Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The NITA white paper on how law schools can better prepare students for practice

This was published in October, 2009 though I only recently came across it.  It was prepared by a group of lawyers (including one from the U.K.), NITA officials and consultants who discuss concrete ways that law schools can do a better job preparing students for practice (as well as suggestions about how legal employers can better train newly minted lawyers).  Among the suggestions are that:

  1. Law schools will face increasing pressure to produce practice-ready lawyers in order to ensure their graduates find jobs.  Cheaper legal services offered by off-shore companies mean that clients will be less willing to subsidize the legal training of new grads.
  2. Law schools need to train student in client relations, business development, financial planning, and leadership and management skills.
  3. Professional ethics training needs to be enhanced.
  4. American law schools can learn from domestic medical schools and European law schools that focus on solving client problems rather than the quality of one's own analysis.
  5. Law schools need to expand transactional training since most of the present "learn-by-doing" opportunities are focus on litigation problems.

Here's an excerpt:

With speed few anticipated and permanence even fewer are willing to predict, the legal industry has changed. While it remains to be seen just what will constitute the “new normal,” and how different it will be from what was a stable, profitable, and growing profession just a year ago, we believe that a skills-based lens provides important insights into today’s legal climate and crucial focus for those seeking success in tomorrow’s legal reality.

While seldom thought of in this way, the market for law school education is thus facing the same forces of increasing supply (as new law schools open and existing law schools seek to expand) and decreasing demand (from both funding effects and hiring patterns for new attorneys) as law firms. As a result, we believe that law schools, as well, will need to highlight—and in some instances, create—the connection between a law school education and value to the prospective lawyer, the firms that hire them and, ultimately, the clients that pay them. And that value increasingly will be grounded in quick-to-deploy skills, and not exclusively academic reputation or research excellence. In short, law students entering law firms will need to 'hit the ground running.'

You can read the full report here - even though it's more than a year old, it's just as pertinent today.


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