One of the many issues coursing through law schools these days is revising the curriculum to produce more practice-ready graduates. This makes a school’s students more likely to be attractive to firms in that they would need less training on the job to be successful. I attended a panel discussion several months back at the LexisNexis offices here in Chicago that featured librarians from large firms, small firms, and the federal courts. The discussion centered on the expectations each of their respective organizations had for interns and new hires.
I found it pretty interesting as we in academics teach research from the perspective of skill and strategies without context. We talk about being cost effective here in the law schools but sometimes I’m not sure our version of cost effective is the same as that as a firm or legal practice. One would think that a firm would like to keep costs down as much as possible while at the same time getting the research right. That may be true generally, but the approaches the librarians discussed varied depending on the research topic and the available resources. The point really is that a student/graduate versed in online legal research should ask how research is conducted at the firm in order to use learned research skills effectively.
One of the other things that came up in the discussion was security. That’s something I admit I never really thought about. I’m used to seeing email messages with the standard disclaimer to the effect “this communication is intended for ….” Client privacy, after all, is an ethical issue. Those same issues come up in research where graduates find that they are restricted in where and when research is conducted. I’m sure firm librarians reading this will say “Yes, and?” It may be a shock to students to learn that firms and courts lock down information with prohibitions against thumb drives containing confidential information and other electronic devices that do the same. Remote access to a firm’s system is definitely not as casual as logging into a law library’s database list. Or putting it another way, there is a big difference between what is possible and what a firm allows and how it allows it.
With all of that, there is a recent study funded by Lexis that measured some of the expectations of some 300 hundred hiring partners for so-called practice ready graduates. Here is the executive summary with links to the full report:
Law Schools and individual faculty are in the process of revising their curriculum and classes to address the demand for more practice-ready graduates. But what are the most desired research, writing and transactional skills and how can law schools develop these skills most effectively? An independent survey was conducted by 5 Square Research, Inc. and funded by LexisNexis®, to answer these questions and more.
The result is a new white paper, Hiring partners reveal new attorney readiness for real world practice, which shares the responses of 300 hiring partners and associates from small to large law firms practicing in litigation and transactional law.
Key findings include:
- 96% believe that newly graduated law students lack practical skills related to litigation and transactional practice.
- 66% deem writing and drafting skills highly important with emphasis on motions, briefs and pleadings
- Newer attorneys spend 40% – 60% of their time conducting legal research
- 88% of hiring partners think proficiency using “paid for” research services is highly important
- Students lack advanced legal research skills in the areas of statutory law, regulations, legislation and more…
- The most important transactional skills include business and financial concepts, due diligence, drafting contracts and more…
- A law firm spends approximately $19,000 per year, on average, to train a new associate
This study reveals the most important and most lacking practical skills desired by legal employers and will help inform law schools of the specific content and tasks they can integrate into applicable classes and experiential learning programs pursuant to employer demand and the new ABA standards.