What do law school graduates need to know that law schools are not teaching them? Please tell me!
I am asking you, practicing lawyers, to tell me what law school graduates should know to be ready for practice. I am especially interested in specific skills, knowledge, or other abilities that law schools could actually teach that would influence you in hiring decisions in addition to traditional "pedigree" credentials. I have two motivations: (1) I would like to try to help law professors to implement these suggestions into existing coursework, and (2) I would like to explore the possibility of eventually creating a law school "exit exam" that would assess practice-ready skills and knowledge.
I hope that as many practicing lawyers as possible (partner, associate, of counsel, whatever) will email me to let me know what law school graduates should know that law schools are not currently teaching them. Your suggestions could be as general as "know how to read a contract" or as specific as "know the deadline to file an amendment to a SEC Schedule 13D." The knoweldge and skills could be "doctrinal," such as "learn Article 8 of the UCC," or relate to legal research, such as "learn to check a case's subsequent history." The knowledge and skills don't even need to be uniquely legal in nature. For example, useful suggestions could be "learn to read a balance sheet" or "learn to use the sort function in Microsoft Excel." I especially welcome suggestions from those in transactional practices, where my experience is that law school is especially weak in preparing graduates for law practice.
I welcome any and all suggestions, but the most useful ones will be as specific and objectively verifiable as possible. Thus, less helpful are suggestions such as "learn to write well," or to "think like a lawyer," not because these aren't important skills, but because they are already the core focus of law schools and are very challenging to teach and assess. Also, although good "habits" such as "attention to detail," "showing up on time," or "professionalism" are extremely important and not always well taught in law school, I am less optimistic about our ability to inculcate and assess these habits. The most useful suggestions would be ones like "know what a promissory note is" because those are specific items that may slip through the cracks of law school courses and could easily be incorporated into a curriculum.
Please consider taking a moment to send me your suggestions, preferably by email here but alternatively by comments to this blog post. I also hope that you will forward and share this message as widely as possible among practitioners. Assuming that I receive enough responses, I will summarize the suggestions in a later blog post (with no names, of course).
I am sure that thousands of private conversations on this topic take place every week in law firm offices and hallways. I am trying to bring some of those conversations together in a way that will help law schools, law firms, and law students become more effective.