Was the Law Practice Program invented by Nikola Tesla or Thomas Edison?

FRANCO URDANETA, Antonio

The Law Practice Program (“LPP”) is an innovative eight-month program from Ontario, for the law grads and internationally trained lawyers who wish to get licensed to give legal advice and legal services as a lawyer in Canada (“Lawyering”). It combines rigorous and demanding on-line training and experiential learning with a hands-on work term. The traditional alternative to the LPP is articles of clerkship or articling.

Before we talk about the LPP, let me tell you a story.

When Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, died in 1931, the New York Times captured among others, the opinion of Nikola Tesla (the inventor of the alternating current system) about Edison. Tesla said: “[…] His method was inefficient in the extreme, for an immense ground had to be covered to get anything at all unless blind chance intervened and, at first, I was almost a sorry witness of his doings, knowing that just a little theory and calculation would have saved him 90 percent of the labor. But he had a veritable contempt for book learning and mathematical knowledge, trusting himself entirely to his inventor’s instinct […].”

What Is More Important: The Bulb that Captures the Light or How We Produce and Distribute the Light to Bulbs?

Imagine for a second that law was the light. And, you use this light to read at night before going to sleep. Imagine, if we only had Edison’s light bulb invention without Tesla’s alternating current invention. Imagine, how many people could read before going to bed, and, conversely, how many people would not be able to? Lawyers usually argue whether Lawyering is a vocation or a business. Whether you consider it to be one or the other, the hard-fact is that Lawyering is a service. And, as legal service, it needs to be produced and delivered “somehow”.

THE LIGHT BULB APPROACH

In a world without internet, with computers and nation-states in infancy, without cloud-based software as service (SaaS), no handheld devices, and intuitive legal project management, consumers expected their lawyers to provide legal services in person, one-on-one, and at the lawyer’s office.

Lawyers were supposed to read hundreds of pages from paper-based secondary sources, which only lawyers had full access to, and had the appropriate training to understand the physically written legal words. Then, deliver, probably, in a dissertation-like mode, legal advice or services to clients. This is the Edison-light bulb approach to Lawyering.

THE ALTERNATING CURRENT APPROACH

Currently, to produce and deliver any services in a soundbite world, in a digital economy, entering the era of the internet of things (“IoT”), with connected consumers, cloud-based SaaS, pervasive hand-held devices (which may include a Chatbot messaging platform), and lean methods (or if you prefer, a Kaizen method, or both), Lawyering faces a great challenge.

The Challenge seems to be, how to “smoothly” integrate the legal sector infrastructure of the industrial economy to new methods of producing and delivering legal services in a digital economy. Firstly, consumers have more direct and immediate access to concise digitally written legal words. Secondly, consumers are no longer willing to pay for the efforts of the service providers, rather they prefer to pay for the value added.

In my opinion, the LPP is tackling this challenge by expanding lawyers training to a Tesla-Alternating Current approach to Lawyering

THE LIGHT BULB AND THE ALTERNATING CURRENT

Fernando Garcia, Nissan Canada’s general counsel, seems to recognize that lawyers today should not stop at inventing the light bulb like Edison, but, go beyond, and improve production and distribution of legal services like Tesla with the Alternating Current. Interestingly, Garcia envisions a “plus-shaped” lawyer, who is skilled and knowledgeable of the law, with a broad understanding of technology, business, project management, human resources, data security, risk management, politics, critical interpersonal and empathy skills, value diversity and inclusiveness, and understands, and can adapt to unique approaches. Sounds overwhelming, doesn’t it?

I would argue that similar to Edison, lawyers in the twentieth century had “veritable contempt for book learning” “trusting [themselves] entirely to [their] inventor’s instinct[s]”. Garcia’s plus-shaped lawyers, evidently, need to have the same contempt for book learning and instincts dynamics, but, this time adding Tesla’s plus-shaped characteristics. By the way, a physical book is no longer necessary.

The LPP seems to be training Garcia’s plus-shaped lawyers, within a TeslaAlternating Current approach to Lawyering.

MY LPP EXPERIENCE

In my first four months of training as an LPP candidate, I learned (although I was not aware I was doing so), legal project management, legal-tech, knowledge management, business operations, business development, among other plus-shaped skills, while I thought I was only practicing substantive areas of law.

Once I finished this training, I was placed with a local law firm for four months. I felt I hit the ground running because every time I received an assignment, such as document review, legal research, legal memoranda writing, interviewing a client, and so on, I knew what items I needed in order to produce what the supervising lawyers asked me to do, and I knew what the end-product looked like. I basically knew the inputs and the output because I had the training, checklists, templates and sources from the on-line training and experiential learning of the LPP.

So, the Light in A Bulb or Energy Running in AC?

The light is the light, whether you use one lamp with one bulb, and you move from room to room, sharing the light slowly with everyone you desire to; or whether you produce it and distributed it in the alternating current system and capture it with many bulbs, without you physically moving from room to room.

The challenge for lawyers is not the light, the challenge is the “somehow” of Lawyering. How can we bring the light to more people, faster, better and more affordable, and never less profitable nor riskier? My view is that the LPP is arming legal services providers with tools to answering this question in the twenty first century, by 3 mixing the Edison-Light Bulb and Tesla-Alternating Current approaches. Evidently, the LPP was neither invented by Tesla nor Edison.

Antonio F. Urdaneta is the Memberships Director of the Canadian Hispanic Bar Association (2017-19). Antonio is an associate lawyer at Schible Law, and focuses his practice on workplace law and wrongful dismissals. He is also a legal innovation enthusiast, and if you invite him for a coffee or tea, be prepared to hear about legal automation, legal processes, legal-tech, global rule of law and/or law and economics.