Sunday, March 23, 2014

Changing Markets Create Opportunities: Emphasizing the Competencies Legal Employers Use in Hiring New Lawyers (Including Professional Formation/Professionalism)

Changing Markets Create Opportunities: Emphasizing the Competencies Legal Employers Use in Hiring New Lawyers (Including Professional Formation/Professionalism) by Neil Hamilton.

Abstract: "To guide legal educators and law students in responding to challenging markets both for entry-level employment and for applications to law schools, this article analyzes empirical research on the competencies that legal employers, the profession itself, and clients are looking for in a new lawyer. The article advances the proposition that law schools can build on an existing strength of helping each student develop knowledge of doctrinal law, legal analysis, legal research, legal writing and oral advocacy to do better at helping each student develop additional important competencies (and have evidence of those competencies) that legal employers, the profession, and clients and value, particularly the professional formation (professionalism) competencies.

The article also helps each student understand the importance of developing transferable skills (or competencies) that equip the student to respond over a career to changing markets for legal services. An overall theme for both legal educators and law students is to view these changing markets as opportunities to grow in new directions and thus to differentiate from competitors."

From the Introduction:

"The Report of the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education discussed in Part II below emphasizes the importance of understanding the competencies needed to be effective in the practice of law in order to guide new initiatives responding to the current market challenges. Part III analyzes data from several new studies of the competencies that legal employers are looking for in a new lawyer. Part IV focuses on a student’s professional formation (professionalism) competencies as foundational in legal employers’ hiring criteria. Part V evaluates a number of other recent empirical studies investigating the competencies that legal employers expect new lawyers to have and the competencies that new lawyers report are the most significant in their work. Part VI explores why it is important for students to develop differentiating competencies and transferable skills to respond to a rapidly changing market. The conclusion, based on the data from Parts III and V, presents some specific proposals for law schools to consider to help each student develop professionally."

I think that Professor Hamilton's study will be very useful to law schools and their curriculum committees in deciding what needs to be taught, especially concerning skills that have not been previously taught in law schools.  I particularly like his emphasis on the development of transferable skills.  As I have stated before, I believe that the way most law school classes are taught makes it difficult for students to transfer what they have learned in law school to practice.  (here)  Finally, Professor Hamilton gives a wonderful example of how to develop competencies in his conclusion.

(Scott Fruehwald)

P.S. Hamilton also mentions William Sullivan's views on professional identity: "William Sullivan, the co-director of all five Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching studies of higher education for the professions, recognizes the importance of this bedrock foundation of an internalized moral core of deep responsibility for others, particularly the person served by the profession. Sullivan believes that the 'chief formative challenge' for higher education in the professions is to help each student entering a profession to change from thinking like a student where he or she learns and applies routine techniques to solve well-structured problems toward the acceptance and internalization of responsibility for other (particularly the person served) and for the student’s own development toward excellence as a practitioner at all of the competencies of the profession.  Each client or patient needs to trust that her lawyer or physician is dedicated above all else to care for her with all of the professional’s ability. This is essentially a fiduciary disposition, using 'fiduciary' in the general meaning of founded on trustworthiness. Each student must internalize a fiduciary disposition for others, particularly the client."

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