Legal Education

What skills do new lawyers need now--and what can wait? Database lets you search for answers

  • Print.

young lawyer

So, young law grad entering private practice, are you confident, on time and diligent? Great! But if you lag in cultivating networks or handling conflicts, don’t worry, you have time.

On a day many law students are facing the challenge of state bar exams, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System is releasing a study relating what is needed to be a successful lawyer beyond bar passage.

The study, “Foundations for Practice: The Whole Lawyer and the Character Quotient,” is exceptionally comprehensive: More than 24,000 lawyers from all 50 states responded to the survey seeking practitioners’ opinions on what new lawyers need. And the study found that only 23 percent of respondents felt entering lawyers have sufficient skills for practice.

The study lists dozens of skills lawyers may have, and divides them into categories including “necessary in the short term,” “must be acquired over time,” “advantageous but not necessary,” and “not relevant.” And there is a website that allows users to limit their searches by type of position, state and region, work setting and type of practice along with gender and years of experience for the respondents.

The top 10 skills, in order, considered necessary in the short term include:

  1. Keeping confidentiality.
  2. Arriving on time.
  3. Honoring commitments.
  4. Integrity and trustworthiness.
  5. Treating others with courtesy and respect.
  6. Listening attentively and respectfully.
  7. Responding promptly.
  8. Diligence.
  9. Having a strong work ethic.
  10. Paying attention to detail.

“Just as the medical profession realized that ‘bedside manner’ matters in a doctor, IAALS’s research reveals that being a ‘whole lawyer’ means possessing a high character quotient in addition to having skills and intellect,” said Alli Gerkman, director of IAALS Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers Initiative. “Our findings in this study have the power to radically shift the discussion about what law schools teach and how employers hire, and motivate a different approach to educating, training and employing America’s next generation of lawyers.”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.