Foundational Competencies: Innovation in Legal Education

19 Pages Posted: 25 Dec 2009


Spurred by a rapidly changing legal environment and a desire to differentiate and maximize the success of our graduates, Northwestern Law recently completed a major strategic planning initiative resulting in a revolutionary report entitled Plan 2008: Preparing Great Leaders for the Changing World. Plan 2008 is the most recent installment of a long-term process to enhance our student quality and programs. The new initiatives build upon a strategic plan that we have been refining since its implementation in 1998. Under the prior plan, we introduced the evaluative admissions interview and work-experience policy for applicants. We also added a number of programs and initiatives that either introduce our students to or focus on many of the foundational competencies identified in Plan 2008.

Under Plan 2008, a Working Group consisting of faculty, staff, students, and alumni, along with the assistance of Blaqwell, Inc., a legal consulting firm, gathered extensive information on legal education, legal profession trends, developmental frameworks and training programs of law firms and other professional service firms both in the United States and the United Kingdom, and alumni career trajectories, and talked directly to the lawyers affecting the trends. Managing partners, general counsel, and other leaders of top law firms, government, and nonprofits exchanged invaluable, frank perspectives with us in focus groups that took place throughout the United States (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.) and in London. To our knowledge, no other law school has undertaken such a systematic and market-driven strategic planning approach to date. This article provides a broad summary of our Working Group’s research, findings, and recommendations.

Keywords: Northwestern University School of Law, Northwestern Law, Plan 2008, law firms, legal market, legal education, lawyers, associates, legal profession, careers, experiential learning, leadership, teamwork, collaboration, communication, quantitative skill, project management, globalization

JEL Classification: K00, K40, J44, M53, I21, L84

Suggested Citation

Van Zandt, David, Foundational Competencies: Innovation in Legal Education. Rutgers Law Review, Vol. 61, No. 4, 2009, Northwestern Law & Econ Research Paper No. 09-48, Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 09-28, Available at SSRN:

David Van Zandt (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

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