This week’s guest is Jennifer Leonard, Chief Innovation Officer at The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and the Executive Director of the Future of the Profession Initiative (FPI) at Penn Law. Jennifer joins us to talk about her work with FPI, the record $125M donation to Penn Law from the W.P. Carey Foundation, and the amazing Board of Advisors and people behind FPI. The multidisciplinary approach that FPI takes toward shaping the future of the practice brings together the wealth of schools there at Penn, including the Wharton School, Penn Engineering, the School of Nursing, and more. This approach fits Penn’s founder, Benjamin Franklin’s “entire notion of what education should be is deeply interdisciplinary” and it bridges the ideas of different industries in a way that overcomes some self-limitations that the legal industry places upon itself.

The Future of the Profession Initiative allows for creative approaches to how we educate our lawyers, and how we envision what the profession looks like in ten years with events such as the Law 2030 Conference, and the Future of Racial Equality webinar. One of the most unique projects coming out of Penn Law and FPI is the Five-Year Out Academy which brings back Penn Law alumni at their five-year post-graduation mark and helps these grads navigate the next phase of their career.

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Information Inspirations

There are big data, and there are small data, and there is storytelling. The trick is understanding how to leverage all three. The upcoming webinar on “Storytelling: How to bridge the gap between small and big data” looks to explain exactly how to do that.

Sara Lin, a former guest on the podcast, points out that Data Science and Library Science are partners when it comes to ways of working smarter with information. Her article, “10 ways Data science can help Librarians in AALL Spectrum, checks off the reason librarians need to develop data science skills.

Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT) are a big deal these days. K&L Gates decided to put out a client alert explaining NFTs and then minted that article into its own NFT.

In-house legal departments are demanding that tech companies start recruiting talent who have firsthand knowledge of the problems facing their departments. With companies like Deloitte hiring people like Bob Taylor, it seems that some are getting the message.

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Please take the time to rate and review us on Apple Podcast. Contact us anytime by tweeting us at @gebauerm or @glambert. Or, you can call The Geek in Review hotline at 713-487-7270 and leave us a message. You can email us at As always, the great music you hear on the podcast is from Jerry David DeCicca

Marlene Gebauer  0:19

Welcome to The Geek in Review. The podcast focused on innovative and creative ideas in the legal industry. I’m Marlene Gebauer.

Greg Lambert  0:26

And I’m Greg Lambert.

Marlene Gebauer  0:28

Well, Greg, we talk a lot about the future of the legal profession, you know, what is the skill set of the next gen lawyers? How will law firm operations function? You and I talk about it. But our guests Jennifer Leonard, Chief Innovation Officer at the University of Pennsylvania, Carey Law School, and the Executive Director of the Future of the Profession Initiative, there at Penn Law, she lives it!

Greg Lambert  0:50

Yes, she does.

Marlene Gebauer  0:52

Jennifer is part of a group at Penn Law working on the initiative along with an all star cast advisory board. And as we will discuss, they have the financial backing to make some things happen. It was a fun and inspiring conversation. And I think everyone will enjoy it.

Greg Lambert  1:06

Yeah, this was definitely I’m not afraid to say this was this was one of my favorites. discussion.

Marlene Gebauer  1:12

So you just put that out there.

Greg Lambert  1:14

I did. I did. So there. And it was one of our previous guests at himsel from a few episodes ago, who connected us with Jennifer and we’re very happy that he did. So there’s just a lot of great things happening with this initiative.

Marlene Gebauer  1:27

That’s right, our interview is coming up later. But first, let’s get to this week’s information inspirations.

Greg Lambert  1:37

So Marlene, there’s a very interesting webinar coming up next week on May 12, called storytelling, how to bridge the gap between small and big data. Anthony Widdop, Global Director, Legal Project Management at Shearman & Sterling LLP, Jessica Davis, Director, Matter Performance & Service Innovation at McCarter & English, and Pieter van der Hoeven, Co-founder, and CEO at Clocktimizer are going to talk about the difference between big and small data and why it should be treated differently. They’ll also cover how to properly extract the data to tell the right story, and identify tools to help tell the story. Clocktimizer being one such tool. I think our guests from last week, Ryan McClead and Nicole Bradick would toss Map Engine in there as well. So you know, this type of webinar looks like it was just custom made for us.

Marlene Gebauer  2:30

Yeah, I’m actually gonna go check that link out and sign up for that. Because that sounds great. And I swear, we don’t actually talk to one another about our inspirations beforehand. And

Unknown Speaker  2:42

Were you taking this one?

Marlene Gebauer  2:44

Oh, no, no, no, we’re talking about data extraction. And I’m looking at mine. And I’m saying Okay, so one of our former guests, Sarah Lin has a new article out and titled “10 ways data science can help librarians.” It’s really a wonderful article, it’s very full of practical reasons why data science should be part of your regular routine. And her tips really are not just for librarians. Her first tip is basically to learn R. That’s the cornerstone for all the rest of the tips are can help you tidy data. So normalizing columns, formatting dates, and times and combining data from different sources. And this is we’re talking about things that Excel can’t handle. R has a graphics package. So you can use it to create visualizations, both static and dynamic. And R supports many file outputs. So it’s an effective tool for dynamic analysis documents. Sarah actually wrote the article in R and published it to Word and she could have published it to HTML, notebook, PowerPoint, or a variety of other formats. You can also use r for web scraping and connecting databases and text mining.

Greg Lambert  3:53

I don’t know if you know this, but I have programmed in R before. So

Marlene Gebauer  3:56

I do. I do know that I remember talking about that. I remember the scraping project.

Greg Lambert  4:01


Marlene Gebauer  4:03

And Sarah notes that sites such as stack flow, and our communities are great places to learn what our packages will work best for your project. And you know, maybe you need to talk to Greg says he’s an expert.

Greg Lambert  4:14

It really is. It looks daunting, but it’s really not that hard and having these communities and I know Sarah works at R, but there’s all these other communities out there that can help you learn how to use that. And in fact, I find it easier to use than Python.

Marlene Gebauer  4:31

Yeah, I mean, I took a couple of those online courses about you know how to how to do R and it really doesn’t seem to be that hard.

Greg Lambert  4:38

Well, Marlene, my next inspiration could either go down as the day a law firm actually did something really cool with technology, or it could go down as the day that NFT’s jumped the shark. So, K& L Gates wrote a client alert on NFT or Non-Fungible Tokens. And Marlene guess what they did with this client alert?

Marlene Gebauer  5:06

Oh, let Please tell me please tell me.

Greg Lambert  5:09

So they minted it into its very own NFT making it the first law firm client alert to be issued as an NFT.

Marlene Gebauer  5:20

There you go. Yeah. So

Greg Lambert  5:23

K&L Gates is looking to actually auction this off to one of its own lawyers, with all of the funds going to local charities, and I have no idea how much they’re gonna raise with this thing. I will say I talked to another attorney about this. And he said, you know, what’s cooler than this is? Practically anything! So I think I think we have at least one vote for jumping the shark.

Marlene Gebauer  5:55

Well, we all know that many legal tech vendors have attorneys on staff to sell and support products. Some of these products have even been designed by attorneys. But it seems law departments are asking for first hand experience from their vendor partners, attorney or not. A recent article in suggests that firsthand experience with specific problems faced is really what law departments are after. And they are demanding it not only from their vendors, but also their employees. They’re looking for candidates with previous legal ops experience. As we know, Deloitte just hired Bob Taylor and on it recruited TIAA Chief Operations Officer Brad Rogers to serve as the new Vice President of Strategy and Growth. And Jack Thompson, Assistant Director of Global eDiscovery and Legal Operations at Sanofi, who, by the way, is not a lawyer, said that he prefers to see substance or quality of work, not the credentials or degrees of an individual providing expertise and knowledge. I think this is great and smart, you know, but I hope legal departments don’t go down that very narrow road that many firms do now, and just hire simply based on whether a candidate has had similar experience in the past. I mean, that is obviously an important and definite consideration. But I hope they continue to look outside of the small world of legal ops for leaders and visionaries that can bring fresh problem solving approaches to the table.

Greg Lambert  7:18

Yeah, if they’re not careful, they’re gonna wind up doing exactly what you think. And that is, they’re gonna hire someone with the same experience as them. That just happens to also look a lot like like they do as well.

Marlene Gebauer  7:31

I got a feeling you were gonna say that.

Greg Lambert  7:35

Well, that wraps up this week’s information inspirations.

Greg Lambert  7:43

So we have our own ideas of what the future of the legal profession might look like. But with support from a top law school, a world class board of advisors, and substantial funding. Today’s guest is not only envisioning the future of the profession, she is leading an initiative to help shape it.

Marlene Gebauer  8:02

We’d like to welcome Jennifer Leonard, Chief Innovation Officer at the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School and the Executive Director of the Future of the Profession Initiative there at Penn Law. Jennifer, welcome to The Geek in Review.

Jennifer Leonard  8:14

Thank you so much for having me. So nice to meet you, Marlene and Greg.

Greg Lambert  8:18

So the Future of the Profession Initiative, or FPI for short, that sounds like a really big initiative to take on. So in prep for this interview, I reached out to Joe Borstein, who’s on the advisory board for FPI and he mentioned that in November of 2019, the W/P. Carey Foundation made $125 million gift to the law school at the University of Pennsylvania. And apparently that’s like the largest gift ever to law school, not just a Penn, but to any law school. Is that right?

Jennifer Leonard  8:53

That’s correct. Yes.

Greg Lambert  8:55

One of the things that he said that Joe said that he really loved about FPI is that you guys do have the money behind the program to do some great things. So you got the money? How did you decide to start this initiative and the overall mission of the future of the profession?

Jennifer Leonard  9:11

So huge thanks to the Carey Foundation for its its record breaking gift to the law school, which allows us to do many different things across the institution, including turbocharging some of the things that we had been doing through FPI. And a thanks to Joe, who is one of our most enthusiastic supporters and member of our advisory board. And I know we’ll talk about them in a little bit as well. It’s interesting the way that the timing unfolded, because we had actually been talking at the law school since April of 2018, about what we wanted to think about in terms of innovation in law schools. And we had a really broad chart with an internal working group from our Dean, recognizing that the world is changing really rapidly, recognizing that a leading law school has an opportunity and an obligation to be on top of that change to be developing responsive programming and curriculum and conversations. And he really wanted us to think deeply about what that response would look like. And we worked internally with about two dozen people from all across the law school, we looked at law school initiatives across the country to see what people were doing the many different forms that innovation projects take, and what we could do in our role at Penn Law on playing to the strengths that we play to which are interdisciplinary approaches to problem solving and translating what we’re doing at a really world class research institution in a way that impacts the real world. And then we brought on a group of advisory board members who occupy all different positions across the legal profession. And we asked them what they were seeing from their vantage points. And they’re really diverse in their roles, in their sectors, in their levels of seniority in these different organizations. So we got a really rich blend of perspectives that informed what ultimately became the Future of the Profession Initiative. And we we named the project really specifically that we are taking initiative, we are not just looking at what is happening, but we are working actively to be a part of that dynamic landscape. And so FPI actually was already prepared to launch when the Carey Foundation made its historic gift to the law school. And what the gift allowed us to do was really to take flight at a very early stage with what we knew was an exciting and ambitious idea. And since the gift came into the law school, as I said, it’s amplified everything that we want it to do and allowed us to have some really huge successes early on that included a major two day launch event at the Pennivation Center in Penn that was a global conversation about the future of the profession, attracted 1000s of viewers online virtually and over 200 in person in Philadelphia. We were able to bring on two new team members, including senior consultant and Penn Law alum and President Emeritus of the Legal Services Corporation, Jim Sandman, who is a vocal advocate around regulatory reform in the profession so that he can develop projects for real impact. And we brought on board our first innovator in residence, Miguel Willis, who is the Founder and Executive Director of Access to Justice Tech Fellows, which is now formally affiliated with FPI and focuses on developing summer opportunities for students in law schools across the country to learn how to leverage data design thinking and technology to scale access to justice. And we did a whole host of other programming, initiatives, webinars, podcasts, newsletters, and all of that was a result of the great timing that we had in having this project ready to launch and the gifts coming in at the same time.

Greg Lambert  12:45

Now before before we go on, did I hear you right is called the Pennovation Center?

Jennifer Leonard  12:50

That’s right. That’s actually called Pennovation Works. And it’s an entire campus on the south side of the university that is dedicated to being an incubator for startups and taking advantage of the really, really mature and vibrant innovation ecosystem across Penn’s campus and putting it in one location to put all of that power to work for the entrepreneurs that occupy that building. It’s a really cool space. And it was the perfect venue for our launch.

Greg Lambert  13:19

Whoever the marketing person was for that, that they

Marlene Gebauer  13:24

Give them a raise, that’s a good one, that’s a good one.

Jennifer Leonard  13:28

It was, it was an amazing event, and I’m happy to share the link. If it’s helpful for your listeners, you can watch all the content.

Marlene Gebauer  13:34

Yeah, definitely. This all sounds amazing. So Penn Law is one of the top law schools in the country. And I imagine that almost all of your graduates can, you know, pretty much write their own ticket on careers that they want to dive into. So what are Penn Law Students getting out of this initiative? And what is Penn Law seeking to develop within the students who take part in the FPI? And I’ll add to this that, that I did note in your, in your earlier comments that this is actually there’s actually benefit going out to students in other schools. So we’d love to hear a little bit more about that, too.

Jennifer Leonard  14:12

Sure. You know, we are so fortunate to have, I think, one of the most amazing brilliant student bodies, in our community and the future leaders of our profession, which is really why we want to use FPI, to equip them with both the knowledge of what’s happening in the profession, the changes taking place, some of the dynamics happening, and the exciting career opportunities that are unfolding in different areas of the legal profession. And also equipping them with the skills and mindset they need to be the problem solvers of the future. Because we know and the point of your podcast, the point of your work is how quickly things are changing in the profession. And you know, senior leaders who occupy the profession now, we’re not taught in law school, right, by and large, how to have an multidisciplinary approach to problem solving how to leverage frameworks like design thinking, and using technology and data to create better solutions to design better legal systems. And we know that if we can harness the brilliance of our student body, and equip them with that knowledge that they will be the leaders of the future of the profession. So through additions to our curriculum, Miguel, our board member, Claudia Johnson, Jim and I, and a variety of other faculty members teach courses in the upper level, in particular about all of these topics. And those topics are infused not only in a single standalone course, but throughout our entire curriculum. We’ve also, you know, one of the hallmarks of our project is that it really focuses on the holistic formation of a lawyer, not only her critical thinking skills, and her legal research, and writing, and clinical and all of the wonderful things that go into our world class education, with the lawyer as a person, right, the professional identity formation and the self care and well being aspects of being a professional in a very stressful environment. So we’ve integrated into all of our upper level Professional Responsibility courses, a module on the connection between attorney well being an ethical obligation to our clients, where we have explicit conversations about that stress what some of the underlying causes are, and some adaptive behaviors that our students can use to respond well, so that they can serve their clients and society as a whole in a better way. So we’re really weaving in different ways to prepare them for all the dynamic and exciting opportunities on the horizon.

Marlene Gebauer  16:39

I think it’s great that you’re basically immersing the students throughout their career with this information and these these courses. I’m wondering, did they come in sort of eager to learn this stuff or expecting to learn this stuff? Or are they do they already know some of these things? What I’m thinking about is okay, we take Spanish in eighth grade, and by then it’s too late. So I’m wondering, I’m wondering, you know, are they? Are they learning this stuff ahead of time? Or is this like their first exposure? And how are they responding to it?

Greg Lambert  17:12

Yeah, and I want to add on to that, if I can, and that is, we’ve run into issues where the students if it’s not on the bar, they don’t want to even talk about it. It has no importance to them. It’s it’s what’s on the bar, I guess, study for that I I’ll take care of the rest of it later.

Jennifer Leonard  17:29

Now, I would say I have found quite the opposite in my work. Our students are really eager to be creative to think about new solutions. This whole generation of law students, not only at Penn, but just nationwide globally, are so much savvier when they come into law school than we were. There’s so much more information out there for them to inform themselves in advance. So many of them come in with a really remarkably strong idea. Maybe not have exactly what they want to do with a law degree, but why they’re there in the first place, and all of the resources they want to take advantage of while they’re with us on campus. And then another thing that I didn’t talk about yet but part of FPI’s mission, part of the Law School’s mission as a whole, is to develop a relationship with our students that carries forward beyond graduation into a model of continuous lifelong learning, recognizing that the future will require continual learning, and unlearning and rethinking and developing new approaches, we start at the JD level by teaching them the mindset for learning and growth and change and creativity. But then we don’t leave them just with that we want to be connected with them and supporting them at different points in their career, where there’s greater context around the lessons that we’re teaching them the frameworks they can use, and the strategies they can deploy in thinking about their own career evolution. Marlene, to your point about, you know, is it almost too late when they get there to teach them these things? Or do they know these things in advance? I think they come in very, very knowledgeable, what we can do is take them in a structured way and help guide them and support them through this very rigorous academic experience. And also equip them with really powerful tools that they can use on the other side. So even if they come in conceptually, knowing about some of the challenges, what we’re doing is equipping them with the tools to respond to them.

Greg Lambert  19:26

One of the things that you kind of mentioned in there is the continual evolution of this of the students, once they’ve graduated and are a lawyer. One of the programs I saw that this initiative wants to do is a what’s called a Five-Year Out Academy where, when they’re in their fifth year, once they’ve graduated law school, that you reach back out to them and have this academy with them. Can you can I know it hasn’t started yet. But can you explain the process and idea behind that?

Jennifer Leonard  19:58

Sure. So the idea really, is that we teach them a tremendous amount during the three years in the JD program, and all of the great curriculum, fabulous faculty, all the things that we’ve referenced earlier. But we also know as you both know, as I know, from people who’ve been in their careers for a while, that you get to a point in your career, where you need new skills, and you need new information, and you need a new infrastructure to support you and thinking about the next stage. And for lawyers, when our internal working group thought about it talked about it, we identified the five year mark, as a time when practicing attorneys have enough substantive experience in sort of the junior level work to be thinking about where they are headed for the next chapter of their career. And whether that is in a big law firm, where they are thinking about maybe becoming a partner, or ascending to senior associateship, we all know that the skills that they will need to move to that chapter are very different from the skills that they need in the junior level of practice. It relates more to business development, to cultivating and leading inclusive teams, to managing up, down, and around. To bringing in multidisciplinary points of view to help you solve new problems. To finance and accounting, right. So for some people who are especially if you’re moving into the public interest or government arena, you’re taking on heightened responsibility at a lower or more junior level in your career. So you need to be equipped with skills that you may not have learned necessarily in law school or you forgotten, or you didn’t have context around. So the idea of the Five-Year Out Academy is our invitation to our alumni who are five years out at that point in their career, no matter where they are, no matter what they’re doing, to come back to us and to spend some time with us and with one another in an Executive Ed type format that will equip them with some of those frameworks, skills, strategies that they can use to move successfully into that next chapter.

Greg Lambert  21:57

That sounds really interesting.

Marlene Gebauer  21:58

Yeah. It does.

Jennifer Leonard  22:00

Thank you, we had planned to roll it out in May of 2020. And of course, we all know what happened in 2020. And at the beginning, it’s interesting the way it evolved, because in last May, it was just too chaotic to figure out exactly what to do. And this May I think, we feel that people have been on zoom so frequently. People have zoom fatigue at this point that what we’d like to do is look to May 2021. And I think it will also be a richer experience. Now that we’ve been through this turbulent time to think about new topics. How are we leading through constantly shifting ground? How are we building in more multidisciplinary aspects even to the five year out Academy? Are we connecting with other graduate students who can help our students think in different ways and open their minds to different approaches to problem solving? But I think we will have much deeper content and discussions based on the experience we’ve all just had in our final iteration next year.

Greg Lambert  23:05

And just to clarify you, I think you meant May 2022, right?

Jennifer Leonard  23:09

I did. Did I say 2021? Yes. Don’t hold me to that. 2022

Greg Lambert  23:14

Otherwise it’s too late.

Jennifer Leonard  23:15

Nothing is ready for next month.

Marlene Gebauer  23:17

Good luck with that.

Jennifer Leonard  23:19

Thank you so much for that. Whoo.

Greg Lambert  23:21

Oh, no problem. So a few weeks ago, we talked with Adam Tsao, who’s an alumni there at Penn, and he was really excited about this program, and he reached out and connected us with you. But he’s not the only connection that that we have there and many of our listeners, they know some of the people involved with FPI. For example, your board of advisors includes some names we know such as Joe Borstein, who we mentioned earlier, who is formerly with Ernst and Young and now is with LexFusion. Susan Raridon Lambreth of LawVision. And David Perla who many of our listeners knew him from his Bloomberg Law days, and now he’s it. Burford Capital. How are you leveraging this wealth of, you know, this brain trust of alumni to help guide you on your mission at FPI?

Jennifer Leonard  24:17

They are by far our most potent tool in making this what it is. They have been incredibly supportive and involved and engaged from the start. The breadth of their experience, and the diversity of their experience is really what we want as we’re trying to pull together what is frequently a very siloed profession where big law partners talk to big law partners and public interest lawyers talk to public interest lawyers, judges, talk to judges. This group covers such a wide array of roles, and they are creative, they are entrepreneurial, they are excited about this project. And so we still continue to meet with them monthly and engage them not only in sort of a standard meeting where you go through an agenda with updates, but we bring in guest speakers for them to listen to from other disciplines from people at Penn so that they can connect with our interdisciplinary network at Penn that we have the advantage of connecting with on a regular basis. We involve them in projects. We had a meeting this week to talk about our next major conference, and each of them will play a role in helping us craft what will be a really well designed event that speaks to all of these different stakeholders, which is really challenging to do and we couldn’t do it without having all of them in the room. And you mentioned some of our fantastic board members. We also have Sozi Tulante, who is a partner at Dechert. We have Judge Stella Tsai, who’s an alum and she’s a trial court judge in Philadelphia so she works in a court system with big city challenges. She’s also focused on really amplifying the work of Asian and women attorneys in particular. We have Madhav Srinivasan who is CFO at Hunton Andrews Kurth, so he is really looking at the business side, the financial side of big law. Aaron Katzel at SoftBank. We have Claudia Johnson at Pro  Bono Net, who has dedicated her whole life to issues of equity and public interest, but also is really open to the connection between corporate legal services and the public interest. And we just added in the last year, Tiffany Southerland, and Ray Headen, who are both alumni, Tiffany is the Chief Diversity Officer at Troutman Sanders. And we really want to be thinking more about integrating equity and inclusion in everything that we do. And what I think is so cool about our group is that you would think you would get into the group and the same thing that happens in the profession would happen in the group, like the people who are into legal tech would go together, and the people in the public interest would go together. And there’s such a deep respect for everybody’s experience and a genuine desire to be learning from each other. I don’t know how it happened. They’re just such an amazing group of people. But that’s the special sauce that makes us unique, I think, is that ability to pull together and really connect collaboratively to design something holistic.

Greg Lambert  27:02

Yeah, I would love to be the virtual fly on the Zoom wall when you guys are having those calls.

Jennifer Leonard  27:08

Oh, they’re the best.

Greg Lambert  27:09

I know, any one of those people could could just take up all the time with all the ideas that they have in having them all together must, whoever does the time management has their their work cut out for them.

Jennifer Leonard  27:21

We did a full day planning event in New York pre-COVID when we were just the week of our launch, to really shape what our vision was, and it was eight hours of the most interesting exchanges, ideation and just well done work in a limited time span from people with such different experience. They’re just an amazing group and everything that they get connected around just turns to gold. So we’re, we’re so lucky to have them.

Marlene Gebauer  27:53

Well, seriously. You know, it you should consider like recording this and setting the terms of like putting a documentary of something together on this because, you know, you have all of these great folks together in one room, you know, talking about things, and I just, you know, for historical purposes to be able to record that and do a documentary on it, I think that would be fabulous.

Jennifer Leonard  28:16

Oh, it’s a great, it’s a great idea. I love it.

Marlene Gebauer  28:19

And I’m very excited to hear you talking about how, you know, you’re bringing in all these people from you know, different types of backgrounds with different types of experiences. You know, I talked recently on the podcast about multidisciplinary teams when it comes to legal matters, including experts across industries and professions and expertise. You’ve also focused on the multi disciplinary approach in this initiative. What expertise are you bringing in specifically, and what value is that giving the program to the students?

Jennifer Leonard  28:50

Multi-disciplinary approaches to problem solving is at the heart of everything that FPI does. And it’s perfectly aligned with the law schools tradition of taking a very interdisciplinary approach to legal education, which it has done for a very long time now. And it actually I find this very interesting goes back to Ben Franklin, who was the founder of the University of Pennsylvania, his entire notion of what education should be is deeply interdisciplinary. So you know, from our roots a very long time ago, till now, we really view that as the most efficient, effective, powerful way to become educated and solve the really thorny issues of our day. And so through FPI, what we’ve been able to do is really connect with, I mean, the most fascinating people you could ever imagine meeting across Penn’s community. So we are connected now with the Penn Engineering Entrepreneurship Program, the Integrated Product Design Program that is a collaboration with the Weitzman School of Design, Wharton and the engineering school, we’re connected with the Graduate School of Education’s catalyst program, we’re connected with the Mack Institute of innovation at Wharton, we’re connected to Pennovation Works, we’re connected with the Penn Center for Innovation. There’s a whole community of people at Penn that are focused only on innovation, and also learning innovation as a process and a methodology toward change, not just a buzzword, or an idea or a fad or cliche. And so we’re part of the Penn Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group, which meets regularly to exchange ideas about how our friends over in nursing are solving problems for their patients, and what we can learn from those solutions and the processes that they use to get to those solutions in legal. We had a call a few weeks ago with a colleague over at the design school, he’s an architecture professor. And we described to him he had no connection with the legal profession. We spent about an hour Jim, Miguel and I on the phone with him and described some of the challenges around access to justice in a municipal court setting. And 24 hours later, he sent me two dozen ideas for ways that we could solve this problem.

Marlene Gebauer  30:54

I love that.

Jennifer Leonard  30:54

And, you know, things that we would have never thought of as lawyers because he’s ideating. And the way that he’s trained to ideate. And what I love about it is that that there’s this curse of knowledge, right? When you’re in the legal profession, you already sort of know what can’t work because of the regulations because of the culture because of whatever constraint there is. But when you bring in outside perspectives, they’re not burdened by these limitations. And maybe their ideas are not going to work wholesale in the way that they’ve presented them. But there’s a kernel there that we can take to use towards solving problems in legal. And if you put me in an MRI machine, when I walk around Penn, and I listened to these fantastic innovators, all these different and new parts of my brain would light up because I’m hearing things that I can connect to legal that I never thought about before. So that is really how we’re plugging in with our innovation community and everything that we do through FPI. We bring in somebody from another field to be a guest expert at our conference that I mentioned, we had a panel that our Dean hosted with the heads of Penn Nursing, the Chief Innovation Officer from Penn Medicine and the outgoing leader of Penn’s Health System to talk about how the healthcare system has been redesigned, and what legal professionals can learn as a result, they face very similar challenges. And yet their delivery system has changed so much more than ours has. So it is a hallmark of everything we do is interdisciplinary approaches to problem solving. And it’s it’s, I mean, aside from being just a great way to think in new directions and design new solutions, it’s just fun to learn about what is happening in other fields.

Marlene Gebauer  32:37

It’s kind of cool. I never thought about it that way. You know,

Jennifer Leonard  32:40

It’s unbelievable. It’s so fascinating.

Greg Lambert  32:43

Yeah, you know, sometimes it does take someone coming in and going, Well, why don’t you try this? And to kind of shake you out of

Marlene Gebauer  32:50

talk yourself out of even trying anything?

Jennifer Leonard  32:53

But yeah, and it’s not what I’m learning is it we think lawyers are challenged in different and unique ways from other professions. We’re not that innovative, we’re so stressed at it.

Greg Lambert  33:06

We are special.

Jennifer Leonard  33:07

BBut the reality is when you go out and you talk to people in other disciplines, I would say 90% of the time, they say doctors are exactly the same. nurses are exactly the same, Tech software developers are exactly the same. They’re all and it’s, it’s, I think, in part because it’s so siloed. So you’re surrounded by people trained the same way with the same experiences. And I’ll give you an example at our last PIEG meeting, which is our university wide innovation meeting, the nursing school highlight at one of their students who has been profiled in the New York Times and Good Morning America, all over the place. But he and his colleagues developed a little light that nurses can clip onto their lapel that’s an LED light. So when they go in to deliver medication in the middle of the night, their patients don’t have to be bothered by turning the light on in the room. Right. And when when they were presenting this idea, which is so simple, it’s just a little tiny clip light on your lapel. They were saying when we when we presented it at this hackathon, nurses were saying why didn’t I ever think of that? I hate bothering my patients by turning on the light. So nurses have been doing that forever, you know, disturbing people’s rest. But you need new perspectives to come in and take a look at a situation with fresh eyes and say, why don’t you just keep the lights off, and find another way to illuminate only what you need to illuminate? So where is our light on the lapel in the legal profession? And who will help us find that?

Greg Lambert  34:37

Remind me when this is over. And I was telling you about another nursing innovation that that I heard of a few years ago.

Jennifer Leonard  34:45

The Chief Innovation Officer at our nursing school is she I don’t think she ever sleeps. She does so many programs. But she she takes the position that nurses are natural innovators, they’re solving problems all day long. And it’s baked into what they do.

Marlene Gebauer  35:00

I’d agree with that.

Jennifer Leonard  35:01


Greg Lambert  35:03

Well, the FPI, I believe started back in 2019. Right, is that correct?

Jennifer Leonard  35:08

October 2019.

Greg Lambert  35:08

You know, your timing couldn’t be more perfect than the start in the fall of 2019. So, you know, the the challenges of the last year, so I want to just kind of see how that’s affected you, the initiative, and the law school, you know, have you adjusted over the last year and this basically a forced experiment that COVID has given us in in the traditional teaching model. And then on top of that, there’s also been the, you know, the cultural challenge and shift, specifically with the confrontation with racial issues in the US as a result of the George Floyd murder. Has has there been any effect on you, the programmers or the school during this time?

Jennifer Leonard  35:53

So I think, first I just want to acknowledge how horrifically tragic the last year has been for across the board for so many people. And, you know, to extract some positive lessons, I suppose from what we’ve experienced over the last year, what I think we were able to do, and you noticed the timing being particularly interesting, because we had just launched, and at our conference, which was February 27, and 28th, in 2020. We framed it as the challenges the professional would face over the next 10 years, when really, we could have framed it over the next 10 days. Because everything was turned on its head two weeks later. What we were able to do was because we already had a fully formed vehicle to explore changes in the profession, we were able to continue those conversations that started at that great conference, throughout the pandemic, through webinars, through podcasts. I mean, I found myself in March of last year sitting here sort of like a chicken with my head cut off. I just got up every day and kept trying to do meetings and trying to do calls. And really at certain point, you have to stop and think what can I do that’s helpful in this moment that that is appropriate in this moment. And that I could do from home with nothing. So that’s how the podcast started because I had a microphone and I had a computer so we were able to record conversations in real time. Jim, our senior consultant was the head of the COVID-19 task force for the ABA. So he was our first guest on to talk about what is the ABA thinking about right now. And if we think back to that time, it was such an unknown what was going to happen in the year ahead. And so we were able to bring those conversations to life in real time. And you mentioned the reckoning around racial justice from last summer. I think the conversations in the profession really shifted in tone at that moment in in what I think are important ways. We went from having sort of more amorphous conversations around diversity and inclusion, to having really really frank conversations about racial equity, in our society and in our profession. And one of the things that we like to pride ourselves on is not shying away from difficult conversations. And we hosted a webinar over the summer on the future of racial equity in the legal profession. And it was a very candid, raw conversation about the failures in our profession, to advance black talent in our law firms and in our legal systems in particular. And so I think that we were able to lead and be part of that conversation in real time. Whereas if we hadn’t yet existed, we would be scrambling to come up with a way to coordinate those calls it to develop a community and the community was already in place. So we were able to plug into that very quickly. And sort of ride along with with the conversation. And with with the teaching aspect, the law school was in had in person teaching for the entire year, which we were our colleagues did amazing work at the law school to ensure that that was still an option for our students. So I would say that legal educators on the whole learned a great deal about how to leverage technology in their teaching. And while we’ll always be a physically based law school in Philadelphia, we now know that we have the flexibility to integrate different elements to bring in amazing speakers from around the world, by the way. One of the things I’ve realized I’ve been teaching for eight years, was that I only ever brought in people from New York and Washington, because it was the only way I could get somebody.

Marlene Gebauer  39:32

They could commute easily.

Jennifer Leonard  39:33

Right. Yeah, they could take ACELA and be there in an hour. Now I have people visit my class who are in the UK, who were in Israel, who were in New Zealand and Asia. And that won’t go away. Tomorrow, I’m doing a webinar in India, that would not have happened pre COVID. And so I think that just the expanse and the knowledge base that we’ll be able to take advantage of after this is over and behind us, we hope will really change the lens in legal education.

Marlene Gebauer  40:02

So how are law firms, courts, and industries who Penn Law has a relationship with? How are they reacting to the initiative? I imagine positively.

Jennifer Leonard  40:11

Yeah, I, have not… It’s been very, very positive. In fact, it was a little bit overwhelming. At the beginning, I did it, I wasn’t totally prepared for how excited people would be in our community, which was fantastic. I would say that I usually pride myself on very rapid responses to email and they took they took much longer to respond to after we launched than then before.

Marlene Gebauer  40:33

You didn’t do the 24 hour rule?

Jennifer Leonard  40:35

I had to abandon it, it just was not possible. But people you know, I think people out in practice, recognize that the world is changing. They see it in their roles, and especially for our alumni, they’re grateful to have the conversation, and to really have a partner in helping them think through how they’re leading their organizations, how their practices changing. And so I would say very positive across the board.

Greg Lambert  40:59

Well, for the for the last question. There’s there’s kind of a series of questions. So we wanted to kind of make this into a speed round, where we throw you some some industries, and you tell us what it is that you think they can do in the future, what changes or adjustments that they need to do in order to thrive in the future? And so I’ll start off, what is it that law schools could be doing better in the future, and then that includes students, faculty, and support staff?

Jennifer Leonard  41:30

So I think we’ve talked about it a lot. But I really think the key to the future and helping students navigate ambiguity is bringing in more multidisciplinary perspectives into the into the curriculum. I was on a call the other day where somebody was talking about how in their near law school classroom, they have a project where the students have to find an expert in another field to help them solve this legal challenge. It can’t be a legal professional, things like that, that are simple adjustments. I think sometimes we think, you know, making change requires huge disruptive ideas or enormous resources. And sometimes it’s just a small tweak like that. I think educating students about the change in the profession, about the system’s failures and about how they can be part of shaping a better future for the legal profession and couching it in optimistic and positive terms. It can be scary for law students to hear that the legal profession is changing really rapidly, right as they’re arriving. But the great news is, so many students are coming to law school now with a real interest in social justice, and in serving all of society and the health of our society. And that’s not only students interested in the public interest anymore, that’s most of our students are interested in these topics. So helping them understand where we failed and where they can help us and what opportunities there are for them to make it better. And I would say greater alignment with a rapidly changing profession, which is really what FPI is designed to do to really be that connector between the law schools and the profession itself so that we can learn quickly and respond quickly and be partner to the profession.

Marlene Gebauer  43:05

Okay, I think we kind of killed the idea of the lightning round.

Jennifer Leonard  43:10

Sorry. Welcome to me.

Marlene Gebauer  43:13

It was great. It was a great answer, though.

Jennifer Leonard  43:19

I’ll be faster next time.

Marlene Gebauer  43:22

no pressure or anything.

Jennifer Leonard  43:25

I’m ready to go.

Marlene Gebauer  43:26

So mine are law firms, partners, associates, non partner track and allied professionals.

Jennifer Leonard  43:32

Alright, stop using lawyer non lawyer vocabulary.

Marlene Gebauer  43:35

Oh, my God, thank you.

Jennifer Leonard  43:37

You’re welcome. Build real infrastructure in house to support innovation projects and spend at least a small percentage of your resources dedicated to those projects. And use this strange time as a real opportunity for radical collaboration with your clients. Learning what they really value and where you can really improve and feed that into your innovation infrastructure. Was that shorter?

Greg Lambert  44:02

Much faster!

Marlene Gebauer  44:04

That was brilliant, too.

Greg Lambert  44:06

So what about courts? So that includes, you know, federal, state, local, and I’ll even throw in like Legal Aid and access to justice professionals, what could they be doing better?

Jennifer Leonard  44:16

So I would say Chief Justice McCormack in Michigan is really great example of a judge who is trying to capture what is happening right now in our courts during COVID. And making sure that we don’t lose the opportunity to take that experience and create better court systems for everybody in the future. So I would say courts need to be thinking now about how their use of technology, data, and their experience in navigating a crisis can inform a better court system on the other side, I would also say law schools tend to focus almost exclusively on the federal court system. And most people’s lives are impacted not at the federal level, but at the state and local level. So bringing in more opportunities for students to learn about what the challenges are for self represented litigants in in local and state courts, and how we can be designing better systems there. And I’m channeling Jim Sandman, when I say that law school presents an idealized version of appellate court litigation that was litigated with quality lawyers on both sides throughout, which is, as Jim would say, a complete fiction, as compared to the reality. It’s not me, this is Jim speaking. And he’s right. So I think paying attention to all of our court systems and making sure that we’re teaching students about them, and how to make them better.

Marlene Gebauer  45:37

Okay, so how about Bar Associations and professional associations and, you know, things like, you know, regulatory changes, you know, how do they respond to that, or certification changes?

Jennifer Leonard  45:49

Yeah, I think this is, this is a really challenging one, because there’s so many different stakeholders in the in the system, and we’re not designed to move very quickly, as a whole. And it’s also really not my area of expertise. So it will be a quick, quick answer, but I think I’m looking at NALP right now is doing a really good job of thinking strategically about the role that it has in the legal profession, and how it can be using that role to advance progress. So I think stepping back and thinking about the power that individual Association has in being part of the change, and part of the conversation is an important first step to strategic planning around taking next steps to to keep up and to be moving along with the other dynamics that are changing legal practice.

Greg Lambert  46:37

And last but not least, what about things like, you know, vendors, consultants, those that are industry support, what what can they do to change?

Jennifer Leonard  46:47

I would say, step back by asking yourself, what is the actual problem that you are trying to solve for your client. And I learned this from my friend who works in software development that people who develop tech love to develop tech that they want to use, and it ends up being a solution in search of a problem. But if they actually engage with their client, get to understand through empathy interviews, understand their pain points, and then develop solutions that are actually integrated into their business model. That that is helpful, but the rest is really not not helpful. So that that would be my advice.

Greg Lambert  47:25

Jennifer Leonard, thanks for taking the time to talk with us about the Future of the Profession Initiative there at Penn Law. This has been very enlightening.

Marlene Gebauer  47:34

Thank you, Jennifer.

Jennifer Leonard  47:35

Thank you both so much for having me on. And to Adam, for connecting us it was a pleasure.

Marlene Gebauer  47:43

Greg, I, I really just don’t know where to start on this. It’s like, there were so many, so many good things. First of all, Pennovation, you know, great. And, you know, she was talking about how they’re talking about not only, you know, local types of impact, but global impact. So I mean, it’s a really broad topic. And, you know, I love that it’s not just Penn students that are benefiting from this, that they’re looking at, you know, other schools and how other schools can benefit. They’re trying to create problem solvers of the future, and have people understand that in order to be that, you really have to be a lifelong learner. I mean, it’s continual learning. As you go forward in your career,

Greg Lambert  48:26

I think that the Five-Year Out Academy is, that’s such a no brainer anymore, because, one, it keeps you connected with your students and having, you know, every time I’ve talked with a university, or a Penn Law graduate, you know, they’re a Penn Law graduate, because they tell you within five minutes of meeting them that they want to Penn Law, so which we know which is a good thing. But, you know, the keeping that connection with your graduates to focus on, okay, now that you’re, you know, right at the, you know, the end of the beginning of your career, here’s the next steps, here’s, here’s the things that you have to worry about. And and I think, mentioning, especially for those that may transition into government, that’s a different animal. And if you’re, if you’ve worked in law firms, there’s so many traps you have to run in government. And so I think it’s just a brilliant idea.

Marlene Gebauer  49:23

Well, I mean, it’s a great alumni, you know, it’s a great alumni tool to sort of engage your alumni and keep your alumni close. And honestly, I mean, I know firms are sort of working on alumni programs now too. It’s like they ought to think about something like this, in order to bring people and keep them engaged with the firm. And the other thing I was thinking about, like when she was talking about this, it reminded me so much of our interview with Jen Bluestein about you know, the mid year success, you know, advice and and so this is the same sort of thing you know, you kind of get a refresher on Hey, what here’s what you should be aware of, and, you know, here’s what to do in terms of transition. Going into your next steps for your career. Yeah,

Greg Lambert  50:03

yeah. I still don’t know how they manage time with with all of those brainiacs in the in the room,

Marlene Gebauer  50:08

because you know, everybody has ta talk. Right right. There were no wallflowers in that group.

Greg Lambert  50:16

That’s for sure. Well, that’s for sure. So

Marlene Gebauer  50:18

I am very excited about this. And I hope they do figure out how to make that light on the lapel for legal.

Greg Lambert  50:26

Yeah. Well, thanks again to Jennifer Leonard up at Penn Law and the Chief Innovation Officer there as well as the executive director for the future of the profession initiative. It’s a great program and and I wish them well. But before we go, we want to remind listeners to take the time to subscribe on Apple podcast or Spotify, or wherever you listen to your podcast and take the time to rate and review us as well. If you have some comments about today’s show, or suggestions for a future show, you can reach out to us on Twitter at at @gebauerm or at @glambert. You can call The Geek in Review hotline at 713-487-7270 or you can email us at

Marlene Gebauer  51:12

And as always the music you hear is from Jerry David DeCicca. Thanks, Jerry.

Greg Lambert  51:16

Yeah, thanks, Jerry. All right, Marlene, I will talk with you later.

Marlene Gebauer  51:19

Okay, bye bye.