, the initiative’s board includes Dechert partner Sozi Tulante, Hunton Andrews Kurth chief financial officer Madhav Srinivasan, EY Managing Director Joe Borstein, and Burford Capital Managing Director David Perla, who is a former president of Bloomberg Law.
Perla, a Penn Law grad, said it makes sense for the school to offer such an initiative, given that it’s “about as entrepreneurial as they come.”
He said he’s also excited that the program will be digging into larger societal issues and the broader future of the profession, instead of solely focusing on “how are we going to create the next startup.”