I received a press release from Lexis this morning with this eye-catching headline: “Recent LexisNexis Survey Uncovers Gap in New Attorney Readiness for Real World Practice.” The first thing the whitepaper mentions is that 95% of hiring partners and associates believe that recently graduated law students lack key practical skills. The deficient skills include “advanced legal research, writing and drafting skills, practical application and an understanding of how litigation or transaction occurs in real life.”
Any law firm librarian who works with summer associates and recent law school graduates can tell you how ill-prepared they are for the “real world” in a firm. And, as fellow Geek Casey Flaherty will tell you, clients don’t want to pay for this group to learn to these skills. Nor should they have to.
Part of the problem is the law school system itself. Looking at just these examples you can see why:
Litigation: The focus is primarily on Federal Litigation. The problem is that only a small percentage of graduates are fortunate enough to practice in this arena. When the graduate gets into practice, they are likely to end up dealing with a myriad of state and local court systems that have very little in common with what they learned in school. Even if they were fortunate enough to spend time in a legal clinic, that experience will not help much if they leave that jurisdiction.
This is the Google Generation. For this group, Google is the first place they turn for legal research (Regular readers of 3 Geeks know how I feel about that). They are comfortable with Google and are freaked out by the idea of incurring charges on the paid services. I’m not aware of a required course of study that adequately covers the professional responsibility dangers of inadequate (and inaccurate) legal research.
I don’t fault our law school brethren. They are genuinely concerned about this problem. Each AALL meeting for the past 4 years has featured conversations between law school and law firm librarians about how to address these issues. The conclusion that I have reached is the best way to address these issues is to make a “prepare to practice” curriculum a requirement for graduation. This curriculum would address variances between jurisdictions in style and practice as well as the business of law. The latter should include coursework designed to emphasize the importance of good, efficient legal research in a professional responsibility context.
Thank you Lexis for quantifying what law firm librarians have known for years. I hope this serves as a wake-up call to the legal industry to fundamentally re-examine the legal education system. Of course, change is hard. I think it will happen only when the Clients and the Malpractice Insurers demand that their lawyers know what they’re doing when they enter the marketplace.
Who knows, there may be an opportunity out there for a CLE provider to offer this training to law firms. Hmm…maybe Bigweld was right when he said “See a need, fill a need.”
Now…back to your normally scheduled programming.