Iterating on the Delta Model: Practice, Process, People

We intend the Delta Model for Lawyer Competency to be iterative and agile, meaning we will constantly seek to update and improve as we learn more about lawyer competencies and how best to communicate them through the model.

The latest iteration adopts the labels People, Process, and Practice for the three sides of the Delta. I started using these labels in talking about the Delta and found they both accurately capture the content as well as people’s attention.

Delta Model v.4: descriptors of Practice, Process, People
Image courtesy of Alyson Carrel.
Delta Model v.4: competencies of Practice, Process, People
Image courtesy of Alyson Carrel.

As my fellow working group member Alyson Carrel and I work to improve the Delta Model’s utility, we seek to make it as accessible and useful as possible while also integrating all that we know and are discovering about modern lawyer competencies.

Another step we’re taking is to dig deep into IAAL’s Foundations for Practice initiative and its research into lawyer skills and competencies. By overlaying this research with our own qualitative and quantitative original research, along with the research of others in the legal profession and relevant research on 21st-century skills for knowledge workers generally, we seek to identify the most relevant and desirable skills and build out from here. This enables anyone using the model to start with core competencies and then dig deeper based on individual professional development goals.

We’re currently conducting workshops in law schools and with practicing lawyers, and working with career services in law schools to develop tools and methods for integrating the Delta Model into career planning early on in the process.

As we iterate on these early tool prototypes, we’ll be adding resources to Design Your Delta, where we plan to share with anyone interested in using the Delta Model. Consistent with the original goals of the MacCrate Report’s Statement of Skills and Values for lawyers, we view the Delta Model as highly useful for law students (course and career planning), law schools (curricular planning and development), legal services organizations of all types (hiring, training, and retention), and practicing legal professionals (ongoing learning, professional development, upskilling, and generally thriving).

Most days I feel the seemingly utter futility of this effort — into which Alyson and I are pouring a considerable amount of effort and time — to affect any real change for the better in either how we train new lawyers or how practicing lawyers approach their own professional development.

There is so much room for improvement in both areas and the more time I spend in research and understanding, the more I believe both can benefit immensely from starting with a clearly-articulated understanding of what competencies lawyers actually need in today’s world (and beyond) in order to simultaneously do excellent work and thrive as individual humans.

I’m way over microblog limit so shall return soon to finish up these thoughts. Today, I am optimistic. And impatient.

-CM

as opportunities expand, are law students ready?

And are law schools ready?

I receive queries often from employers who seek legal professionals with training and experience in areas that law schools are not offering (or, not offering in a meaningful and comprehensive way). So students are graduating without this exposure. And often going into law firms that do not offer this exposure.

Queries seeking to fill positions like Legal Process Innovation Architect, for example:

Where does one get exposure to and experience with these competencies? (This is not a rhetorical question.) 

This is happening as I engage in the Delta Lawyer Model of competency working group. We’re seeking to identify core competencies required by a modern legal professional.

The Delta Model identifies the range of competencies that appear in this job description—a range much broader than what is offered by a traditional legal education (which happens to be the only flavor available). While the company that drafted this description has no knowledge of the model, this is not happenstance. The world is moving rapidly in the direction of requiring these competencies. (n.b.: This truth is being affirmed over and over as we test and refine the model across the spectrum of legal employers.)

How rapidly are legal educators moving? 

-CM

Experiential Learning with a Twist

Every year I take my legal technology students for a brief one day trip to NYC to a Legal Tech conference. Initially, when my colleague Oliver Goodenough conceived the idea, the trip was intended to broaden career horizons, offer a taste of modern law practice, and provided hands-on professional learning opportunities in an immersive fast-paced conference environment. 

In 2009-2010 when we made our initial trip with students, legal practice was feeling strong impacts from the 2008 financial crisis and the common perception of career prospects for soon-to-be graduates was grim.  The frenetic pace of the LegalTech show inspired our students and gave them hope about alternatives to traditional J.D. jobs – not to mention allowed them an opportunity to hear talks by judges from the cases they read.  Two students found future employment and one student found an internship from connections made that day.  Three from a group of ten found work in that legal career climate – we were pleased and impressed.

Fast forward to today as I prepare to take my students to what is now called Legal Week in NYC.  When talking to law students about careers, one of the challenges is expanding their preconceived notions of the possible.  For some of the students there is the possibility to blend their past career/learning with their J.D. to provide distinct and interesting future possibilities.  Take one of my students this year.  He’s a former high school math teacher with a fondness for conversations about AI, machine learning and data science.  In one day at this conference he will experience the myriad of ways his skills can be blended into a future legal career.  My prediction?  It will change his career trajectory – now or in five years.

While I enjoy taking students for this day in NYC – delight in watching their shock and awe at all the wild possibilities – I want to bring this expansive experience back to our law school, all law schools.  How do we challenge students’ preconceived notions of career possibilities from the comforts of the legal ivory tower (ivory silo)?  How do we bring experiences like this to all law students? It’s critical to moving the legal profession forward.

~JmE