“You’re marrying a firefighter. That’s all I’ll ever be. I’m never going to finish college.”
That’s what Bill Henderson told his soon to be wife many years ago, but thankfully that was not true.
Fast forward to today and Bill is now Professor William Henderson, the Stephen F. Burns Chair on the Legal Profession at Indiana University and he has been a law professor for nearly 20 years.
Professor Henderson is also the moving force behind Legal Evolution, an online publication focusing on changes in the legal industry with the stated mission of providing lawyers, legal educators, and allied professionals with high-quality information to solve very difficult industry-specific problems.
It was almost true that Professor Henderson did not finish college. He dropped out and got a job as a firefighter. But… it was only because he was a firefighter that he ended up going to law school.
In the early 90s, during firefighter union negotiations, Bill’s union rep asked him to tag along and take notes. Foreshadowing his career as a professor, not only did Bill take notes, he also did in depth research into prior collective bargaining agreements and into state law so the union team could strike a better bargain.
In the end, Bill moved on from note taker to union vice president and eventually took over as lead negotiator.
Because of all of this, Bill decided to go to law school at the University of Chicago and became a legal professor.
Since entering academia, Bill has done a ton of research and writing on the state of legal services in general, but more specifically, how legal innovation can improve it.
In a nutshell, Bill’s research has determined that more and more legal work is focused on commercial law at the expense of “PeopleLaw” –a term he uses to describe legal work done on behalf of individuals (like criminal law, domestic relations law and the like).
50 years ago, legal work was pretty much split 50/50 between PeopleLaw and commercial law. Now that division is 75/25 in favor of commercial law which is causing an access to justice issue. There is a great need for legal services related to PeopleLaw, but it is too expensive or just doesn’t exist.
However, Professor Henderson thinks there are a few things the legal community can do to address this problem: Better use of project management techniques, use of allied professionals, and leveraging legal technology.