Professor Michele DeStefano Publishes Book on Achieving Success in Changing Legal Landscape


In her new book, Legal Upheaval, Professor Michele DeStefano lays out the trifecta for success in a changed legal landscape: creativity, collaboration, and innovation. DeStefano, a former marketing executive, now a professor at Miami Law and guest faculty at Harvard Law School’s Executive Education program, has spent more than a decade researching the evolving legal marketplace. The book provides powerful evidence that collaboration toward innovation is the new value equation in law, creating stickier and more profitable client relationships.

Professor Michele DeStefano

In today’s legal marketplace, clients are demanding services that require a new skill set and a new mindset from lawyers.

“The legal landscape is changing and the skills that are required of a lawyer today are completely different than what they were 20 years ago, and law schools are still teaching the skills that were required 20 years ago,” DeStefano said in an interview with’s Karen Sloan.

According to the ABA, DeStefano, in a conversational fashion, takes readers on a journey from why lawyers need to innovate to how they can do so. She unveils the Lawyer Skills Delta and maps out a methodology for filling the gaps in current legal skill sets: The 3 Rules of Engagement and the 3-4-5 Method of Innovation for Lawyers. Full of points of reflection, as well as concrete directions, Legal Upheaval makes innovation accessible.

Why should you learn how to innovate, the ABA asks. Even if you agree that lawyers could use a refresher on creativity and collaboration, you might still be skeptical. This book is written to inspire lawyers and legal professionals to embrace innovation practices, even if their business model isn’t “broken.” In the process of innovating, lawyers hone the mindsets, skills, and habits that clients desire—and, in the future, that clients will require. The book is divided into three parts: Why Lawyers Should Hone the Mindset, Skillset, and Behaviors of Innovators; The 3 Rules of Engagement: Creating a Culture of Creativity, Collaboration, and Innovation; and The Innovation Possible: Putting Together the Theory, Practice, and Proof.

Each chapter concludes with points of reflection designed to help the reader determine what are the best approaches for the team, department, or firm. 

Born of DeStefano’s own work leading hundreds of multidisciplinary teams on innovation cycles, as well as conducting more than 100 interviews of general counsels and law firm partners, Legal Upheaval provides a new understanding of the expectations of clients. It is the playbook for lawyers looking to transform business relationships and create a client-leadership edge.

“If you’re a lawyer and you haven’t ever worked in the service industry—like at a restaurant, a Starbucks, or a bar—go do it,” DeStefano told Sloan. “You learn what it means to not be seen to be the most educated in the room, or the person that has all the answers. You learn what it feels like to be treated badly. You learn the idiosyncrasies about yourself and your tone. You learn it by the tips you do or do not get. If you bring the basic ideas of service into law, you’ll please your clients.”

Legal Upheaval is published by Ankerwycke, the trade imprint of the American Bar Association.