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Keeping Pace: Young Lawyers on Changing Legal Education

Why young lawyers think legal education needs to adapt with the times, and how.

My Uncle Dave was the patriarch and beloved leader of my family. He was also a lawyer. Uncle Dave bought me a beautiful gift when I graduated law school: a Black's Law Dictionary for my office shelf. He told me that his own law dictionary had served him well throughout his 5 decades of practice. Touched by his thoughtfulness, I lugged that 10-pound book through every house and office move I made. And yet, I never once cracked the book.

The truth is, the way lawyers educate themselves has changed since Uncle Dave's time. I don't actually use physical dictionaries anymore: like the rest of us, I get my information online.

The recent article,* "It's Time to Change the Way We Educate Lawyers," by The Young Lawyer Editorial Board of The American Lawyer, gives thought to this issue and the evolving needs of lawyers preparing for practice. They argue that the legal industry needs to catch up when it comes to what's being taught to young lawyers, and how it's being taught.

Tremendous expectations are hoisted upon junior attorneys today, the Young Lawyers assert, employing the phrase "we are expected to" half a dozen times in the short article. Perhaps unlike previous generations, this group of lawyers is expected to understand their clients' finances, know how to manage teams, navigate office politics, and create sophisticated spreadsheets, just to highlight a few. And yet neither the standard law school curriculum nor typical employer training has adjusted to these realities.

The Young Lawyers charge law schools, legal employers, and law students themselves, with taking the reins to make training for budding attorneys more practical. Law schools should make the 3L year more useful by focusing that time on hands-on training. Legal employers such as law firms can take steps like partnering with universities and consultants to develop their young associates' practical skills. And the new lawyers should contribute to the solution too - by taking advantage of cross-discipline classes, hands-on internships, and practice-based CLEs.

It's an important call to arms and The Young Lawyer Editorial Board is not alone in its mission. Hotshot was created to address these very issues. Together we should all give these young professionals what they're asking for.

Emily Gottheimer is the Director of Content at Hotshot.

*Registration is required. Digital membership to The American Lawyer is free.