Sunday, April 15, 2012
Law firms and attorneys can play a significant role in legal education reform. If students are better prepared for practice, law firms will have to do less training of new lawyers. Also, students who have taken practical courses better know what type of law they want to practice. Most importantly, clients will grow to trust lawyers who have had more practical training and produce a better product. Here are a few suggestions on what law firms can do:
1. Interview at law schools that have strong skills programs. A place to begin is the twenty-two law schools who are members of the Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers Consortium. Another excellent program is Vermont Law School's General Practice Program.
2. When interviewing prospective hires, ask about the skills courses they have taken. Ask about what skills they developed in those courses.
3. When hiring, put more stress on a student’s preparation to practice law than on U. S. News rankings.
4. If you are a hiring partner, let the law schools you hire from know that you want practice-ready attorneys. Compliment those law schools that have strong skills programs.
5. If you are an alum, let your law school know that you want your law school to produce practice-ready attorneys.
6. Earmark your donations to your alma mater for skills programs. Help set up chairs for legal writing professors, clinical professors, and other skills teachers.
7. Write articles in local bar journals advocating legal education reform.
It is time for legal education to change. Law schools need to prepare their students better for practice so that they can be better lawyers and fulfill their main function: serving the public.