As I put the finishing touches on my Law 2050 class syllabus for this fall semester, I am struck by two impressions. The first is the tremendous generosity my guest speakers have shown in the past, devoting their time and energy to providing perspective and insight to the students, and this year is no exception. So far the following have agreed to donate their time, roughly in order of appearance:
- Zach Fardon – King & Spalding
- Joan Fife – Winston & Strawn
- Jeff Grantham – Maynard Cooper
- Anna Barry – Jounce Therapeutics
- Michelle Kennedy – Nashville Predators
- Craig Weinstock – National Oilwell Varco
- Larry Bridgesmith – Adjunct Professor and PoLI Coordinator
- Caitlin Moon – Adjunct Professor and PoLI Innovation Design Director
- John Murdock – Bradley Arant
- Nancy Hyer – Vanderbilt Owen School
- Randy Michels & Kevin Hartley, Trust Tree
- Ray LaDrier – Locke Lord
- George Lamb – Baker Botts
- John Lutz – Vanderbilt Vice Chancellor for IT
- Patrick Cavanaugh – Blank Rome
- Kito K. Huggins – Weil, Gotshal & Manges
- Daniel Reed – United Lex
- Diedre Gray – Post Holdings
The second impression is how the framing of the course has changed. When I started the course in 2013, the theme was very much about how much was changing in the legal industry compared to pre-2008. The average 3L student in the 2013 class was 26, meaning they were 21 in 2008 and lived in very real time as young adults through the Great Recession. They experienced the before and after contrast very closely, and, while not doing so as lawyers, easily connected with that theme in the class. The metaphor I used was that pre-2008, the legal industry was like a lake, whereas post-2008 it was more like a river and nobody knew where it was leading. The river was scary.
With each year since then, however, the reset button effect of the Great Recession has become more remote to the students. Yes, they are entering the profession in the midst of change just as were the 2013 students, but they don’t generally use pre-2008 as a reference point for anything, much less for their conception of what the legal industry is about. In short, they don’t care about what the legal industry lake looked like pre-2008—they want to jump into the river! I see the course as more about giving them a raft to navigate it.
The same has been true of my guest speakers, who in 2013 were very much tuned into the shock to the system the Great Recession caused and still reeling from it. They remembered swimming in the calm lake. With each year, the mood has been less “what just happened, take me back to the lake” to more of a focus on change management and seeing opportunities as they raft down the river.
Of course, it’s still the case that nobody knows where the river is leading!