Foundations for Practice: The Whole Lawyer and the Character Quotient
practice-ready graduates, law school curriculum, character quotient, legal employment
The employment gap for law school graduates is well-documented. Almost 40% of 2015 law graduates did not secure full-time jobs requiring a law license and only 70% of 2015 graduates landed a full-time job that either required a law license or gave a preference to candidates with a juris doctor. One in four 2015 graduates did not report having any type of job, even a non-professional job, after law school. The employment gap is exacerbated by another gap: the gap between the skillset lawyers want in new graduates and the skillset lawyers believe new graduates have. Only 23% of practitioners believe new lawyers have sufficient skills to practice. The gap between what new lawyers have and what new lawyers need exacerbates the employment problem, but it is even more insidious than that. When new lawyers enter the workforce unprepared or under-prepared, it undermines the public trust in our legal system. Something has to shift. And for something to shift, we had to understand exactly what new lawyers need as they entered the profession. So we asked. In late 2014, we launched Foundations for Practice (“FFP”), a national, multi-year project designed to: 1. Identify the foundations entry-level lawyers need to launch successful careers in the legal profession; 2. Develop measurable models of legal education that support those foundations; and 3. Align market needs with hiring practices to incentivize positive improvements in legal education. In 2014-15, we distributed a survey to lawyers across the country. The response was overwhelming. More than 24,000 lawyers in all 50 states from a range of backgrounds and practice settings answered. Their answers are illuminating and pose opportunities and challenges to the schools that educate lawyers and the employers that ultimately hire them.