Monday, October 3, 2016

State bar associations teaming with law schools to produce practice ready grads

This article from Bar Leader Magazine (an ABA publication) profiles emerging partnerships between law schools and state bar associations to produce practice ready grads.

What do law students need in order to ‘fly’? And how can bar associations help?


A recent study confirms what some bar associations and law schools have learned through experience: The changing legal market requires that law school graduates have more practical skills and professional attributes, as well as traditional legal training, to be better able to find employment after they graduate.


“New lawyers need some legal skills and require intelligence, but they are successful when they come to the job with a much broader blend of legal skills, professional competencies, and characteristics that comprise the whole lawyer,” says Alli Gerkman, director of Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers, which conducted the survey as part of its Foundations for Practice project. ETL is part of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System.


The survey, to which more than 24,000 practicing lawyers across the country responded, is the first part of an effort by ETL to close the “employment gap” for law school graduates.


“This first phase was about understanding what legal employers need,” Gerkman said. “In the next phase, we want to take those results and work with law schools and legal employers to look at what they’re doing and evaluate whether they have programs in place that are ensuring that their students graduate with these foundations.”


Could this mean an increasing role for bar associations in helping law students gain necessary skills before the JD?


Daniel Webster Scholar: An alternative with a long history


The discussion about focusing more of the law school curriculum on practical skills in order to develop “practice ready” lawyers has been ongoing for years. While there is not universal agreement in the legal community about the need for change, some bar associations have decided to focus more attention on those topics, and have been working with law schools and on their own to help.


One of the longer running efforts is the Daniel Webster Scholar program at the University of New Hampshire School of Law. The program, which includes the New Hampshire Bar Association among its collaborators, offers some second- and third-year UNH law students the chance to combine parts of the regular school curriculum with the DWS version, which focuses on simulations, client interactions, and other work designed to give the students a solid background in handling many basic legal procedures, says John Garvey, DWS director and professor at the law school. Completion of the program functions as a bar exam, so graduates don't need take the traditional bar exam to begin practicing.


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