Law Schools Work to Make Students More Employable
Forget the journey. These days, it is all about the destination. If you’re attending law school, your destination is a job, preferably full-time with benefits.
So what are law schools doing to make students more appealing to employers?
For starters, they’re talking to employers, to learn what they need and what should be taught. In doing so, they’re identifying niches and training students to fill them. For example, according to a recent Kaplan study, 71% of law schools are integrating more clinical and practical courses in their curriculum. In fact, practice-base courses will encompass the entire third-year curriculum at Washington and Lee’s School of Law, according to U.S. News and World Report.
At Michigan State’s Reinvent Law Laboratory, students follow Wayne Gretzky’s axiom that, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” Here, according to U.S. News, students study entrepreneurship, quantitative analysis, innovation, and technology. By understanding the trajectory of high tech, students can proactively identify where companies will eventually need legal assistance. “We need to be preparing lawyers to practice in ways that haven’t really been invented yet,” says Renee Newman Knake, co-founder of ReInvent Law.
Law schools are even dusting off the lessons of kindergarten, teaching students soft skills like communication and teamwork to make them better employees. As Michael Madison, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law observes, students need to be “putting your blood, sweat and tears into someone else’s problems, needs, and goals” to succeed.
Still, students must also take responsibility for making themselves more employable. These days, students are walking into a job market where only 60.7% of 2012 graduates found a full-time job in law, according to the National Association for Law Placement. And these jobs are paying starting salaries of $90,000 at law firms and $61,425 otherwise. Compared with 2009, those are declines of 15% and 31%, respectively.
That means students must have a plan for landing a job, knowing exactly what they want and what it takes (and who they need to know) to get there. When they select a law school, they should include financial considerations among their criteria. With declining enrollments and scholarship money available, “no one should be paying full retail,” says James Leipold, executive director of NALP. “If you don’t come out of law school bogged down by debt, you can make your first moves a lot more nimbly.”
Yes, the golden days have seemingly passed. A law degree is no longer a ticket to the country club. Now, students must scrape and battle for everything they get. As Phil Weiser, dean of the University of Colorado (Boulder) Law School warns, “It used to be the case that you could be a generally smart person and rely on getting a job. Those days are over.” Now, the spoils go to those with plans, pluck, and perseverance.
Source: U.S. News and World Report