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What New Lawyers Need to Know: Business Emphasis Not a ‘Torture System’

Posted May 28, 2009 8:45 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Law graduates need a better understanding of law firm economics, better writing skills. more practical experience and more management training, according to a survey of practice chairs, hiring partners and recruiters.

Every single survey respondent said law schools should offer workshops or seminars in “Business 101,” survey authors Katy Montgomery and Neda Khatamee write in the New York Law Journal. Both work for the recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa.

Respondents pointed out that new lawyers need to realize to realize a law firm is a business, the article says, “that it lives and dies on fees; that expenses have to be monitored; that their time has to be carefully tracked; that the latter is not some torture system devised for them alone, but part of the necessary running of a law firm.”

One law school that is trying to meet the challenge is the University of Virginia School of Law, where students can declare an outside concentration in business organization and finance. One of its courses, for example, teaches students how to read financial statements.

The survey also found:

• More than 70 percent said schools should offer more study abroad and transnational studies.

• Seventy percent see a need for training in law firm management.

• Many respondents said new associates need better writing skills. “Constructing grammatically correct sentences is not the problem,” said the bankruptcy chair of a large law firm. “Rather, the ability to organize facts and principles in a crisp, logical way is what's lacking in many newcomers to the firm."

• Respondents said the third year of law school should change to focus on clinical and practical work.

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