From left, James Batham, partner, Eversheds; Jackie Nga Man Yeung, University College London; Paige Reese, Miami Law; Michael Paranal, Wharton School; Elaine Tracey, in-house lawyer, Nestle; and Nadia D'Agostino, associate, Eversheds. The three students won the ConPosium's presentations contest. (Photo: Nick Madigan/Miami Law)
After all the hard work, tension, and sleepless nights, as well as four months' worth of intense virtual meetings across the breadth of the world's time zones, there were relieved smiles, firm handshakes and tight hugs at the end of LawWithoutWalls' 2013 session, which began in January in Segovia, Spain, and concluded at the University of Miami the second weekend in April.
For the third consecutive year, LawWithoutWalls, the groundbreaking program directed by Miami Law, brought together the talents, knowledge and ideas of dozens of people from around the world – this time, close to 150, including 44 law and business students from 18 schools in 11 countries – to create a swath of entrepreneurial ideas that could guide the future of legal education and the profession. The students, grouped into 14 teams, each of them assigned a topic and a problem to solve with a new idea, presented their projects in Miami to panels of judges at an event known as the ConPosium.
"It's such an amazing program," said Michael Paranal, a student at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the winning team – it also included Miami Law's Paige Reese and Jackie Nga Man Yeung of University College London – in the ConPosium's presentations contest. "Where else would you be able to meet such an amazing group of people, all with the same goal in mind?"
The team's winning presentation was titled, "The Death of the Cover Letter: Rethinking How to Find a Job and Build a Career," an eminently practical set of ideas that had emerged victorious only after a second round of voting – everyone in the room votes electronically – to break a three-way tie.
Each team has the benefit of several mentors – academics, practitioners, entrepreneurs and members of the corporate world. Teams also have access to so-called subject expert advisors in law and business, as well as a group of venture capitalists who are on the lookout for terrific ideas. One of the program's most visible participants is the global law firm Eversheds, which brought large contingents of lawyers to both the Segovia and Miami conferences.
LawWithoutWalls' latest incarnation was a learning experience for everyone. "I didn't know the challenges in the legal landscape, and that there was this approach to solving these problems," said Miwa Gardner-Page, another student from Wharton, one of two business schools in the program. "I didn't realize how a business person's involvement can help shape the legal industry. It was fantastic, and pretty revolutionary in terms of meeting on Adobe Connect and being in all these spaces. They plant seeds with these ideas."
Gardner-Page was on a team with Miami Law's Yana Mityaeva; Jill Barrett, from University College London; and Joel Fox, from Tel Aviv University, with a presentation titled, "Not Lost in Translation: Delivering Legal Services Across Multiple Jurisdictions and Common/Civil Law Tradition." One of the judges assigned to assess their performance, Liz Lamar, a management consultant whose firm specializes in law firm management and technology solutions, said, "I commend you guys for taking on such a broad topic," and noted that they were "capable of identifying strengths and leveraging them." But she advised the team members to focus their energies and "not be all things to all people."
Another panel judge, Christopher Baker, a partner at Skadden Arps in Paris and an adjunct professor at École de Droit de Sciences Po, spoke during a break. "Put three or four kids in a room with a great idea and what comes out of that is mind-boggling," he said. "It's always an eye-popper to see what part of the topic they choose and what angle, and from the spectators' point of view that's what's most fascinating, apart from the energy and the enthusiasm."
LawWithoutWalls is led by Michele DeStefano, an Associate Professor at Miami Law, and Michael Bossone, Special Advisor to Dean Patricia D. White. "What matters is the journey – the journey that got us all here," Professor DeStefano told the students, and asked them to think back to the program's beginning in January. "You had to pick something from all those possibilities... Some of you had no idea what the topics meant, and you pushed it."
"As we conclude our ConPosium," Bossone said, "we hope and pray that all of us will remember the stories of this weekend... and that we should live each moment like we will never, ever forget."
To end the session, Professor DeStefano and Bossone embarked on a parade of thanks that included acknowledgements of Dean White and Peter D. Lederer, a former a partner at Baker & McKenzie, both of whom were instrumental in the program's founding. There was a standing ovation and a bouquet of flowers for LawWithoutWalls' program coordinator, Lauren Madigan, who had adroitly orchestrated the countless, intricate details of the course and of its opening and closing conferences.
Although everyone is required to possess a working knowledge of English to participate, a good illustration of the potential complexity of the undertaking – beyond the heady topics at issue – is the fact that students in LawWithoutWalls this year speak the following additional languages: Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, Swiss German, German, Hebrew, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Urdu, Hindi, Tamil and Irish.
The schools in the program, located across 19 time zones, are Fordham Law, Harvard Law, IE Business School, IE University, Indiana University School of Law, Miami Law, Montréal Law, National Law School of India University, New York Law School, Peking University School of Transnational Law, São Paulo Laws, Stanford Law School, Sydney Law School, Tel Aviv University, Universidad Católica de Chile Law, University College London Laws, University of St. Gallen Law School, and Wharton School of Business.
After it was all over, Miami Law student Sean Maye said the program had been "great" but that it was a relief to be finished. "It's bittersweet – it's sad to leave the LWOW family and my group," he said, referring to his fellow team members, Yoni Levy, from Harvard Law School; Marta Ottogalli, from IE University Law School, Segovia; and Bhargavi Raman, from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore.
Maye said he was pleased, though, "that all this hard work is done, and it's paid off."
For more information about LawWithoutWalls, take a look at its website.