Bar Exam

Ethics and civil procedure are most important knowledge areas for new lawyers, survey says

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What knowledge, skills and abilities are needed by newly licensed attorneys?

A survey of nearly 15,000 lawyers by the National Conference of Bar Examiners sought the answers to that question, with the goal of recommending changes to the bar exam.

New lawyers who may have hated courses such as civil procedure and evidence in law school are now finding those topics are of top importance, according to the survey results released Wednesday.

According to the survey, the most important knowledge areas for new lawyers are the rules of professional responsibility, civil procedure, contract law, evidence rules and legal research methodology.

Other findings:

• Skills and abilities that were rated most important were reading comprehension, analytical thinking, written expression, issue-spotting and integrity.

• Tasks that were rated highest were identifying issues in client matters; researching case law; interpreting laws, rulings and regulations; researching statutory and constitutional authority; and evaluating strengths and weaknesses of client matters.

• The most important technology skills were ability to use word processing software, research software or platforms, electronic communication software, desktop publishing software and document storage software.

• The practice areas where the surveyed lawyers spent most of their time were contracts; business law; commercial law; administrative law; real estate; criminal law; appellate practice; employment law and labor relations; torts; family law; and wills, estates and trusts.

The survey was conducted between Aug. 1 and Oct. 2. Newly licensed lawyers and lawyers who supervised them were invited to take the survey.

The survey was conducted by the National Conference of Bar Examiners Testing Task Force. The task force will recommend bar exam changes based on the survey and on “listening sessions” in which bar examiners, ABA members, judges and educators discussed what they liked and didn’t like about the bar exam.

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