Seeking data about how to make law-school graduates more practice-ready, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System conducted its “Foundations for Practice” survey in 2014-15. More than 24,000 lawyers in the U.S. participated.
The lawyers rated the importance of 147 skills, competencies, and traits (called “foundations”) in one of four ways:
(1) “Necessary immediately for the new lawyer’s success in the short term” (where “new lawyer” was defined as “someone embarking on their first year of law-related work”);
(2) “Not necessary in the short term but must be acquired for the lawyer’s continued success over time;”
(3) Not necessary at any point but advantageous to the lawyer’s success;” or
(4) “Not relevant to success.”
According to the survey results, “only 23% of practicing lawyers believe new graduates have the right skills to enter the profession.” That quote is worth re-reading.
Below is a sampling of 25 “foundations” that at least 66.66% (two-thirds) of the lawyers found “necessary immediately for the new lawyer’s success . . . ” (i.e., right out of law school).
To make my list easier to read, I created two loose categories: (1) Job-Related Skills and (2) Personal Traits.
25 Skills & Traits at Least 66.66% Lawyers Rated “Needed immediately”
a. Job-Related Skills (no particular order)
- Maintain high quality work product
- Effectively research the law
- Write in professional manner
- Speak in professional manner
- Identify relevant facts, legal issues, gaps…
- Adapt work habits to meet demands
- Draft pleadings, motions, briefs
- Prioritize/manage multiple tasks
- Team work
- Promptly respond to inquiries/requests
- Take ownership
- Arrive on time (meetings, appointments, hearings)
- Document and organize a case or matter
b. Personal Traits (no particular order)
- Strong work ethic
- Attention to detail
- Seek and be responsive to feedback
- Listen attentively and respectfully
- Show initiative
- Honor commitments
- Exhibit Tact/Diplomacy
- Regulate emotions/demonstrate self-control
- Take responsibility for actions/results
- Treat others with courtesy/respect
My list is meant only to inspire curiosity; there’s a lot more to the data and report (links are below).
For example, at least 50% of the lawyers rated 77 “foundations” as “necessary immediately for the new lawyer’s success . . . .” Among the many interesting ones are–
- Work autonomously
- Self-awareness (strengths, weaknesses, boundaries, etc.)
- Intellectual Curiosity
The “foundations” were divided into 15 categories: e.g., Communication, Legal Thinking & Application, Professionalism, Transaction Practice . . . . Some survey results address categories.
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