Our vision: to close the gap between school and career, between credentials and capabilities, between thinking like a lawyer and becoming one.
The employment gap for law school graduates is well-documented. Almost 40% of law grads in 2015 did not land full-time jobs requiring a law license ten months after graduation. What’s more, only 23% of practicing lawyers believe new graduates have the right skills to enter the profession. That has serious consequences, not only for job seekers but also for firms, companies, and communities unable to meet their legal and leadership needs.
But what are new lawyers missing? And how can schools and employers help grads hit the ground running? These questions are at the heart of “Foundations for Practice,” a groundbreaking project by the Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers Initiative at IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System. In the most comprehensive effort of its kind, we surveyed more than 24,000 lawyers in 50 states—across practice settings, specialty, and geography—to uncover the essential attributes of success for lawyers as they launch their careers.
As the profession grows more complex and competitive, employers are demanding that new lawyers have all the parts of a whole lawyer on day one—not only intelligence and legal skills but also key characteristics and professional competencies to use those skills in practice. Among our surprising discoveries is a “character quotient”: traits such as integrity, work ethic, and resilience that provide an early professional edge—and which may be best learned through innovative teaching methods and actual experience.
By targeting both legal education and legal employment, Foundations for Practice aims to strengthen both. Building on the study’s insights, we’re developing models to help schools instill and measure what’s important, as well as hiring practices to help employers identify worthy candidates.