Everything was different in 2020, and Legal Lab, HBR Consulting’s sixth annual gathering of leaders from some of the nation’s top law departments and law firms, was no exception. Instead of the usual two-day, in-person event we have hosted in the past, last year HBR reinvented Legal Lab as a series of five virtual sessions that unfolded across multiple weeks.
Fortunately, by embracing flexibility—one of the central themes of Legal Lab 2020—we were able to pull together a range of fun new events and different formats, including breakout discussions, workshops, and a virtual beer tasting. This version of Legal Lab, like its predecessors, generated an inspiring sense of unity as we explored how legal leaders can benefit from flexibility, deep insight into their clients’ holistic needs, and wide-ranging collaboration.
Talent: Eliminating Bias and Developing Future Lawyers
Before we considered the evolving skills that the lawyer of the future would need, the participants of Legal Lab 2020 took an unflinching look at their own behavior and the existence of implicit bias within the practice of law. While law firms and law departments like to think of themselves as meritocracies where ability and talent are the only important factors, research shows that meritocracies are actually more likely to harbor implicit bias. We discussed the challenges of creating an inclusive culture and the need for holistic solutions for changing the status quo in ways that could increase the diversity of our profession.
The conversation continued with another timely topic as we turned to the ways that law firms and law departments can train their junior attorneys in our current remote work environment. Not only are there no more “water cooler” discussions for young attorneys to learn from, but there are also fewer opportunities for colleagues to get to know one another organically. This challenge underscored the importance of thoughtfully assigning projects to associates based on their existing skills and any gaps in their training.
In keeping with one of the primary themes of Legal Lab 2020, we also discussed how law firms and law departments can collaborate with each other and with law schools to more intentionally train and develop well-rounded lawyers who have the skills—including agility and adaptability—to thrive in today’s legal profession. The pandemic has emphasized the need for attorneys at all levels to be agile and adaptable, so as to quickly and efficiently respond to ever-changing client needs.
Of course, this represents just a snippet of the full range of conversations we enjoyed during Legal Lab 2020. To learn more, get your copy of the Executive Summary here.