Jobs To Exceed New Law Grads By 2016?

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The Ideal Law School Graduate? A People Person Who Can Do Research

It’s not what you know but who you are that matters to employers.
That sums up the results from a study on what employers expect from law school graduates. Conducted by University of Dayton School of Law, the study, which was based on focus group discussions with area attorneys, found that employers placed greater emphasis on hiring attorneys who had “well-developed professional or “soft skills[,]” such as a strong work ethic, willingness to take initiative, the ability to collaborate well with colleagues and clients, and the ability to adapt to the demands of supervisors.” To a lesser extent, employers wanted “strong fundamental practice skills, i.e., legal research, written and verbal communication, and analysis” from their new hires.
So how do law firms, particularly big ones, describe the ideal law school graduate? Check out what the participants expected and observed from new hires (in their own words):
“…willing to work hard…to put in the time needed to get a job done, and go the proverbial “extra mile” on an assignment.”
“…dedicated and driven…We’ve had some recent graduates who come to work with us who just really didn’t seem that they were willing to put in the hours…[or] they are more interested in themselves.”
“[Associates should not] think they’re entitled to rise up and become partner because they show up every day.”
“Showing up, staying through the day to make sure the tasks are done…put in the hours necessary to get an excellent work product out.”
“It’s a little unnerving when somebody comes in and asks a question and you think . . . did you try to figure that out on your own[?]”
“[Recent graduates] want to be told what to do with very de-tailed instructions. They want 1-2-3…it is a lot more complicated than that.”
“[I want] someone who is eager. Who comes to me and we can have discussions about a research project or something I have given them and wants to be involved in the case, wants to be know more about the case and what else can I do on this case. How can I help you more?”
“When people come to work…you want them to be excited to be there and excited to accept the challenges that there may be.”
“[I]f I’m going to employ you, you better be able to . . . deal with people completely outside of the realm of law.”
“New lawyers must be able to “assess a new situation when you go to work for somebody the first time: How do you prefer to be contacted? Do you prefer that I print out a memo and leave it in the box? Do you want me to email it to you?”
“What do I look for in the ideal new graduate?… Somebody who is confident and can talk to the client.”
Along with soft skills, the focus groups also stressed research and writing skills:
“I really have a huge reliance on [the person]… doing my re-search for me because I don’t do it.”
“We use a lot of resources in our office that don’t cost anything…So, being able to come to the table with some of those skills already and just the creativity is really helpful.”
“My clients are non-lawyers…They are very busy people, and they don’t want a lot of legalese. They want to know, boom, what’s the answer?”
“Some clients “want the answer yesterday. They expect it sooner, and they don’t need a big, fancy document.”
“That’s the main writing problem that we have to fix in new people is that they . . . don’t take sides.”
“They need to “take that extra step and say how we are going to deal with the bad stuff cause of the two…I’m more concerned with [the] bad stuff.”
“Finding case law and doing research law students can do that. But being a lawyer is knowing how to apply it and make an ar-gument and…bring that all together…That’s the lawyering.”
The responses are stunning – but not in the way you’d expect. In reality, the most telling response comes from Professor Susan Wawrose, who led the study:
“The most surprising outcome of our research was the primary importance employers placed on the “intra- and interpersonal (socio-emotional)”—soft skills—needed for workplace success. A partner in a medium-sized firm summed up “the number one thing” she wanted to see in new law graduates: “they need to have some general sense about how to . . . interact in a professional setting” without the “need for hand holding…constant stroking, [or] reaffirmation . . . .”90The focus on these skills caught us by surprise in part because we were seeking (and expecting) comments related to the basic practice skills, i.e., writing, analysis, and research. But more than that, we also did not anticipate that beyond being mentioned, they would threaten to dominate the discussion. Yet, they were of great interest to employers, so much so that at times the moderator needed to steer employers away from this topic of discussion.”
In other words, Professor Wawrose was shocked – shocked – that participants didn’t respond in ways that aligned with the standard curriculum taught in law schools. Is there any wonder why law schools are facing dwindling enrollments, while students are struggling to land jobs? As the focus groups show, some schools aren’t fully teaching students what employers truly need. And this just shows how out of touch some law schools are with the employers and clients who ultimately consume their product.
To access the full study, Click Here
Source: The Wall Street Journal

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