Northwestern University School of Law has launched the Center for Practice Engagement and Innovation (CPEI) to investigate how legal education can best prepare new lawyers for the rigors of practice in a rapidly changing legal marketplace.

 

CPEI is designed to be an incubator for innovation in legal education, one that will bring together diverse voices and perspectives from the legal community, the businesses and institutions that work with it, and the legal academy itself to address key topics in legal education and its relationship to the profession.


James A. Lupo, professor of practice at Northwestern Law, will direct the center’s work.


“The legal profession has been evolving at an amazing pace in the last few years,” Lupo said. “Legal education must evolve, too. The center will bring together leaders from all sectors of the legal profession to inform the Law School’s efforts in creating programs and initiatives designed to ensure Northwestern’s graduates are best prepared to succeed throughout their careers in a dynamic professional environment.”


CPEI grew out of the School of Law’s most recent strategic planning process.


“A primary focus of our strategic planning process was to investigate how best to serve our students, our community and our profession not only for today but for tomorrow as well,” said Daniel B. Rodriguez, dean of Northwestern Law. “We created CPEI to build connections between the Law School and the practice community, to facilitate a two-way conversation about how we prepare our students so that they are ready to effectively engage in, and eventually lead, the profession.”


Key early initiatives of the center will include a series of forums with managing partners and recruiting partners, corporate counsel and attorneys who work in the nonprofit and public sectors to discuss the skills and doctrinal grounding these professionals feel are most important for new lawyers.


The center also anticipates hosting an attorney development forum to discuss the relationship between and respective objectives of law school education and on-the-job training. The center will organize practice-area advisory groups to ensure that Northwestern Law’s curricular and co-curricular offerings are current and appropriate for students wishing to target particular practice areas and sectors. In addition, there are plans for a legal-practice and business entrepreneurship program specifically for students who may wish to start their own practices or law-related businesses.


Furthermore, the center will also organize annual debriefings for summer associates and recent graduates to discuss what these new lawyers feel was useful -- and what would have been useful -- in their educational experience at Northwestern Law.


“The primary goal is to deliver actionable intelligence around which we can enhance our programs and curriculum,” Lupo said. “We will listen to all ideas, propose innovation and implement meaningful change.”


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