Solving Legal Problems: The Power of Teams and Networks

Solving Legal Problems: The Power of Teams and Networks

Professor Scott Westfahl
Spring 2014 reading group
T 5:00pm - 6:30pm in WCC Room 4062
1 classroom credit

This Reading Group will study the ways lawyers do, could and should work in teams to solve problems more effectively, as well as the ways that successful lawyers and leaders leverage the power of teams and networks to solve legal problems.

Historically, the study of law has mostly been an individual pursuit, though conducted in a group setting. By contrast, business schools have long used team-based exercises, learning and evaluations to prepare their students to be more effective in the context in which they will most likely work following graduation. Lawyers entering practice are increasingly being called upon to collaborate, work in teams and rely upon broad internal and external networks, and yet they are often unprepared for that challenge. Several factors are making it increasingly important for lawyers to become highly proficient at leveraging the powers of teams and networks:

  • As the world becomes more complex and interdependent, lawyers possess uniquely powerful analytical and problem solving skills to help address critical global issues, provided they learn to collaborate and work in teams effectively;
  • Social media and collaborative technologies are dramatically improving the ability, speed and efficiency with which teams communicate in problem solving;
  • New research has definitively proven that diverse teams solve problems more effectively than individuals or homogenous teams of experts; and
  • New theories and models of collaboration among people and enterprises are sparking the innovation revolution that is advancing change at a rate rarely if ever before seen.
  • We will cover the fundamental aspects of how effective teams operate and how lawyers might learn from and apply team theory to solve legal problems. We will also examine the importance of networks to the art of problem solving, and what lawyers can learn from related research about networks. Finally, we will examine current models for team-based legal education.

    Throughout the semester, we will be joined by special guests who will share their knowledge and expertise in this area and help us to address these questions.

    This class will meet on the following dates: February 4, 11, 18, 25, March 4, April 1, 8, and 15.