Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The skills employers value in law students

In this article from the February issue of the ABA Student Lawyer Magazine, Marquette Law School's Director of Career Planning describes what employers have told her about the skills they value in law students.  According to Ms. Binns, grades don't matter as much as most job candidates assume.  Instead, she reports that employers tell her that they value good legal research and writing skills, the ability to problem solve, being client-oriented and being involved in one's local community.  Here are some of the comments Ms. Binn collected from employers:

What Employers Really Value

Writing and research skills. “First a candidate has to show me he can do the legal work and do it exceptionally well. Once I’m convinced of that, I move on to evaluating whether he’s a person I want in my office.”—Lawyer, government agency.


“Can they research? Can they write? That’s what I rely on my law clerks to do and to do well.” —Lawyer, small firm.


“Researching, writing, analyzing, persuading—these are the skills young lawyers and summer associates will use every day at work. I look for evidence of these through moot court, law journals, and advanced writing courses. I put weight on writing samples.” —Lawyer, mid-sized firm.

. . . .

Commitment. “We hire people with the expectation they will stay. If a candidate isn’t prepared to tell me in an interview why they want to work specifically for my firm for the foreseeable future, I’m not prepared to give them an offer. It doesn’t matter if it’s for an associate position or summer position. I want to hear about a commitment to my firm.” —Lawyer, mid-sized firm.


“I need to hire someone who is all-in on this town of thirty thousand and fully prepared to embrace the community, its people, and my practice. I expect that candidates are ready to convince me they know what it means to live and practice in this town, and that they’re excited about it.” —Sole practioner intending to mentor and hand over practice.


Passion. “I want to hire people with passion in their bellies. Passion for something, for anything. The practice of law is long days and demanding clients and you need to be passionate in and outside of the office. If a candidate wants to talk to me about their passion for running or for volunteering at animal shelters, I don’t care what, I just want to see fire and interest and commitment.” —Recruiting director, large law firm.


Client focus. “Students need to realize that in an interview I don’t want to hear about what they want. It’s a big mistake for candidates to make it all about themselves. ‘I’m interested in this. I want to practice this. I’m hoping for this experience.’ Stop! Tell me that you get that there is a client at the end of this process and what you plan to do for them.” —Hiring lawyer, mid-sized firm.

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Continue reading here.


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