Design Your Law School Schedule to Better Prepare Yourself for Practice

Design Your Law School Schedule to Better Prepare Yourself for Practice

Recently the Lexis Hub posted this article about ways some law schools are changing the curriculum to adapt to demands of the legal industry. If you are attending one of the schools that is building practical legal skills into the course offerings, be sure to take full advantage of these opportunities.  While it is good--and the standard in legal education--to learn the history and theory behind the law and the art of persuasion, when you walk into a law firm as an associate or summer associate, you will need to be prepared to hit the ground running.  Courses that allow you to build practical knowledge and skills will put you in a good position to succeed.  As you enter your second and third years of law school, look for courses that will give you hands on opportunities to learn and develop practical legal skills.  If you have the opportunity, seek out classes taught by practicing attorneys.  They are more likely to provide insight into what you will need to know when faced with real life situations at a law firm.  If you are attending a law school that has not yet moved in this direction, it is extremely important to seek out opportunities to shadow or work to spend time in a professional legal setting during your summers.

Law School Curriculum Changes Aimed at Developing Marketable Graduates

Fewer jobs for law school grads and demands from law firms and clients for skilled associates are forcing changes at some law schools. Courses designed to provide practical skills rather than focusing entirely on Socratic-style lectures are being added to the curriculum. 

Some schools, such as Harvard Law, are starting as early as the first year with a problem-solving course.  Indiana University's Maurer School  of Law has added project management to its offering, according to the Wall Street Journal.   New York Law School has hired new faculty members directly from law firms to teach important skills such as negotiation, investigation and counseling. And the list goes on--the Journal notes that Washington and Lee University Law School redesigned the entire third year program, replacing lectures with case-based simulations run by practicing attorneys.

Law schools are finally listening to feedback from firms that graduates arrive with no hands-on skills and require considerable training before being useful to a law firm.  Following several years of diminishing numbers of jobs for new graduates, some law schools are trying to make their graduates more desirable to hiring managers by providing practice-ready skills. Medical Schools and Business Schools have offered hands-on training to students for decades, yet law schools lagged behind, fiercely clinging to the traditional Socratic method of teaching legal theory.  Market conditions are forcing schools to better prepare their students for the actual practice of law.


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