by Rachel Gibson
Columbia Law School launches a new course this fall, Law Firm Financial Management, co-taught by Madhav Srinivasan, Director in Finance at Paul Weiss, and Dr. Silvia Hodges, Director of Research Services at TyMetrix Legal Analytics. The course will prepare students who are planning to enter the profession by teaching them material essential for practicing lawyers: elements of law firm finance, including income statements, balance sheet, cash flow, financial planning, analysis and forecasting as well as the financial implications of growth. Additional concepts include understanding the competitive landscape, business development, business intelligence, law firm success and failure, and practical career considerations for associates.
Srinivasan said that he and Hodges set out to design a course focusing on three main objectives. The first is to help students recognize that the global legal industry is large, profitable, and evolving through ongoing structural changes. The second goal is to help students understand and respond to the changing legal landscape through a clear understanding of “the heart and soul of what happens in law firms – finance.” By enabling students to evaluate the financial consequences of management actions, Srinivasan and Hodges hope students will take away frameworks and techniques which will help them throughout their entire careers: “obtaining a real perspective of law firms from a financial standpoint – whether as future associates, partners, law firm leaders, or general counsel.”
Geared toward those in the second and third years of their JD, as well as toward JD/MBA and LLM students, the format is more in line with a business school course rather than a traditional law school course. “In a typical class, law school students would listen to lectures, read law cases, debate them and write exams,” explains Srinivasan. Instead, in this course “students are expected to be active in class discussions, write case analyses and work on finance problem sets,” said Srinivasan. The course will also host several industry experts as guest speakers.
Both Hodges and Srinivasan believe that case studies truly facilitate lively class discussions on business topics. “Since the course is very practical, case studies were a natural choice as an effective teaching tool,” said Srinivasan. Hodges and Srinivasan zeroed in on a mixture of Harvard Law School Case Studies and Harvard Business School Case Studies. The HLS case studies they plan to use include Linklaters (A): Seeking Clear Blue Water, Business Planning at McDermott Will & Emery, and Bingham McCutchen: Combinatorial Mathematics. These cases highlight “how firms have faced a challenge, how they reacted, and how events worked out,” notes Srinivasan, who added that students will also gain from knowing “the current situation in the law firm long after what is described in the case study.”
“We designed this course to give students a new perspective as well as practical and crucial skills which otherwise they may never be formally taught,” Srinivasan explains. “We are very excited to be able to offer this content to students.”
About the author: Rachel Gibson, firstname.lastname@example.org, is the Case Development Initiative Program Coordinator.