There is a serious disconnect between law students and practitioners on just what skills are necessary to successfully practice law. And the disconnect does not bode well for fledgling attorneys. According to recent research from BARBRI, a bar exam prep company, a significant percentage of 3Ls believe they are ready to be lawyers. According to the same research, many current lawyers disagree.
BARBRI surveyed more than 1,500 current 3Ls, practicing lawyers, and professors for it’s inaugural “State of the Legal Field Survey.” The survey found more than 70 percent of current 3Ls believe they “possess sufficient practice skills.” Additionally, 76 percent answered that they are ready to practice law “right now.”
Practicing attorneys beg to differ. Just 56 percent of lawyers who work with recent graduates believe 3Ls were prepared to practice. What’s more, only 23 percent think their young counterparts have the necessary practice skills.
Meanwhile, professors fell in the middle, with 45 percent believing their students have the skills necessary to be lawyers.
The researchers are not surprised by this skepticism from the practicing attorneys. Many attorneys have criticized law schools for not spending enough energy on the practical side of teaching, which has helped push schools to adopting a more practical approach. But researchers were surprised that so many current 3Ls are seemingly oblivious to that criticism.
This could stem for the truth in a popular cliché: ‘Ignorance is bliss.’ Perhaps many law students do not realize how difficult the first year practicing is truly going to be.
The survey also found that 46 percent of students believe they will get a job at graduation while 83 percent expect to have jobs within six months of graduation. They also presumed median salaries of $70,000. Again, practicing attorneys were singing a different tune. They projected a median salary of $50,000, and 81 percent foreseeing their firms either remaining the same size or shrinking over the next three years.
The one place where both sides could agree? It was that receiving a JD will eventually be worth it. For the students, 82 percent expected to receive a return on their investment. On the practicing lawyer side, 78 percent believed their earnings have justified the cost of a JD. Interestingly, 96 percent of faculty said the cost of a JD was worth it. Perhaps students aren’t the only ones out of steps after all.
Source: The National Law Journal