Chris Newbold:

Hello, wellbeing friends, and welcome to the Path to Wellbeing in Law Podcast, an initiative of the Institute for Wellbeing in Law. I’m your cohost, Chris Newbold, executive vice president of ALPS Malpractice Insurance. You listeners know that our goal is pretty simple. We want to bring you thought leaders doing meaningful work in the wellbeing space within the profession, and in the process, build and nurture a national network of wellbeing advocates intent on creating a culture shift within the profession. I’m always pleased to introduce my cohost, Bree Buchanan, and I know Bree has been working hard as the inaugural president of the Institute for Wellbeing in Law. Bree, let’s spend a couple minutes before we introduce our guest, kind of talking about the Institute because exciting things are happening.

Bree Buchanan:

They really are, and hello to you, Chris, and to all of our listeners. It is such an exciting time. The National Taskforce on Lawyer Wellbeing, we had such a success with a report. We had 32 multi-stakeholder taskforces out of the states all around the country join the movement, and we realized, really, time was right for us to create our own nonprofit, and we did that in December of 2020, and it’s just been an amazing ride already. Everything is just, I guess, it’s spring, it’s blooming. We have been raising money in a way that makes us really confident that this is, again, the right thing at the right time, and we’re going to be able to do great things. By the time that you are listening to this, we will have, I expect, just celebrated our second annual wellbeing week in law which is always chalk full of amazing activities, with something happening every day of the week to celebrate the different dimensions of wellbeing.

Bree Buchanan:

This year, we are having, and I bet it’s probably just going on about now, the third week of may, an after party, which we spend a whole week providing educational support and inspiration for all the wellbeing directors at the many legal employers and law firms which is another part of the movement that’s transpiring as we grow, so, really exciting. Our website’s been updated. We’re going to start accepting members, both individual and organizational, this summer, so we’re growing and we’re growing fast and it’s a really exciting time. I am so privileged to be able to sit at the board president and acting executive director, and will be even more delighted when we hire our permanent executive director. Yeah, good things are happening.

Chris Newbold:

Yeah, again, like you said, it’s been a great ride. Momentum is building. It certainly feels like there’s a sense of optimism, and again, the institute’s ability to be a facilitator and a dot connector of all the different wellbeing activities happening across the profession is just going to be so important to making sure that this issue remains front and center, and again, if the big time goal is to create a culture shift, it certainly starts with an entity that can focus on this day in, day out.

Bree Buchanan:

Absolutely. Our tag line which we just adopted is, the Institute for Wellbeing in Law, leading the legal profession to greater wellbeing. That really kind of sums up what we’re hoping and planning to do.

Chris Newbold:

Yeah, awesome. Today, let’s delve a little bit more into another, I think, area of the wellbeing discussion that is a really important one, and that’s the intersection of wellbeing and the role of law schools. We know that so much of how our profession evolves depends on the manner in which we attract and train lawyers coming into the profession which makes the conversation around American legal education so important. Our guest today, he’s a good one. He’s one who’s been deemed a legal rebel by the ABA Journal. He’s been known to be unafraid of taking on the institutional gatekeepers of the legal profession. We know that we’re talking with a thought leader and some may say a disruptor in the legal space.

Bree Buchanan:

I love it.

Chris Newbold:

We welcome Kyle McEntee to the podcast. Bree, would you be so kind to introduce Kyle to our podcast listeners?

Bree Buchanan:

I absolutely would, and in preparing for this, Chris and I had a great conversation with Kyle, and I can just tell from that hour that we spent on the phone that he is really a preeminent thought leader in this space, and so I encourage everybody to listen closely and get a glimpse into the future and where we’re going around the lawyer wellbeing movement in law schools. Kyle told me he’s a hater of long introductions, so I’ll keep it quick and you’ll get to know him over the course of the time that we’re here together.

Bree Buchanan:

Kyle McEntee is the executive director of Law School Transparency, a nonprofit organization he co-founded in 2009 while he was in law school. Kyle, let me ask you the question that we like to always start off with, is what got you into the wellbeing movement? Inevitably, everyone that I’ve talked to that has a real passion around this work, they have something in their life that has motivated them, so what motivates you to get up and do this hard work every day?

Kyle McEntee:

First of all, Chris and Bree, thank you so much for having me and thank you for getting it started with me blushing. Again, I am not a fan of those intros. I am on the periphery of this wellbeing movement and someone who wants to be more involved. I think that’s where I would start by saying, and as I thought about this question, because I did get this question a bit ahead of time, I came up with three reasons, I think, upon reflection, about why this matters to me.

Kyle McEntee:

The first is the cost of becoming a lawyer. This relates to the founding of my organization, Law School Transparency, but I currently have, hopefully for not too much longer because of loan forgiveness, a lot of student debt, and this is a really stressful thing for anyone, but especially a new lawyer and especially someone who’s trying to start an organization which I’ve spent the last 10 years since I graduated law school in startup mode. It weighs on you.

Bree Buchanan:

Sure.

Kyle McEntee:

The second is these cultural expectations we have related to work and work/life balance. It’s something I’ve struggled with. It’s something I’ve seen my friends struggle with, both in law school, before law school, after law school, and it’s that expected work ethic that I think is really troubling and something that needs to be dismantled, which is a decades if not centuries long process. The third thing is really trying to listen to people who study these issues and then my hope that I can use my position of privilege to cause positive change. I know that there’s a problem. I don’t fully understand them, outside of myself and my friends and my family, but by listening and knowing that I do have a position of influence that can be used for that greater good, it makes me want to help.

Chris Newbold:

Yeah, interesting. Let’s spend a couple minutes talking about Law School Transparency and the organization that you lead. I think it started while you were in law school. What were the motivations behind the project and, ultimately, how did it get started?

Kyle McEntee:

It actually started before law school. The organization itself we founded during my 1L summer, but before law school, I was seeking job statistics during the application process. I knew that I wanted to go to law school, but I didn’t really know much about being a lawyer, and so I started to investigate what that looked like, and what kind of jobs people from various schools got, because I knew that there was some element of where you go to school matters. I didn’t understand it as well as I needed to, and so, upon investigating it, I struggled to find information.

Kyle McEntee:

I ended up at the admitted students weekend for Vanderbilt where I ultimately attended, and at Vanderbilt they provided this list of where all graduates from the class of 2007 went to work. I thought this list was amazing. I started to talk with my co-founder, Patrick Lynch, who was currently a 1L at Vanderbilt at the time, so just for timeline purposes, this is, roughly, March, April of 2008, and we said, “We should try to get other schools to provide this information.” We started to look into it, and what we discovered, publicized, and ultimately addressed, was that there was widespread deceptive employment statistics published by law schools and blessed by the ABA.

Kyle McEntee:

For example, law schools would say, “98% of our graduates are employed,” but that figure counted a barista at Starbucks the same as an associate at a large firm, and the schools did not disclose this. Now, of course, they are now prohibited from doing that, and there is a lot more detailed employment data available, but it was this thirst for information and then a recognition that someone needed to stand up and demand change that caused me and Patrick Lynch, my co-founder, to say, “Hey, let’s do this.”

Chris Newbold:

Yeah, that’s a pretty gutsy project for somebody just coming into law school and holding the powers that be to a different position. I’m curious how the organization has been received by the legal education world.

Kyle McEntee:

In the beginning, it was made a little a bit easier by the fact that we were two law students at Vanderbilt. No one really thought we were jealous or experiencing some kind of sour grapes. We were pretty quickly pegged as two students doing something good, and that was really helpful, but pretty quickly, that attitude evolved, because we were making, I don’t want to say demands, because we were not in a position to make demands, but we were making arguments that law schools were acting unethically, that the ABA was turning away from this and not doing as much as they should be, and so we were met with a lot of animosity, to say the least, and a lot of excuses from schools.

Kyle McEntee:

When we said, “Schools should be disclosing more data,” they said, “Oh, well, it would violate our students’ privacy,” and that was just a nonsense argument.

Bree Buchanan:

Yeah.

Kyle McEntee:

I’m sorry. I hope you all can’t hear the blowers and the lawnmowers outside.

Chris Newbold:

I haven’t heard it at all, so we’re good.

Bree Buchanan:

No.

Kyle McEntee:

All right, good.

Chris Newbold:

Kyle, just for our listeners, if you had to characterize the mission of Law School Transparency, as obviously it’s evolved from maybe a single issue to a much broader mission, can you share that with us?

Kyle McEntee:

Yeah. Our mission actually really hasn’t changed from the beginning. It is to make entry to the legal profession more transparent, affordable and fair. We always viewed transparency on employment outcomes and salary outcomes as a really important foundation for our work, as opposed to the end itself, because we knew that once law schools were required to share higher quality information, that students would make more informed decisions which would likely affect the price of legal education as well as the number of people who are wanting to go.

Kyle McEntee:

That ended up being pretty accurate. I would say we got pretty lucky on that front. We had a lot of factors going for us, but overall, the mission, it stayed pretty true to that throughout the time and law schools just keep giving us things to do.

Bree Buchanan:

No doubt, no doubt. I remember when that reporting came out about, basically, the law schools are misleading their applicants, and that was really explosive. Of course, I had never heard of LST at the time, but I remember thinking, “Boy, they are courageous, to say the least, to take that on.” I think that you guys made a pretty big splash there at the very beginning. That’s wonderful.

Kyle McEntee:

It’s funny, because it didn’t really feel courageous at the time, and that’s because I don’t think we really contemplated the risk we were taking, and ultimately, we felt that, and I still feel it today where I will walk into a room and I definitely feel the air go out of it at times, but at the time we were just saying, there’s a problem and someone should fix it.

Bree Buchanan:

Right, right, absolutely. As you move forward, you started preparing your law school reports. Could you talk about that, and what you’re measuring in those?

Kyle McEntee:

Yeah. The LST reports, these are our law school reports, lstreports.com. These are tools for pre-law students trying to decide both whether and where to go to law school. We’re on the 5th generation of this site at this point. It started out with us taking the current employment information and helping people understand what it means and what it doesn’t mean. A lot of it at that time was saying, “Okay, see this type line number? It says 98% employed. Here’s actually what goes into it and why you shouldn’t look at this as your ticket to financial security,” and with the salaries we would say, “See this median salary of $160,000? Well, it actually reflects about 5% of the class in some instances, and here’s why.”

Kyle McEntee:

Over time, as we forced information … I’m sorry, it’s getting really loud, here.

Bree Buchanan:

Why don’t we kind of consider this a break.

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Chris Newbold:

We’re back with Kyle McEntee, the executive director of Law School Transparency, a little minor interruption as the leaf blowers blew into Kyle’s backyard. We are officially back. Kyle, we were talking about the law school reports and what you’re measuring. I think, what’s really important is that you provide this information to the future prospects of legal education free of charge. Talk about how many folks visit your sites and how important that work has been at impacting the legal education world.

Kyle McEntee:

Yeah. I’ll start in reverse order and say, I think it’s made a really big impact because, as I was talking about before, it started with explaining what was wrong with the current information, the then current, and over time, we have been able to force out new information. Law schools now voluntarily disclose a substantial amount of employment data and salary data that they previously weren’t, and now the ABA requires that schools publish a lot of data, and then the ABA publishes those same data in spreadsheet form which makes it really easy to get it in my database.

Kyle McEntee:

What we’re ultimately measuring, though, is employment outcomes, admissions likelihood, costs, bar exam outcomes, and we’re taking, I think, over a million data points and organizing it into something that’s relatively easy to use for pre-law students and their advisors. The goal here is helping them make informed decisions which goes to whether you go to school at all, which school to choose, how much to pay, and all that’s built on, where should I even apply, can I get in, who should I be trying to negotiate with, what does negotiation even look like when you’re negotiating salaries.

Kyle McEntee:

This information has, I think, done a pretty good job at transforming at least part of the market. That said, we do have tens of thousands of pre-law students every year on the site, but they tend to be people who are considering the top performing schools, and they tend to be later in the process when they’re making the decision about where to go, as opposed to earlier in the process when they’re deciding where to apply. If you apply to the wrong schools based on your career goals, that’s not as helpful as it would be if you use this information earlier in the process so that while you were making choices among schools it made sense for you.

Kyle McEntee:

Because one of the things we’ve really learned through all this increased transparency is that law schools are very local or even regional and that the number of national schools, it’s maybe 10, maybe 15, but past that, you really should be looking at a school where you want to work. That, I think, has been an attitudinal shift that we’ve been able to see among pre-law students. That said, there’s still a lot to do on that front, because US News remains the elephant in the room for people who are deciding where to apply, where to attend.

Bree Buchanan:

Yeah. Kyle, can you talk a little bit about the US News and World Report ranking of law schools? That, from my view, causes so many problems for students, and I guess, just in a misleading way, when they’re trying to make these vital decisions. Could you talk a little bit about those reports and how, in some ways, they’re not really very helpful?

Kyle McEntee:

Yeah. I’ll use stronger language.

Bree Buchanan:

Go right ahead.

Kyle McEntee:

They are enormously damaging to both pre-law students as they’re trying to decide whether and where to apply to law school, but also to law schools. They stifle innovation. They cause schools to allocate their resources in all kinds of nonsensical ways, and it makes it very difficult for schools to have a real commitment to equity, to diversity, to innovation, to affordability, all these things that there’s pretty wide consensus on, that law schools don’t do that well. Law schools are not doing a good job on equity. Law schools are not doing a great job on affordability. They’re not doing a good job on evaluating students for the competencies that they need to be successful lawyers, and US News is the constant elephant in the room.

Kyle McEntee:

It’s difficult to make any decision internally at a law school without someone, somewhere, thinking, “How will this affect my ranking,” because it affects all stakeholders.

Bree Buchanan:

Absolutely, yeah.

Kyle McEntee:

It’s a terrible situation.

Bree Buchanan:

Yeah, I went back and taught at University of Texas School of Law for four years in a clinical program, and I saw that up close when I was really starting to watch the administration and how the school operated. The chasing of those rankings, that is just the most important thing, not just the most important metric, and it really does distort things to a great degree, so, wonderful that you’re shedding some light on that.

Chris Newbold:

Kyle, are you surprised that that tool has maintained its stranglehold on law school perception?

Kyle McEntee:

No, I’m not. I think rankings serve a useful purpose to humans. We look for shortcuts, and I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing. In this case, it is, but it’s difficult to organize a lot of different data points and then figure out what to do with it. In other words, it’s hard to turn data into information. US News, through its simplicity of an ordinal ranking that says one is better than two, two is better than 30, really helps people feel confidence in their choice. The problem is when the methodology is unsound and the weightings are irrational and the schools you’re comparing with one another don’t deserve to be compared to each other.

Kyle McEntee:

It’s really not that surprising that people want to find a tool that can do this and tell you that one school’s better than the other, and then, against the backdrop of a profession that is obsessed with prestige at every point, whether it’s where you go to law school, how you do in law school, whether you’re on Law Review, what your class rank is, then, once you’re out in practice, are you on the fancy lists, and then at the big law firms, are you a Vault 100 firm, are you a Vault 20 firm, are you a Vault 5 firm, or what are your profits per partner and what does this mean or what’s my bonus and how does my bonus compare to the person across the whole or the firm across town or the firm across the country.

Kyle McEntee:

It’s enormously damaging to people. I think that because of that, it’s really not that surprising that a ranking that reinforces that hierarchy, that hierarchy that so many lawyers are looking for, keeps its power, and that’s what makes dealing with it and mitigating its influence such a challenge.

Bree Buchanan:

Sure, and there’s an idea, too, of listening to that word prestige and chasing that prestige, and what research has shown, yes, that is what pervades the legal profession as an overarching goal for so many, but research has showed that that is not what brings us happiness, a sense of wellbeing or satisfaction in our life. There’s great research from Professor Larry Krieger that really delves into that quite a bit. Let me shift a little bit to around the topic of wellbeing, for law students and lawyers, young lawyers in particular. Can you make the connection between what the issues that you’re dealing with there with law schools and transparency, and law student wellbeing?

Kyle McEntee:

Yeah. I think there’s two main intersections here. There’s probably more, but there’s two I will talk about. One is the cost of legal education, and law school’s not affordable, and so what we’re doing is trying to figure out, what are the structural impediments to more affordability. The second goes to inclusivity, and when people don’t feel included in a community, they’re less likely to be happy and satisfied. We think that there’s actually a huge amount of overlap in those structural impediments to legal education being more affordable, to legal education between more inclusive, more equitable, and ultimately, producing more diversity with people who actually feel like they belong, because it’s not enough to just say, “We’re meeting a quota for the number of women graduating from law school, or the number of people of color graduating from law school.”

Kyle McEntee:

As a profession, we need to be welcoming to everyone and make everyone feel like they belong, because otherwise we are going to fail on our primary charge of upholding the promise of the rule of law.

Bree Buchanan:

Right.

Chris Newbold:

Kyle, if you had to give a grade to the American legal education system when it comes to the pursuit of diversity and equity and inclusion in our law school classes, this is a little off the cuff question, but I think it’s important because I do agree with you that so much of wellbeing is associated with a feeling of belonging and being there, and so I’m curious on just your perception of the reality of how you see it.

Kyle McEntee:

I think I’m going to resist. I will give an answer, but the reason I’m going to resist, is that I’m often a critic of systems of measurement that lack validity, notable US News, and any grade I would give would lack validity because I don’t exactly what I’d be measuring, how I’d be measuring it, and how to make it mean something. That said, there are a lot of opportunities right now for law schools to do better on all of these fronts, but they are very often restricted by the elephant in the room, US News. I know I keep coming back to them, and they are not always the answer to things but I do think that by mitigating some of that influence, we can make a lot of inroads on the issues that matter to a lot of people, namely, educational quality, diversity, affordability.

Chris Newbold:

Yeah. Let me ask you this. Law School Transparency, do you have ambitions, or are you already moving into the ranking space? If we know that the other ranking system might be looking at the wrong things that actually people most intently care about, part of that would be to provide an alternative to what’s already established out there, and I’m just kind of curious on your thoughts and your vision related to that.

Kyle McEntee:

Yeah. We have been in this space for a little while with the LST reports, and we do have plans to expand into another space, and I’ll get into that in a second, but the LST reports as a whole, we’re trying to help people figure out whether and where to go to law school, and then which school to choose. We do this by providing data about schools, but also helping people navigate which schools to choose among, namely where to apply, and then once you’re down to the schools you’ve been accepted to, which schools to actually choose. We’ve paid attention to why people like rankings. They like the quick sort. They like the shortcut, and so, we have focused on what data can we use to introduce students to our information.

Kyle McEntee:

We use a formation of the gold standard job which is long term, full time jobs that require bar passage, and we put this into something called an employment score, and then that employment score is the primary sorting mechanism that we provide to students that lets them see, relatively, which schools perform better or worse, and then from there we introduce them to the many layers of information that they can use to make informed choices.

Kyle McEntee:

It’s not a direct competitor to an ordinal ranking system because we don’t provide one, two, three, four, five rankings, but it is an alternative tool that students are using and students are saying, “You should use this instead of the rankings, because it actually provides you a better means of coming to an informed choice that you’ll be satisfied with.”

Bree Buchanan:

Kyle, is that on your website?

Kyle McEntee:

Yeah, the LST reports as a whole is designed around all these questions, and people use it collectively as a tool instead of US News, again, not as many people as necessary to actually have the larger impact that we’re hoping for, but we’ve made a really good start on it.

Bree Buchanan:

Wonderful. What is your web address, just so we have it?

Kyle McEntee:

We have a few web addresses. Lawschooltransparency.com is the main organizational website and all of our resources are linked from there, but then the LST reports, which is those law school reports, the profiles, the comparison pages, we’ve got a tool that helps organize which schools to apply to and attend and all that kind of stuff, that’s lstreports.com. Our new website for this upcoming project that will, likewise, try to take some of the oomph out of US News will be lstindex.com.

Bree Buchanan:

What is that?

Kyle McEntee:

It’s unnamed at this point, but we’re tentatively calling it the LST Index and certification, but it is an alternative measurement system that will reward and validate the efforts that schools make in the themes of transparency, affordability, access, and educational quality. The way it works is it’s essentially lead certification for law schools. It’ll use a point based system and we’re currently in the process of developing metrics. We’ll probably end up with 50 different metrics that measure the things that we think and the profession thinks and legal educators think actually matter. The goal here is to credit schools for the good things that they’re doing and actually create a market for it, so that way they will compete on it, students will use it, and we can actually incentivize the kind of change that we believe needs to happen and that US News currently stifles.

Chris Newbold:

All right, let’s transition and talk a little bit about what’s on the horizon for you and Law School Transparency. I know you’ve been in the midst of crafting a vision 2025, and can you tell us a little bit about that project and where you feel like the important nudges are for our legal education system on the horizon?

Kyle McEntee:

Yeah, absolutely. Our vision overall is to help a legal education that provides a more diverse profession and is more affordable to enter. We identified two structural impediments to this. One is that the ABA standards both under and overregulate. That is, there are too many prescriptive standards that tell schools how they have to do things, and then there are two few standards that actually protect consumers. That’s especially related to learning outcomes and assessments. We are working with the ABA to try to get them to rethink their standards from the ground up. Namely, we want to see them throw out a bunch of standards and enhance some of their current standards, again, particularly related to educational quality.

Kyle McEntee:

The second main impediment is the one we’ve been talking about most of this episode so far, which is, US News. Law schools face a system of incentives that just isn’t working very well, and so we are looking at how we can upset the balance of incentives. That is a handful of things we’re working on, two of which we’ve already talked about, the LST reports and the LST Index, but also looking at working with US News to further refine their methodology and to work with US News voters to refine how they make their choices about how they grade schools.

Kyle McEntee:

It’s kind of a, if you can’t beat them, join them, attitude, but we think that if we can make some marginal improvements to the rankings, we can make some marginal improvements to law school behavior while we simultaneously create a new system of incentives through the LST Index and provide a lot of consumer information that’s actionable to pre-law students and their advisors on the LST reports.

Bree Buchanan:

Wow. Wow, that’s amazing. Let me ask you, if there are some law students who are listening to this, or prospective law students who are listening to this, what advice would you tell them or give them about picking a law school other than to read your reports?

Kyle McEntee:

They need to think carefully about what they want out of a law school, and especially focused on the kind of jobs that they want access to. I know that’s kind of a tall order for a graduating senior or even someone who’s just one or two years out of law school. People shouldn’t think that they have to decide what kind of law they want to practice beforehand, but it is important to think about, to the extent you’re able to. If, for example, and we see this pretty often, someone will choose a school that is very expensive, let’s say, they’ll end up borrowing $300,000 to attend, but they want to be a family lawyer, but they think that they need to go to the number 10 school in the country because they got in, even if they have to pay at or near full price, when really, if they want to be a family lawyer, they would have been better off going to a school that they can get into and not pay any tuition or pay very little tuition, or find a living circumstance where they don’t have as high a cost of living that they have to borrow for during law school.

Kyle McEntee:

That’s one of the consequences, is if you think as clearly as possibly about what you want to do, it’ll open up a number of schools to you that you may not have otherwise considered.

Bree Buchanan:

Sure. What about anyone who is a law student now who is not satisfied with their experience? You get in the school and look around and see, “This is not meeting my needs.” Is the only answer for them to transfer? What do you do with that? I just want to say, a comment in regards to tying this to wellbeing, when I was the director of the Lawyers Assistance Program, I fielded so many calls from distressed lawyers who you could tell after talking to them for about two minutes, there was just a terrible fit between them and the law or them and the area of practice they’ve chosen, and when you have that mismatch between internal goals and what you’re actually finding yourself in, it has a devastating effect on your overall wellbeing. I’ve seen a lot of depression, anxiety, and substance misuse come out of that situation. What would you say to somebody who’s found themselves in a place where it’s not a good match?

Kyle McEntee:

That it’s okay to stop. I enjoy law school a lot but I had a number of people that I knew that made that choice, but at Vanderbilt and at other schools. They just said, “You know what, this isn’t for me.” That’s okay. It doesn’t make you a quitter. It makes you someone who is taking control of their happiness and their career and their career satisfaction. It’s not something to do on a whim but it is something to do in consultation with a therapist or other lawyers or someone from a lawyer wellness program. It should be a conversation that you have and you shouldn’t be afraid of having.

Chris Newbold:

Yeah, and I think it’s so challenging. I think, Bree, what you were referencing is this notion of, I like to call them, expectations gap between what you thought it would be like versus what it is like, and then at that point, I’m a first generation lawyer and at some point a couple years into my legal career, your parents are really proud of you that you’re the first lawyer in the family and those types of things. There’s those pressures, and then you add on top the student loan debt, Kyle, which you’ve articulated is so consequential in the equation that I can understand and empathize where a lot of our young lawyers then feel like they’re kind of in a box and either you lack the mental fortitude to stop, as you suggest, and then kind of feel like you got to keep going, or even practice in areas that are not aligned with your own values because you just need the salary to be able to justify what you just paid out to secure a law education.

Chris Newbold:

This is the greatest fear that I have in terms of students coming into the profession is just this notion of an expectations gap which is becoming more challenging and seeing more people leave the profession but leave it in a way that leaves a negative connotation for whether they would even advise their own children to go to law school, ultimately.

Bree Buchanan:

Yeah, and so, Kyle, what would you then say to the rest of us? We’ve been talking about prospective law students, law students. Why should the rest of the legal profession care, and what would you say to the lawyers that are already out there? What advice or encouragement would you give to them, particularly the legal employers?

Kyle McEntee:

If we’re talking legal employers, I think this goes to one of the original points I made about what brought me to this wellbeing movement, which is, these cultural expectations related to work and work/life balance. So much of this is driven by the employers, and that’s driven by not defining and clearly delineating boundaries with clients, and the expectations of clients then make it through to the employer who then makes it through to the person who’s hired, the new hires, and then, rinse and repeat into perpetuity.

Kyle McEntee:

We need to disrupt that cycle in order to really have an impact, and that’s a really tall order because it’s not just a law problem. This is a US problem, one that is shared around the world but probably worse here than anywhere else, close to worse here than anywhere else. I think, for employers, they need to think, not about Band-Aids, but about what kind of structural changes they can make and that they can participate in.

Chris Newbold:

Kyle, as we think about wellbeing, again, bringing it back to the law student experience, I think one of the things that there is a potential partnership between you and the Institute is a stronger ability for us to be able to recognize law schools that actually emphasize wellbeing as part of their curriculum. It feels like a lot of the work that you do, and again, you’re tackling big picture, systemic issues, obviously, one of the things that we’re trying to appreciate is things like reducing stigma in the law student experience, and really understanding how we can recognize schools that prioritize wellbeing as part of their curriculum, and obviously, that then trains lawyers to know that it’s okay to come out and say when thins are occurring to you or it feels like you can go to your senior partner.

Chris Newbold:

As you think about the law school experience for students in schools, I’m wondering about your thoughts on how we can better provide, again, more information to consumers about what type of experience they’ll have and the commitment of the school to the law students’ wellbeing.

Kyle McEntee:

Yeah. I think there’s so much to do together on this. Going back to the Index, what we’re doing there is developing metrics, so I’m asking people to imagine the headline that they would like to read about some problem. If we acknowledge that being in law school is a huge problem, we’d say, “Okay, what’s one headline that would make us feel like we’ve done something important?” It might be that, off the cuff here, law schools acknowledge or teach … I’m struggling on this. I’m trying to think of a formulation of something related to your stigma point. Whatever that headline might be, then we would develop a metric that would measure progress towards that.

Kyle McEntee:

I think that looking at what law schools do and figuring out, what is it that we can measure and cause schools to do and to change, that will really be a way of creating a market around wellbeing, which is kind of a weird way to approach it. It’s something you want to just come from inside, but through our analysis, we don’t think that’s going to work. We think it requires creating a system of incentives and then enforcing that system.

Bree Buchanan:

Right, right. Yeah. Yeah, there is so much work to be done here, and Kyle, thank you so much for being with us today. It was obvious to us, just after a few minutes talking to you that you really are a thought leader in this space and tremendous courage. As you’ve talked about this and thinking about that you are finishing up your first year of law school and you start to take on this project, and it must have felt like David and Goliath, and you’ve continued to fight this good fight and I know that you continue to do so. We’re so impressed with your work, and I really want us to continue to ally ourselves together and see what we can continue to do, to transform the legal profession so that it really meets the needs of everybody involved. Kyle, thank you for being here.

Bree Buchanan:

Chris, it’s been another great 45 minutes with you, and we will have more podcasts coming online with thought leaders in the lawyer wellbeing movement, and hope that everybody can join us. Take care, be well.

Chris Newbold:

Thanks, Bree. Thanks, Kyle.

Kyle McEntee:

Thank you.

 

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