Teasing the Arc of Electric Spark: Fostering and Teaching Creativity in the Law School Curriculum

42 Pages Posted: 29 May 2020 Last revised: 24 Jun 2020

See all articles by Jason Dykstra

Jason Dykstra

University of Idaho College of Law

Date Written: May 1, 2020

Abstract

Amidst an era of tumultuous disruption, the legal profession remains needlessly static, reflecting an ingrained tendency to preserve the status quo. Rather than turning to creative non-lawyers for help upending a business model largely unchanged since the days of Charles Dickens, lawyers can initiate innovative solutions that allow the legal profession to grow and strategically change. This Article explores the nature of creativity, crafting a broad working definition of creativity and addressing why the demographic bubble of baby boom era attorneys may prove an unlikely creative catalyst for law firm innovation. For law firms faced with an era of ongoing, tumultuous disruption, this seems acutely problematic given that eighty-five percent of the managing partners at the top 100 law firms hail from the baby boom generation. Compounded by the ingrained law firm culture that tends to quash creativity and resist innovation, the demographic bubble of baby boom partners appear unlikely to be the creative catalysts needed for law firm innovation. Thus, newly minted attorneys need creativity to both address the on-going disruption of the legal services industry and for the everyday creative expression and problem-solving skills needed for effective lawyering.

This Article examines the magnitude of creativity, often framed into two broad categories: the quintessential lightning bolt breakthroughs, like Albert Einstein’s interrelated theories of special relativity and general relativity, called exceptional or Big-C creativity, juxtaposed with much smaller arcs of electric spark, sometimes called incremental creativity and dubbed little-c. The Article concedes that law school may not be optimal for teaching exceptional or Big-C creativity, which may defy teachability, at least in a formal educational setting. But both empirically and anecdotally, little-c or incremental creativity is eminently teachable. The Article proposes teaching creativity in the law school curriculum. To do so, the curriculum must foster creativity and integrate curricula that help students become comfortable solving ambiguous problems that require divergent thinking and defy single correct answers.

Keywords: creativity, legal education, disruption, Big-C, little-c, legal writing, law firms, legal industry, baby boom, incremental creativity, law school curriculum, legal profession, innovation, teaching creativity, divergent thinking, law firm culture,

Suggested Citation

Dykstra, Jason, Teasing the Arc of Electric Spark: Fostering and Teaching Creativity in the Law School Curriculum (May 1, 2020). Wyoming Law Review, Vol. 20, No. 1, 2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3590410

Jason Dykstra (Contact Author)

University of Idaho College of Law ( email )

514 W. Jefferson Street
Boise, ID 83702
United States

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