Hiring Partners Demand Practice Readiness from New Law School Grads

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Over and over again, we're see hiring attorneys say the number one trait they look for in new attorney is practice readiness. They're looking for entry-level lawyers who can do more than basic legal research and mediocre legal writing. They're looking for entry-level lawyers who can work on client matters and add value to the firm from Day One.

The latest white paper is "Hiring partners reveal new attorney readiness for real world practice" from LexisNexis , which committed a survey of 300 hiring partners and senior associates in small to large U.S. law firms. The purpose of the study, conducted by 5 Square Research Inc. on LexisNexis's behalf, was "to conduct a quantitative study to determine what specific skills or experience in the area of legal research, writing and transactional work, law firms most desire in new associates." 

Among it's big conclusions (so big it's in a pullout quote, in red, and in italic just to be sure you don't miss it):

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This isn't to say that legal research isn't important. It is important. If you're a junior associate in a law firm, you can expect to spend a lot of time on legal research. 

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(Don't worry, you'll survive. Back in the old days, we did all this in books. Then we had CD-ROM. You have fantastic online research tools, so be grateful for small favors!)

Se we know legal research is key. But all the research in the world doesn't mean anything if you can't go beyond caselaw to analyzing the law / data and writing legal documents (whether legal memoranda, legal briefs, motions, or discovery documents). And that's where junior associates start to fall short. 

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New litigation associates are falling short in their writing and drafting skills. New transactional associates are falling short in their writing and drafting skills, but also in their basic understanding business and financial concepts, accounting, and business transactions.

What does all this mean for your legal career? Get as much practical experience as you can. Clinical courses, internships and externships, judicial clerkships, and other hands-on learning opportunities are key. Law school courses focused on discovery, trial advocacy, and document drafting are also critical. And if you need additional time in the field, volunteer! Contact your local bar association to find out what opportunities they have for law students and new attorney to improve their legal practice skills.