Jul 28, 2016

Character more important than skills for scoring first legal job, survey finds

Integrity, punctuality and trustworthiness rank higher than legal skills when looking for a job after law school, according to a recent survey of US attorneys

Researchers from the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System asked 24,000 attorneys what they look for in new recruits. Survey respondents were given lists of legal skills (such as legal research and issue spotting), professional competencies (such as listening skills and teamwork) and character traits (like integrity and trustworthiness) and asked to select which traits and skills were essential in new recruits to their firm, and which could be learned or developed later.

Character over core skills

Interestingly, while just 40 per cent of legal skills options were selected by half or more of the respondents, the proportion grew to 76 per cent for character traits. While many legal employers appear willing to fill in a recruit’s legal skills deficit on the job, most feel that characteristics like resilience, work ethic and common sense are essential from day one. ‘It is not the granular, practical knowledge that new lawyers need to have to hand immediately; rather it is the characteristics that allow them to succeed and allow them to learn those practical skills over time,’ the report reads.

Walking the walk

The objective of the IAALS study was to fine-tune educators’ understanding of what employers want from law graduates when they hit the job market. The Foundations for Practice project at the Denver-based institute subsequently works to convince employers to hire new lawyers based on what they actually say they want from recruits, rather than relying on traditional merit measures like grades and law school pedigree. ‘The truth is, if we do this study and say “Hey, this is what the profession says it wants”, and law schools transform their curriculum so that it meets those objectives but legal employers don’t actually hire based on those things, then none of it really matters,’ warned Alli Gerkman, director of the Institute’s Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers project and one of the report’s co-authors.

Sources: globallegalpost.com

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