Legal Influencer Series: A Conversation with William Henderson
Episode 19 | October 4, 2023
Episode 19 | October 4, 2023
The Legal Influencers series continues as Tim Haley sits down for a conversation with William Henderson, professor and Stephen F. Burns Chair on the Legal Profession at Indiana University Maurer School of Law.
William is the founder and principal editor of Legal Evolution, an online publication that blends theory, data, and detailed examples of successful legal industry innovation. This publication is a dynamic hub of research spanning a range of topics, including the business of law, leadership in the law, and the economics shaping the legal profession.
William sheds light on several fascinating aspects of his work, including:
We dedicate this episode to the memory of Sergio Agustín Castillo Hernández, our talented producer who passed away unexpectedly over the summer. Sergio’s invaluable contributions to our podcast remain etched in Leveraging Latitude’s journey, and his enduring enthusiasm and consummate professionalism continue to inspire us.
William Henderson 00:00
What I’m looking to do is little pockets where I can make a difference, and then you build on success that eventually attracts supporters and advocates. So I’m very interested in solving the access to justice problem.
Candice Reed 00:14
This is Leveraging Latitude: Cultivating a Full Life in the Law, and we are your hosts, Candice Reed.
Tim Haley 00:21
And Tim Haley.
Candice Reed 00:22
Please join us on our journey as we discover how to leverage the hard work of becoming a lawyer to achieving success and leading a rich and fulfilling life in the law.
Tim Haley 00:36
Hey, Candice. What’s going on?
Candice Reed 00:37
Hi Tim, and welcome back to Leveraging Latitude. How are you doing?
Tim Haley 00:43
I’m doing all right. It’s been a good couple of weeks, so I’m feeling refreshed and ready to go get it.
Candice Reed 00:52
Awesome. Well, I know we’re talking to another one of our legal influencers today. Can you tell us who we’re going to be in conversation with?
Tim Haley 01:03
I’m really excited today. We’re talking to a friend of mine, Professor Bill Henderson. Bill is, or Professor Henderson depending on perspectives here, he is a professor. He’s the Stephen F. Burns Professor of Law at the IU Maurer School of Law in Bloomington, Indiana. I went there back when it wasn’t Maurer, so I may have butchered the title there, but forgive me.
Candice Reed 01:24
Yeah. For those of you who are not in Indianapolis, that’s Indiana University, right?
Tim Haley 01:29
Right, in Bloomington, Indiana. We’ve got two Indiana University law schools, one in Indy, one in Bloomington. Bill and I met there years and years and years ago, now decades ago, and we’ve stayed connected and I’ve gotten to get to know him a lot better over the years. Bill is a legal all-star. He got into being a professor relatively young in his career, but he’s been doing it ever since. And he’s been really asking the pointed questions about the legal profession in an academic way that has challenged the profession to be better, at least in my opinion. And that’s his goal, anyway.
Candice Reed 02:03
Yeah. It’s interesting that we’re talking to a professor, because I think for many of us, when we think about our own experiences and our own law school professors, we’re thinking about those teachers who taught us about cases that happened in some cases a hundred years ago, right?
Tim Haley 02:24
Candice Reed 02:25
And so, here we are talking about legal influencers who are on the cutting edge of what’s new in the legal industry, and we are bringing you a conversation with a legal professor. So how is it that he is influencing the legal profession from where he sits at the law school?
Tim Haley 02:46
Yeah. So, Professor Henderson has done a lot of research into lawyers, the business of law, different models on how lawyers make a living, how they do in wellness, how they do in growing their careers. He’s doing a lot of deep dive into the analytics, the numbers behind it, to see what makes sense and what doesn’t.
Tim Haley 03:07
As I learned from him in this conversation, there’s a lot of ancillary things that pop up that you learn as you go. And for example, when he’s teaching his courses on the business of law, one of the things he’s told me is that he’s realized that the students are taking that class as more of a survey of what the legal marketplace provides for them, the soon-to-be graduate. So, it’s a fun give and take that he gets to go through just in his day-to-day work. And he’s really busy. He’s got all sorts of… He’s got an online publication that he publishes every Sunday, most Sundays anyway.
Candice Reed 03:43
Yeah. The Legal Evolution, right?
Tim Haley 03:46
Yeah, Legal Evolution, which is a great read for anybody out there looking for something to do over the weekend.
Candice Reed 03:51
And he’s been called a Legal Rebel, right? Not just by us, but by people who know.
Tim Haley 03:57
By the ABA, that’s the American Bar Association, Candice. I don’t know if you’re familiar with them. But no, he was one of the inaugural Legal Rebels, which we get to talk to him about that, too. That was fun.
Candice Reed 04:09
Well, let’s jump right in and hear your conversation with Professor Bill Henderson, who is influencing the legal profession from his seat at IU.
Tim Haley 04:20
Here we go.
Tim Haley 04:21
Hi, and welcome back to Leveraging Latitude. I have the next in line of our long list of legal influencers or legal celebrities. Here’s the Stephen F. Professor of Law at Maurer University, Bloomington, Indiana, Professor William Henderson. How are you doing?
William Henderson 04:42
I’m doing wonderful. Thanks for having me, Tim.
Tim Haley 04:45
This is exciting for me. I got to speak at one of your classes last Fall, and I was discussing Latitude generally, but your class is bigger than that. It was on the Law Firm as a Business Organization. How did you get inspired to start that class?
William Henderson 05:01
Oh, that’s a great question, Tim. I started at Maurer Law in 2003 and was hired to teach business-related classes, so I was teaching corporations and securities regulation and business planning. And one of our faculty members who was an expert in securities regulation decided to stick around for another couple years, and so the classes I would’ve taught he was going to teach. And the associate dean said, “Well, what do you want to teach since our colleague is going to cover what you were going to teach, at least for the next couple of years?” And I said, “I’d love to teach a class on law firms as businesses,” because when I was a student at University of Chicago, I was an older student and I was in awe of how smart my classmates were. But it left a big impression that they were very under-informed and naive when it came to searching out their career paths.
William Henderson 05:56
I was 35. I had a view of how the world operated, and it seemed like they were drawn a career paths that just would impress other people and that they hadn’t done much due diligence on their own values or their impact on the world or what other opportunities would be. They just took what was prestigious, and high-paying, and easy. And I thought, “This is just a bad information market, because if they had had better information, they may have made different decisions.” So that was the thesis behind Law Firm as a Business Organization.
Tim Haley 06:31
And this is your first full year as a professor, maybe third? This was early in your career.
William Henderson 06:37
I taught in my second. My first year I taught the business classes, and then they let me add a fourth course in, which was the Law Firm as a Business Organization. It was my fourth course, and I taught it in 2004, and then I taught it again in 2006. And the dean visited my class, Lauren Robel, went on to become provost, just a wonderful leader. And she said, “This is really interesting, because I could see how this really benefits so many of our students because so many of our first-generation lawyers. They really don’t know how the market operates. And having this information allows them to make better decisions, and it could be really beneficial to our law school.”
William Henderson 07:16
And so, without going into the whole detail of it, we took part of that DNA of Law Firms as a Business Organization, and we baked it into a first-year course called The Legal Profession. So, we moved professional responsibility into the first year, and we added a kind of career development and career information as a component. That lasted about, oh, 10 years before we finally got it into its current form, which it’s a high quality working form that lost some of that original DNA, but still, it’s there, especially in the section that I teach. And there’s actually a first-year, one-credit course that all students take that introduces them to different career paths, and that’s the part of the original course that I taught.
William Henderson 08:02
So, there was really no need to teach that after 2006. I was busy teaching this other course that was attempting to cover the same subject matter. And so, that went along. And then, after the pandemic came about, I was teaching this class for several years, very successful, called Deliberative Leadership, and it brought in a lot of alums. If I hadn’t invited you to my Law Firms class, you would’ve gotten an invite to my Leadership.
Tim Haley 08:25
Oh, there you go. Yeah, that’s great.
William Henderson 08:27
But during the pandemic, I wasn’t able to invite people in and run the kind of very close quarters, interpersonal thing here because that was crimped. And so, I thought it was going to be time to revisit the Leadership course. And so, I went to my associate dean, and I said, “Look, I’d like to bring back this Law Firms class; a) it gives me a break on the Deliberative Leadership so I can rethink that course, and b), so much has changed that I feel like I can teach a different course.” And so, the course was already approved, so she said, “Fine.” And that was the course that you came to last Fall.
Tim Haley 09:02
That’s fantastic. I really enjoyed my time there. If I remember right, those were all 3Ls.
William Henderson 09:09
They were all 2Ls and 3Ls.
Tim Haley 09:09
William Henderson 09:10
Actually, it was roughly 50/50, but I’m glad they came across as mature and savvy.
Tim Haley 09:16
Well, I do think it helps a little bit as a first-generation lawyer myself. I didn’t know what I was doing probably until I was five years out of law school. But it does help to have some real-world experience getting into those types of issues, because it’s one of those things you can teach, you can lecture on.
William Henderson 09:33
Tim Haley 09:34
But you can’t understand it fully unless you experience it. At least that’s my view.
William Henderson 09:39
Tim, your session was incredibly well-received by the students. And the reason why the class worked and the reason why your section worked is we just told Tim Haley’s story, and you were very open and honest regarding what you were trying to accomplish, what you liked about practice, what you found frustrating, what you were good at. And you had talked about your volunteer experience in kind of the arts realm and how that was sometimes the favorite part of your day, and you asked yourself… And what really resonated with students, I had a lot of feedback on this, and it was really interesting, because it was like, “We really identify with Tim because he copped to being incredibly risk averse, but he also realized that his analysis of the legal profession made very clear, especially your environmental practice, practice of law was destined to change.” And so, it pitted your risk aversion against your analytical conclusions, and actually the analytical conclusions won, and you went and joined Latitude. I can’t tell you how valuable that career story was to me.
Tim Haley 10:40
Well, okay, so that’s like one win in, I don’t know, 1,021 losses over the years; over the years, but that’s okay.
William Henderson 10:49
But that is really such a great story, because you were vulnerable enough to express your risk aversion and some of what you liked about practice and what you found frustrating. But also, the fact that you were so analytical, it was a great display of lawyers engaged in critical thinking. And you were analogizing to your experience in environmental practice.
Tim Haley 11:11
William Henderson 11:12
And this is why that whole class, which was case study-driven, is going to be a book. So, folks, if you’re interested in this thing here, there’ll be a chapter in my book on Tim Haley and Latitude, and it will tell this story. All the classes were tape recorded and they’ve been transcribed.
Tim Haley 11:27
Bill, I think this is the first time we’ve ever broken news on Leveraging Latitude, so I appreciate that. Breaking news, guys, a book is coming.
William Henderson 11:38
A book is coming and a chapter on Tim Haley and Latitude, but it’s your personal story that drives it. And that class was successful because it was all case study-driven.
Tim Haley 11:45
William Henderson 11:46
The students really liked it.
Tim Haley 11:47
Yeah. I had a great time there. Well, let’s go back. So, you’re a law professor, that means you’re a lawyer.
William Henderson 11:52
Tim Haley 11:53
How did you get into the law?
William Henderson 11:55
So, I’m 60 years old, and when I was 20, my third year of undergrad at Case Western Reserve, I went to the London School of Economics for my junior year abroad. And it was right during the height of the Reagan revolution, kind of yuppiedom. And I was really irritated by the kind of using your education to credential yourself so you could go make a lot of money. I thought that I didn’t want to be a sellout, and so I was reading too much on my own, too much Kierkegaard and Eric Hoffer.
William Henderson 12:28
And so, I quit after my junior year, and I went back to Cleveland where I’m from. And I ran a little landscaping business, which I had used to finance my undergraduate degree, and eventually got a job as a firefighter paramedic. You don’t need a college degree to do that. And I became the union rep.
Tim Haley 12:46
Oh, wow. Yeah.
William Henderson 12:47
And so, I did that for nine years as a firefighter paramedic in the suburbs of Cleveland, and I got to negotiate a lot of contracts and handle grievances, what have you. And your counterpart in those things is a management lawyer, and it was those bastard management lawyers that inspired me to go to law school.
Tim Haley 13:08
Maybe the dark side wins, I guess?
William Henderson 13:09
Well, yeah. I had to go back and finish my undergraduate degree, and I had a great professor that became a mentor of mine, Andy Morris, and he was a JD-PhD and he said, “You’re a really good student. You should go to law school.” I said, “I don’t want to go to law school.” He said, “Well, you can go to a really good law school.” And I said, “Why would I do that, Andy?” Because being a firefighter, you’ve got one day on, two days off, you’ve got all this free time and you’ve got a union wage. And I said, “Why would I do this?” He’s like, “Do you have any idea with the schedule is of a law professor? You teach a few hours a week, you have the summers off.” And I go, “Well, that is a better deal.”
William Henderson 13:50
But realistically, the thing that pushed me into it was the fact that I would pull all-nighters doing my union work. That’s how much I was invested in it, and I realized that I was taking up a spot. I was an average firefighter. I was very good – I was an excellent union rep. I knew I’d be an excellent lawyer because I cared enough about the underlying issues. And so, it was time to free up a seat at the fire department for somebody who was a great firefighter paramedic, and I needed to leave and try my hand and better fit my skillset and my interests.
Tim Haley 14:19
So, you were… That’s a very analytical of you too, by the way, at a pretty young age, evaluating everything the way that you just said you did.
William Henderson 14:27
I was 35 when I went to law school.
Tim Haley 14:29
William Henderson 14:29
I was married, had a kid. My spouse, thank goodness, was supportive of this or tolerant of it.
Tim Haley 14:37
But the goal from the very beginning it sounds like, was academia.
William Henderson 14:42
Going to a national law school, I went to University of Chicago, at least kept that option open because I really wanted to study problems. I knew I was a good writer, and if it didn’t work out here, I would just be trading for a work that would pay for the opportunity cost of going to law school. So it was kind of a risk hedging strategy. If I’d gone to Cleveland-Marshall Night Law School, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go into academia. And the hard reality is that nobody cares how smart you are here. You have to have the credentials to get an academic job or it’s almost a barrier to entry. So that was the calculus. And Andy was a great mentor and it made me think, “I want his job,” because it looked like it was a lot of fun.
Tim Haley 15:27
Yeah. Well, you’ve been having fun too, from what I can tell.
William Henderson 15:30
Yeah. It’s been challenging, and it has done the thing where you feel your work is so interesting or intrinsically important, you’re at risk of not having any work-life balance because you want to solve the problem.
Tim Haley 15:44
Right. So, we’re talking to you as part of our Legal Influencer series, and Candice and I have debated on past episodes what that means. We don’t have an actual consensus yet. I think we’re working towards one. But part of being a legal influencer, at least as we’ve identified, is that you have to be everywhere. So, I know you’re involved in a ton of other organizations. You’re certainly visible, whether or not you’re active or not, in a whole host of legal organizations from LVN – Legal Value Network – which is one I’m very familiar with to AdvanceLaw.
William Henderson 16:18
Oh, AdvanceLaw, yeah. I was on the advisory board of AdvanceLaw, all these things basically just to get a window on what’s going on here. I’m very intellectually curious, and the kind of work that I’ve done here, you get most of the information through relationships and going out into the field and talking to people. And so, I actually got that approach, it’s sometimes called soak and poke by the political scientists.
Tim Haley 16:42
William Henderson 16:43
My colleague, Jay Christian said, “Yeah, that’s soak and poke. You just go out and talk to people and listen,” and so it was kind of field research. That was kind of motivated after I got tenure. I was just like, “I’m looking at these data sets. How do I know if it’s right? I need to go out and find people who tell me if it’s right or wrong. I need to go out and talk to the real people in the real world in the market.” And so, I’ve been doing that for 15 years now.
Tim Haley 17:06
Yeah. So that’s been a research tool for you.
William Henderson 17:10
Yeah, just going out and talking to people, having a meal with them.
Tim Haley 17:14
William Henderson 17:15
Going and visiting their businesses.
Tim Haley 17:17
So it works as an outreach tool, too.
William Henderson 17:20
And frankly, I get to invite people to my classes. I’ve learned a lot by inviting people to my classes, and the students benefit from it.
Tim Haley 17:28
That’s great. We’re going to go back a bit, the ABA Journal sometime in the mid-Twenty-teens put you on the inaugural list of Legal Rebels. What was the story behind that?
William Henderson 17:42
Well, first of all, I didn’t even know that any of this stuff existed. So, when I became an ABA Legal Rebel, I said, “Oh, I guess that sounds good.” And I just kind of shrugged my shoulders and I said, “All right.” That came about because at the time, the ABA Journal had a really innovative editorial staff that really saw that there was a lot of interesting stories to be told about stressors in the legal profession and changes in the legal profession. And they had some really capable journalists at the time, and I give credit to the great editors that were bringing this about.
William Henderson 18:16
Anyway, one day, Rachel Zahorsky reached out to me. She was a reporter for the ABA Journal and found out I was a Legal Rebel. I think that that all came about because I was blogging on the Empirical Legal Studies and the Legal Profession blog. It was something that came natural to me, and I started doing it before I got tenure. And then, I got tenure, and then I kept on doing it. But I don’t think any of that would’ve been possible unless I was talking in a very kind of colloquial, direct way to people in practice. And so, I think that although my research really helped build my reputation, it was aided and abetted by me talking about that research in a very kind of direct colloquial way through blogging.
William Henderson 18:56
I think when I prepared my tenure file, I had a list of my blog posts, and there was 215 of them are roughly thereabout. And my tenure advisor says, “Bill, you don’t need this. It’s not going to help you.” I said, “I know it doesn’t count, but it ought to, and so I want to include it in my file here.”
Tim Haley 19:13
William Henderson 19:14
“So that we can begin to kind of slowly nudge the norms of the academy,” because it was through blogging that I developed all these relationships that allowed me to go and do soak and poke. And I knew it had intrinsic value, and plus that, it was a great way to kind of crystallize my thinking. And so, I just thought that the legal academy needed to diversify what counted as kind of applied researcher scholarship. And so, I knew I could get away with it, so I stuck it in my tenure file.
Tim Haley 19:41
Now see, writing about research —
William Henderson 19:43
I guess that’s pretty rebellious, isn’t it?
Tim Haley 19:44
I know. I was going to say, writing about research in a way that people can understand doesn’t sound very rebellious to me. But telling the board that your blog should count because they should, and then doing it anyway, that seems pretty rebellious to me.
William Henderson 19:58
Yeah. Well, and a lot of academics say it’s too risky to blog before you get tenure. It’s like, I’m hired to solve problems. I think it was advantageous to be older. I one time said to a colleague, I said, “I’m more concerned about heart disease than I am getting or not getting tenure. I’m 45 years old here. I’ve got risk factors. I got to make this count.”
Tim Haley 20:25
Yeah. That’s great. You talked about blogging specifically, and I know you still have a blog, right? The Legal Evolution?
William Henderson 20:33
Sure. The Legal Evolution. I call it an online publication. It’s got an ISS and an international… It’s a serial number that’s recognized by the Library of Congress, so it’s a publication. I don’t think it’s constructively or useful to call it a blog because it has a publication schedule, what have you, but legalevolution.org.
Tim Haley 20:54
Legal Evolution, it’s a great read for any listeners out there. There are footnotes. So, it’s more than a blog, often footnotes anyway.
William Henderson 21:01
Well, it tries to follow academic conventions, like you source your statements, your assertions of fact and your sources, and you provide hyperlinks. And so, it’s better than reading a paper journal because you can go, and you can kind of click on the source.
Tim Haley 21:18
Yeah. That’s a great feature. What’s been interesting to me is the community that’s developed because of that, and also something earlier you said about developing relationships through blogging. How has the technology enabled you or enabled any lawyer to create better or more meaningful relationships? Or is it a net negative? There’s a lot of, I think, current debate on that.
William Henderson 21:40
No. No, no. Well, this whole thing regarding using blogging or online writing to develop relationships, it really is attributable to Kevin O’Keefe, who’s the CEO of LexBlog. LexBlog is an online publishing platform that serves overwhelmingly the legal industry. I think there’s probably 1,500 online publications that are published through LexBlog. And its founder, Kevin O’Keefe, is a former plaintiff’s lawyer from Wisconsin who realized fairly early on in the advent of the internet that there was an opportunity to help people through this online medium. And eventually through a couple of starts, he built a company that he sold to Lexis, but eventually started LexBlog.
William Henderson 22:21
And Kevin and I met through my blogging activities. I had an Empirical Legal Studies blog and Legal Professions blog. I eventually created something called the Legal Whiteboard, which was my own blog that was really about ideas.
Tim Haley 22:34
William Henderson 22:35
It wasn’t about empirical legal studies, it was really about ideas in the legal profession, including legal education. It was through Paul Caron’s network. Paul Caron is a law professor. He is now the Dean of Pepperdine. But it aggregated a bunch of blogs together that were academically oriented. And I wanted to start a new publication called Legal Evolution that was a true publication, it wasn’t a blog, because I didn’t want any commercials or any banner ads.
Tim Haley 23:03
William Henderson 23:03
I wanted to control the user experience. I knew that an online publishing allowed me to do very graphics-heavy, it would be very cheap. And I had a conversation with Kevin O’Keeffe, he came to Indiana to come to one of my classes, and we had dinner one night. And he was telling me about the traffic for the ABA Journal and Above the Law and the ALM publications, and how the eyeballs were switching toward these what were technically blogs.
Tim Haley 23:34
William Henderson 23:35
And he said, and I realized that the cost of entry into publishing had become trivial, and that I could create an online publication that was applied research where I could have a dialogue with people in practice, like the people you talked about, like the Legal Value Network or the CLOC folks or bar regulators, where you could write it. It would be shorter than a law review, but it would be longer than a journalistic post. And you could follow good, high quality sourcing practices so that it was rigorous.
William Henderson 24:07
And so, I launched that in 2017, and I edited every piece that — we published, 350 pieces. I’ve edited every piece, and I’ve recruited a lot of really great writers to it. But I guess anybody who’s ever published on Legal Evolution would say, “Henderson edits every single piece. He adds in sources when it’s missing.” I’ve tried to fill a unique niche of doing applied research. We’re trying to solve problems, shorter than a law review, but more accessible. You could find it via Google easily. And so, it’s got an audience that goes far beyond academia.
Tim Haley 24:44
So, we’re solving problems. We’re solving problems in the legal space, not necessarily legal issues, but the business issues.
William Henderson 24:51
Tim Haley 24:51
Where are the problems today? What are you seeing?
William Henderson 24:53
Well, overwhelmingly the legal problem is plagued by something that the economists called cost disease.
Tim Haley 24:59
William Henderson 24:59
What cost disease is, is that for things like medicine or higher education or law or government, these are very kind of human-intensive, education-intensive endeavors. And they’re not very amenable toward tremendously forward and productivity. And so, when cost of computing or apparel or food goes down here, everybody in society benefits because they become cheaper. But at the same time, law and medicine and higher ed and government, they want their workers to make comparable salaries, keeping pace with inflation. And so, they lay a larger claim on an income. And this creates blowback. Medicine gets too expensive, tuition for college gets too expensive, legal services get too expensive, financing government gets too expensive. And so, you need to embrace new ways of bringing productivity to knowledge-intensive endeavors.
William Henderson 25:55
And so, in the legal context, this means in the segment of the market that serves corporate clientele, you’ve got these… We’re in Indiana, so we have Eli Lilly or Cummins or another big company — Rolls-Royce — does a lot of business in Indiana. But globally, they’ve got all these compliance challenges and they’ve got litigation challenges, and they need to bring data process and technology just to basically stay within the bounds of the law on budget. That’s leading to things like the Legal Value Network or CLOC.
William Henderson 26:28
But in the people law sphere, we’ve got enormous gluts of self-represented litigants. In some areas like debt collection or family law, you have 80% or 90% of the representatives being self-represented. This is just a huge access to justice problem, and it needs to be redesigned. The process and the types of services and products need to be redesigned. And so, there are two different problems, serving corporate clientele versus access to justice people law. They draw on the same disciplines, but ultimately, they’re two very different segments of the market. The corporate law thing is taking off because of things like CLOC and the Legal Value Network, but the people law thing requires its own kind of specialized solution.
Tim Haley 27:11
So, when we’re thinking about solutions, before we get there, a completely unfair question, whose responsibility is it to come up with these solutions?
William Henderson 27:21
I think it’s the bar, actually. I am glad you asked that question, Tim, because I’ve been teaching Professional Responsibility for almost 15 years at Indiana. And part of it is when students read the ABA preamble and they talk about our role as lawyers connected to a representative, constitutional democracy and the rule of law, it makes it our responsibility that the administration of justice is operating efficiently and fairly, because it’s connected to the viability of our system of government.
William Henderson 27:53
The problem is that we also have to make a living, and it’s hard to make a living as a lawyer in 2023. The economics are pretty daunting. The Supreme Courts technically have the ability to regulate all this, but they’re deciding the most difficult cases in the state, and they don’t have the multidisciplinary perspective necessary to understand the nature of the problem that needs to be solved. And so, it’s all of our responsibilities.
William Henderson 28:18
But I’d like to think that academia can play a role, because we have the time and the incentive structure to allow us to look at these kinds of wide-angle problems. And so, probably six or seven years ago, I realized that there were really deep system level problems in the provisioning of legal services. There were different going to corporate clients, going to people clients. But part of the solution is like Latitude is a good example of how the corporate law sector is evolving to solve cost and quality and demand problems. But it’s a different problem to solve self-represented litigants in a divorce thing, because that’s not Latitude’s wheelhouse.
Tim Haley 29:01
William Henderson 29:01
Actually, it’s far afield from what corporate practice is all about.
Tim Haley 29:05
So where do you see us going in the next handful of years?
William Henderson 29:09
Well, I know where I’m going. To some extent, I think that the ability to get the entire bar to move in concert, I don’t think that that’s constructive or kind of a workable approach. And so, what you look for doing, what I’m looking to do, is little pockets where I can make a difference, and then you build on success that eventually attracts supporters and advocates. So, I’m very interested in solving the access to justice problem. And part of that is developing new business models like a nonprofit slide and scale law firm that has the ability to use different leverage models. And so, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking on that. I’ve started to have some meetings on that. I want to do applied research, so I actually want to build prototypes and get that off the ground, because I think that that’s really the closest thing connected to, I think, my responsibility as a lawyer.
William Henderson 30:07
And when people feel like they… My colleague, Jillian Hatfield, she’s an economist and law professor. She used to be at USC Law School, but now she’s in Toronto. She wrote a book called Rules for a Flat World, and it had a quote that always stuck with me. She said, “The more that people feel like the rules don’t care about them, they don’t care about the rules.” And I think that the politics of our country in the last almost a decade reflect the fact that people feel like the system is not working for them. And part of it is the fact that they can’t afford to go to court.
Tim Haley 30:43
William Henderson 30:44
And they can’t afford to kind of get their grievance heard. And so, the self-represented litigants are just the ones that find themselves getting ruined in a court because they’re getting sued by a creditor or something like that. But there’s a whole bunch of people that they can’t find a lawyer to kind of deal with what is fundamentally a legal problem. And so, I feel like I’m going to be pretty blunt here. I think my society is unraveling, and I want to go to the area that’s part of the root cause. A lot of our bar is organized around the profit motive, and that’s important to my students because they need to repay their loans. But I’ve just decided at this point in my career, I’m not going to change the profession, but I think I can build something that can solve a real problem.
Tim Haley 31:31
That’s great. Well, let’s end on something positive. You’ve been a professor now for many years.
William Henderson 31:35
Tim Haley 31:37
20 years. So you’ve seen 20 classes of law school graduates. I don’t like to timestamp our episodes, but we recently had a graduation, which is true at least once every year, at least twice every year. What’s your impression of the outgoing class this year?
William Henderson 31:52
Because of the stuff that I teach in my Leadership class and my Law Firms class and actually my Legal Professional class that collects a lot of kind of immensely internal deliberations of students, I find these young folks, young professionals, very esteemable. They want to do important work. They want to live a life of integrity. They want to take care of their families, they want to have important friendships, and they’re looking for career paths that they can do that. I think what’s different and what’s sometimes kind of pinned on this generation of lawyers is the fact that they’re kind of rebelling against the existing model. I think that that is a function of the model as opposed to the generation.
Tim Haley 32:33
William Henderson 32:33
It’s just that we’re pretty far into kind of the boiling frog metaphor, and they’re just saying, “That water is too hot. I just don’t want to jump into it.” And the rest of us are being conditioned because the water temperature went up when we were in the pot.
Tim Haley 32:48
William Henderson 32:48
And so, humans don’t change very fast, and I think that my students have grown up in a daunting time. They’re signing loan papers at the same time the legal process is saying their jobs are going to get taken away by AI.
Tim Haley 33:02
William Henderson 33:03
That’s not an enviable situation to be in.
Tim Haley 33:05
Well, it’s good to hear that at least the level of scholarship and the level of dedication and the want to is there in the coming generations’ future leaders.
William Henderson 33:14
Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. Well, actually this will come through in some of the book on law firms as business organizations that included your case study, because we collected a lot of data. And what was really striking about that was how the preferences of the class were very heterogeneous. And so, you couldn’t have a single law firm model that would’ve gotten the majority of classes to join here because their interests and values are pretty variegated.
William Henderson 33:42
And so, that was interesting to collect all the data and realize that it’s a real mistake to paint these young people with a broad brush. They’re individuals, and they have hopes and dreams and values that differentiate themselves from each other. But they’re kind of tied together by being smart and I think having some decent personal values related to integrity and work ethic. I think that I can generalize on that level.
Tim Haley 34:08
That’s great. Well, Bill, thank you so much for your time. It’s been great to talk to you. I look forward to reading your new book.
William Henderson 34:14
Well, I hope I can get you to promote it since there’ll be a chapter on Latitude.
Tim Haley 34:17
There you go. I’ll promote it all day.
William Henderson 34:19
Tim Haley 34:21
Thanks so much, Bill.
William Henderson 34:22
Thanks. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk with you, Tim. It’s always fun to catch up.
Tim Haley 34:25
That’s right. And we’ll do it again here soon.
William Henderson 34:27
All right. See you.
Tim Haley 34:36
Tim Haley 34:37
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