Open Letter to Law Firms from Law Schools

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

By Kristine D. Bridges, Associate Dean & Director of Professional Development at The University of Tulsa College of Law. This Open Letter and its Response, which will appear in next month's NALP Bulletin are a collaboration of the Law School and Lawyer Professional Development Sections.

What Professional Development Skills Do You Expect Our Graduates to Have at Entry Level?

BridgesDear Law Firm Colleagues, I am writing on behalf of my law school contemporaries who are busy advising graduates from the Class of 2012, the newly-minted Class of 2015 and all law students in between. We are aware that your law firms are making adjustments in response to client needs and we want to be equally responsive to your need for strong entry-level talent. After all, almost 50% of JD candidate still land in private practice after graduation. We would appreciate your thoughts and input on the questions below. Your response will be helpful as we continue to advise law students, develop programming and report on current trends in the legal market to our Deans.

  • What are the basic tenants of project management that you expect from an entry-level attorney? We as professionals know how crucial workflow management is to completely a project successfully and in a timely manner. What are some of the project management skills exhibited by your most successful entry-level attorneys? At a minimum, what level of project management do you expect from a recent law school graduate?
  • How skilled should an entry-level attorney be at client development? If your associates are not expected to develop clients immediately, what skills should an entry-level attorney possess as a strong foundation for being successful at client development?
  • Many students have concerns about being "practice ready" in their first legal job. What practical skills are essential for an entry-level attorney? We consistently hear that writing skills are the most sought after practice skill. What writing projects are expected of an entry level attorney other than inter-office research memos? What is the second most sought after practical skill you seek in recent graduates?
  • New attorneys are undoubtedly busy with adjusting to the demands of private practice. However, we all understand the importance of active involvement in professional and industrial organizations. What level of extra-curricular participation do you expect from students during their law school years? How much involvement in professional organizations to you expect from an entry-level attorney?
  • Law schools are making strides in addressing the development of soft skills. What emphasis do law firms place on these crucial, yet nebulous and hard-to-teach, skills? Is there a particular soft skill that you find most appealing in a recent graduate? We could pose many more questions about essential professional development skills.

Ultimately however, we hope that you will also offer any additional insights that are not included in the topics above. It is likely that some of the traits you find most valuable are not currently on our radar or may be new on your radar given the recent changes to the legal landscape. We look forward to receiving your feedback and integrating it into our student counseling and programming!


Law School Professional & Career Development Counselors

Kristine Bridges