Lawyers, judges, employers, and clients have been consistent in their call for new lawyers who can hit the ground running. Call it what you like—practice-ready, client-ready, or just plain ready—the charge is clear. And as our country reckons with transformative change in areas such as systemic racism, implicit bias, a shifting economy, technology, the access to justice crisis, and the predominance of self-represented litigants in court affecting our traditional adversarial legal system, the urgency for updating how we teach, assess, and hire budding lawyers has never been greater.
Improving legal education and legal hiring requires first understanding exactly what lawyers need as they enter and develop careers in the profession, and through empirical research Foundations has compiled the competencies, skills, and characteristics new lawyers need to be ready. Today, Foundations is about creating different pathways to improve professional development, education, and hiring—Foundations for Learning, Foundations for Teaching, and Foundations for Hiring—and working directly with law firms and law schools to implement Foundations-based practices. We have designed tailored resources for students, educators, and employers to capitalize on the Foundations data and improve legal education and legal hiring.
Our vision is a more diverse profession that finally closes the gap between school and career, between credentials and capabilities, and between thinking like a lawyer and becoming one. By targeting both legal education and legal employment, Foundations for Practice aims to strengthen both.
- ✓ Identify the foundations entry-level lawyers need to succeed in the practice of law
- ✓ Develop a relevant, empirically validated, and effective outcomes-based framework for education and hiring practices that will ensure new lawyers are prepared as best they can be to serve clients as soon as possible
- ✓ Use that framework to create more objective, transparent, and accountable practices for assessing qualified candidates for law school and for hire to address systemic inequity and forge an entryway for more diversity in the profession
- Deliver and implement this new framework through user-centered design that focuses on the needs of students, educators, and employers
- Align hiring and professional development criteria with law school educational outcomes to strengthen legal education and the legal profession.
Improving legal education and legal hiring requires first understanding exactly what lawyers need as they enter and develop careers in the profession. Enter: Foundations for Practice. In 2014, IAALS launched this groundbreaking project with a nationwide survey. It has continued by engaging key stakeholders who want and need a say in improving entry to the legal profession. IAALS now designs methods and tools for—and consults with—educators, employers, lawyers, students, and others to implement our empirical research and address structural problems inherent in the status quo of the legal profession.
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