Center for Creative Problem Solving at California Western School of Law


The lawyer of the future must be trained not merely in various procedural techniques–trial skills, appellate advocacy, negotiation, and mediation. Rather, the effective lawyer must be trained in the skills that will help the lawyer and client decide among those procedures. Choosing the right procedure is not just a question of cost, or short-term efficiency, although those are certainly important considerations. Choosing a procedure may sometimes be as important as the goal sought to be achieved. In the long run, how people resolve their problems may affect their long-term personal and financial relationships, perhaps even their self-identity.

The lawyer of the future will need training in skills that demand broader and deeper understanding of people, their problems, and the consequences of confronting those problems in clumsy ways. Lawyers will require training in such skills as:

• listening and communication;
• understanding conflict through understanding interests;
• collaborating and finding solutions of mutual gain;
• developing insight, creativity, and judgment; and
• designing systems to prevent future problems.

Besides being confronted with new options for resolving legal problems, lawyers need to be able to think more broadly, more flexibly, more relationally, and more preventively. Legal problems are becoming more human, as law reaches further and further in our everyday activities. Legal procedures are changing in response to this, offering a variety of methods by which legal problems may be resolved.

The final link in making this work well for society is lawyers themselves, the brokers between legal problems and legal procedures. By opening themselves to conceiving legal problems within a fuller human context, lawyers will use the right procedures for the right problems, and will use them well. Better yet, lawyers will devise interventions to prevent problems before they arise. To get there, lawyers will need new skills and attitudes that encourage their use. Law schools should expand their curricula to offer courses emphasizing the skills of preventing problems that are avoidable, and solving creatively those problems that are inevitable.

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