REMEMBER WHEN YOU WERE A 1L IN LAW SCHOOL AND YOU HEARD FOR THE
first time: “We are going to make you think like a lawyer.” When I
was in law school, to attempt to get you into that think-like-a-lawyer
mindset, there was a fair amount of ivory tower law theory in the curriculum. But if you were lucky, you also had some practical, real-life
instruction and outside-the-classroom opportunities, too. And we all
know that nothing is more valuable than practical guidance and boots-on-the-ground experience.
That realization is slowly being heard in educational institutions.
And someone who believes in this method is former Facebook vice
president and general counsel Colin Stretch. If the purpose of law
school is to train eager minds to “think like a lawyer,” then the purpose
of his Columbia Law School seminar is to teach students not to just
think like a lawyer, but specifically to think an in-house lawyer.
So, what does “thinking like an in-house lawyer” mean? As the role
of the general counsel has evolved, the responsibilities of in-house leaders have become more in line with business priorities. Not to mention
that more lawyers are looking to go straight into in-house positions out
of law school instead of the traditional route of starting out in a firm.
To focus on this change in the in-house role and to help create
opportunities for new lawyers to understand the education needs of
corporate counsel, Stretch developed and teaches a seminar on the role
of the general counsel in the modern economy as part of Columbia
Law School’s recently established In-House Counsel Lab.
The program, as featured in our cover story, is designed to help
students better understand the role of today’s general counsel as a corporate strategist and risk manager, and is at the forefront of helping
aspiring in-house counsel understand that you need to have more than
just legal know-how to succeed in the role of corporate counsel.
This type of thinking will not only help students prepare for the
growing responsibilities of in-house counsel, but it may also lead more
institutions to implement practical guidance instruction in preparing
future lawyers for the real (and yes, business) world.
TOPPLING THE IVORY TOWER