Thursday, September 30, 2010

Brainstorming and Facilitators

Many people who chair or facilitate group meetings ask the group to collectively "brainstorm" as a way to generate new ideas or proposals as a first step to move toward resolution of the issues at hand. An article from the July 2010 issue of Newsweek, based on data and research, debunks the value of that approach.

As a facilitator who tries to avoid "group think" this article confirms my bias. According to the article:

    Brainstorming in a group became popular in 1953 with the publication of a business book, Applied Imagination. But it’s been proven not to work since 1958, when Yale researchers found that the technique actually reduced a team’s creative output: the same numbers of people generate more and better ideas separately than together. (Emphasis added)

The article has several useful suggestions about how to generate ideas, and I commend it to your attention.

My thanks to a friend and colleague, Maile Beers-Arthur for circulating this article.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The New Lawyer

My last posting was about whether the legal profession is heading for extinction. I believe it is not. But it will change, perhaps dramatically, over the next decade. A book by Julie Macfarlane, The New Lawyer, says it all. I agree with Macfarlane’s premise that the practice of law is moving from the simple lawyer as warrior and zealous advocate to a much more subtle and complex role of counselor, negotiator, mediator and meta-expert.

This review of Macfarlane’s book by Andrew Pirie, a Professor of Law at the University of Victoria and founding director of the university's Institute for Dispute Resolution, Pirie describes Macfarlane’s thesis and a recent British Columbia case regarding native land claims that he suggests illustrate the role of the new lawyer. The book, the review and the case are all Canadian. But they illuminate changes that will occur in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The End of Lawyers?

The current economic woes have hit many sectors including lawyers. Many recent observers have suggested that the declining fortunes of lawyers is structural and that demand for traditional legal services will continue to decline fueled by technological changes and out-sourcing. I don’t particularly agree with that, although I do think the market will change and the nature, type and cost of legal services will change.

Here is a link to an article in the always interesting blog, ADR Prof Blog about an essay by Paul F. Kirgis, a professor at St. John’s University School of Law titled “The Knowledge Guild: The Legal Profession in an Age of Technological Change.” In the essay, Professor Kirgis disagrees with those who are predicting the end of lawyers. Interesting stuff. I tend to agree with Professor Kirgis, but I do think the nature of the practice will change. Clients have come to recognize that mediation and other settlement alternatives often make sense. I will post another blog about where I think that change will lead.