Design Your Delta
A brief history of how the Delta Model was created.
The idea of a Delta Model Lawyer was initially developed by Alyson Carrel (Northwestern), Natalie Runyon (Thomson Reuters), Jordan Galvin (Mayer Brown), Shellie Reid (Michigan State), and Jesse Bowman (Northwestern Law) during a conference hosted by Professor Dan Linna at Michigan State’s LegalRnD Lab. We all recognized the value of the T-shaped Lawyer and the notion that lawyers must expand their understanding of process, data, and technology, but we wanted to additionally reflect need to focus on the unique human element in lawyering growing in response to innovation and technological advances in legal services. So we flipped the T-shaped Lawyer on its side and added a third component, Personal Effectiveness Skills, to capture the lawyer’s role as counselor and trusted advisor (Version 1.0, right).
Since the conference, we have launched the twitter handle @DeltaModelLawr, welcomed new members to the working group (Cat Moon, from Vanderbilt, and Gabe Teninbaum, from Suffolk), conducted research to validate the model, and expanded the application of the model.
In the fall of 2018, Alyson Carrel worked with Don Undeen, Manager of Georgetown University’s Maker Hub, to create a new Dynamic Delta Model v2.0 that introduces a moveable midpoint (pictured to the right). This moveable midpoint reflects the different depths to which legal professionals need to master each of these competencies. In this way, the model can retain the brilliance of the T-shaped Lawyer’s differentiation between a mastery of legal knowledge and skills and a broad understanding of data, process, and technology.
To create this differentiation, the midpoint can be moved to create the visualization of more or less depth in each competency area. As the midpoint moves, the surface area associated with each set of competencies grows or shrinks, representing the depth to which an individual needs to master each competency. The more surface area created, the greater depth of mastery the professional needs to gain.
Although all legal professionals need competencies in all three areas to succeed, they will need to master these competencies to different degrees based on the unique position they choose. For instance, a lawyer working at a white-shoe law firm may have access to more resources in the areas of data, process, and technology. And so while they must be knowledgeable and skilled in these areas, they may not need the same degree of mastery as someone who chooses to work at a legal tech start-up. Another example: the individual moving into a legal operations position at the law firm. This individual still needs to have the legal knowledge and skills, but will need to deepen their mastery of process improvement and data analytics.
To reflect these differences, the model needs to be more dynamic and pluralistic. With additional research, we seek to create a standardized competency map for different types of careers: Big Law, Legal Solutions Architect, Solo Practitioner, Public Interest Attorney, Legal Operations, General Counsel, etc. Individuals can create their own version of the Dynamic Delta Model, 2.0, by using the interactive tool to the right.
In 2018-2019, the working group embarked on extensive research to validate the model.
Phase One began with a series of interviews to explore the extent to which law firms and corporate legal departments are using competency models and how/if the Delta Model enhanced the hiring process. Respondents overwhelming validated the need to add Personal Effectiveness Skills to the T-shaped model and ranked skills related to emotional intelligence and relationship management as some of the most important skills a lawyer needs. We also found that while technology skills were important for the 21st-century lawyer, skills related to Project Management and the Business of Law were valued even more by respondents. Thompson Reuters published our findings online, along with images of our latest iteration of the model that modified and simplified the labels.
We then embarked on Phase Two of the research to gather data to identify the specific competencies most important in hiring decisions. And based on our findings, we settled on version 3.0 of the model (left). Thompson Reuters published a white paper summarizing the research. In addition to the white paper, working group members have published articles, spoken at conferences, and participated in podcasts to increasingly highlight how the Delta Model might provide a framework as the legal profession grapples with its future. A full list of articles and podcasts is available below in the “NEWS” section and is regularly posted on Twitter by @DeltaModelLawyr.