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James Boyd
IU Maurer School of Law

IU Maurer School of Law launches Center on the Global Legal Profession

Aug. 11, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana University Maurer School of Law Dean Lauren Robel has announced the launch of the school's new Center on the Global Legal Profession. Based at IU Bloomington, the center will focus on the unprecedented challenges lawyers are facing around the world and develop research and training materials to assist current and future attorneys in their understanding of international legal systems.

The center is directed by Professor William Henderson, who will work closely with fellow law professors Jayanth Krishnan and Ken Dau-Schmidt, and Ethan Michelson, an IU sociologist and the first social scientist to conduct rigorous empirical research on the Chinese legal profession.

Its launch was announced Saturday in New Delhi, India, where a conference on how globalization is affecting the practice of law and legal education was co-sponsored by the IU Maurer School of Law and the Jindal Global Law School.

Jay Krishnan and Bill Henderson

Ann Schertz

IU Maurer School of Law Professors Jayanth Krishnan, left, and Bill Henderson, right, will play key roles in the new Center on the Global Legal Profession.

Print-Quality Photo

"A core competency of lawyers in the future will be their ability to understand the structure of legal professions across the globe and to access knowledge within those structures," Robel said. "The center's work in this area will in turn feed directly back into our legal professions curriculum, where we are training our students on legal ethics and professional responsibility."

Henderson, a nationally recognized leader on the study of the legal profession, said researchers will examine data compiled by the Law Firms Working Group and other sources to identify distinctive patterns and trends across different legal systems and cultures. By finding common ground, legal advocates from across the world will discover new ways of communicating and collaborating, essentially using legal practices as a new international language.

"This is the first time we will have legal academics step back and look at the global legal industry as a whole and acknowledge patterns that have evolved over the last few decades," Henderson said. "We will take broad data analysis from within the United States and compare it to trends and patterns that span other continents. We are reining in data that has recently become available to help explain those patterns, then essentially cracking the data open to see what we can expect in the future."

In addition to helping bridge the knowledge gaps that exist between disparate legal systems, the center will use its data to ensure IU Maurer law students are prepared to practice law at the highest levels of the profession, whether in the United States or abroad. Through its innovative Legal Professions course -- a requirement for all IU Maurer students -- the law school has expanded its commitment to educating ethically and professionally responsible attorneys of the future. Adding an international component will give students another tool to navigate legal systems abroad.

"Our students can have a huge leg up if they understand how to effectively develop the trust and confidence of clients and other legal professionals," Henderson said. "And they will, because IU will have a seat at the table. Everyone will know that Indiana Law graduates are synonymous with skill, integrity and judgment. They will know our graduates are committed to the core values of our profession."

The center will utilize three existing components at the IU Maurer School of Law to achieve its goals:

  • The Law Firms Working Group. This partnership between the law school and the American Bar Foundation unites top scholars from leading research institutions like Stanford, Georgetown and Northwestern to advance knowledge and understanding of law firms and private practices. The group oversees the largest empirical database on the legal profession and works to answer the questions of why large law firms are experiencing a major restructuring and how best to prepare and react to these changes.
  • The FutureFirm competition. Held in April 2009 on the IU Bloomington campus, FutureFirm 1.0 brought together law partners, associates, academics, students and business executives to create a business model for the successful law firms of the future. Bolstered by $15,000 in prize money from Hildebrandt Inc., the innovative competition required detailed analysis of what changes law firms can anticipate in the next 20 years and how they can succeed. Scott Flanders, former CEO of Freedom Communications, said lessons learned from the event would have enabled the company to save more than $1 million in legal expenses over the previous year. Plans for FutureFirm 2.0 are currently under way.
  • Comparative Legal Professions program. The Comparative Legal Professions program works to define what globalization means for the legal profession. The next generation of lawyers will need critical skills to navigate the complexities of legal systems around the globe. IU Maurer School of Law is among the first law schools to recognize the benefits to students that come from understanding how international cultures approach the practice -- and business -- of law.

Krishnan, a professor of law and the Charles L. Whistler Faculty Fellow, said understanding how the profession operates in other countries is becoming necessary as business and government entities expand their relationships globally. An expert on the Indian legal profession, Krishnan said the nation's legal system has borrowed much from the United States and Britain, but as India takes a greater lead on the international stage, it is important for American lawyers to know how the legal infrastructure works there and in other emerging nations.

"The practice of law is much broader than simply thinking of it in terms of domestic legal work," Krishnan said. "IU is being very bold and innovative here, and I'm excited that we are going to be looking closely at how the profession works in places like India and China."

Professor C. Raj Kumar, a former Rhodes Scholar and current vice chancellor of the O.P. Jindal Global University and dean of the Jindal Global Law School in New Delhi, India, said he is excited to collaborate with the IU Maurer School of Law's Center on the Global Legal Profession.

"I see the Jindal Global Law School and the Maurer School of Law as having so many wonderful connections and mutual interests, from our belief in the need to educate students about how globalization is affecting the legal profession, to promoting scholarship that is relevant to the bench, bar, and society at large, to making legal education and the legal profession accessible to a wider segment of the population," Kumar said. "We are thrilled about this burgeoning relationship because we are fully cognizant of the first-rate, world class faculty at the Maurer School of Law. We believe that Jindal as well has brought together highly talented teachers and scholars, and we hope to engage closely with -- and learn from -- the great group at Indiana Law. We see this collaboration as an institutional opportunity with limitless potential."

The IU Maurer School of Law ranks seventh among public law schools and 23rd among all law schools nationwide, according to U.S. News & World Report. With recent investments by alumni and private foundations, the school has attracted some of the top legal minds in the country, securing its place as a leader in legal education and the study of the global legal profession.