More Support for Practical Experience in Legal Education

An interview with a recent law school graduate and mid-sized law firm senior partner on graduate preparadness to practice.

The LexisNexis survey "The Future of the Legal Industry" revealed that 35 percent of law school graduates don't feel adequately prepared to succeed in the new marketplace. Sixty-five percent said law schools don't teach the practical business skills required to adjust to today's economy.

Recent interviews conducted by LexisNexis with a senior partner in a mid-sized Connecticut law firm and a young associate at a top tier national firm seem to corroborate the results.

LexisNexis asked Edward M. Kweskin, senior partner Wofsey, Rosen, Kweskin and Kuriansky, how well-prepared he feels young law associates are for work in his general practice firm.

Ed's response: "As a rule, law school graduates are not equipped to manage cases or to provide the services that clients need and require. So much of the practice of law is judgment, which doesn't come from learning about cases or even how to think, it comes from experience."

Ed suggested requiring internships as part of the law school curriculum would help reduce the learning curve for young associates. When it comes to business training, Ed reiterated "there is no substitute for experience."

"The business of the business is to make a profit by rendering services in a responsible and ethical way. You don't learn in law school what's profitable...more what's ethical and not ethical. Whatever you've learned, there has to be application of theory, which is not necessarily something a young attorney would know. Theory has to be tempered by the real-life experience of meeting client's needs and demands," he explained.

Would a 2007 graduate of University of California, Davis, School of Law, now an associate at a top tier national law firm, agree? To find out, we interviewed Matt D.

LNG: LexisNexis' recent survey showed more than one-third of law school grads don't feel adequately prepared to practice law. Why do you think that is?

MD: The learning environment and nurturing by my teachers at UC Davis was unbelievable, but law school prepares litigators for practice. Most schools don't do as good a job of preparing transactional attorneys for practice. 

LNG: Where specifically do you feel your training fell short?

MD: While I needed litigation courses in order to pass the bar, I knew they wouldn't apply to my particular choice of career path. It would have been helpful to have a stronger business background...to have had the opportunity to become more financially informed and to learn the terminology of the business world.

LNG: Many law students feel the third-year of law school is a borderline waste of time. Do you agree?

MD: I spent at least a year taking classes that aren't useful to me now. It would certainly have been helpful to have that year to do more hands-on work, especially with the business aspect of law that I was interested in pursuing.

LNG: Did interpersonal skills required to deal with clients come into play at law school?

MD: No, but my firm does a good job of putting associates in situations that require interaction with clients. Those skills come with practice; they cannot be taught in school, unfortunately.

LNG: How would you improve the law school curriculum?

MD: I would make law school two to two-and-a-half years with a working internship. 

LNG: Final question, what is your firm doing in response to the economic recession?

MD: We're cutting staff and doing the same work with fewer people. I feel bad for the kids who left law school with huge student loans to pay that can't find jobs in today's market.