As we have written about before, the job market for entry-level roles in the legal profession is highly competitive. Law graduates are struggling to land their first full-time role upon graduation that requires a juris doctorate.
So what is it exactly that employers are looking for in their ideal candidate? What skills and redeeming qualities will make you, the future lawyer, stand out amidst the sea of applicants?
According to think tank IAALS, the top valued skill in new lawyer hires is character.
Back in 2014, IAALS distributed a survey to lawyers across the country. Respondents were asked to rate the necessity of over 140 different skills and qualities considered necessary for new lawyers beginning their careers, clarifying if they were essential right after law school or if they could be learned later on the job.
Last month, IAALS released the report. With over 24,000 responses, the vast majority found that the qualities that make a candidate showcase a strong sense of character overcame the immediate need for the nuts and bolts of practice.
In fact, 76% of the traits related to character like integrity, work ethic, common sense, and resilience were identified by half or more of lawyers as essential right out of law school, while just 46% of professional competencies like arriving on time, listening attentively, and teamwork were deemed as necessary. Half or more of respondents identified legal research skills, issue spotting, and analysis as necessary right out of law school to an even lesser degree. 40% of respondents identified them as essential upon graduation.
However, that’s not to say all legal skills should be thrown out the window.
98% of all the legal skills included within the survey were deemed essential for entry-level lawyers. Respondents felt that as one works in the profession, lawyers can polish these skills.
The goal of the study wasn’t just to inform law graduates how to make themselves more marketable. The report highlighted the importance of professionalism education in law school. It even challenged employers still hiring candidates solely from one’s law school pedigree to reconsider their methodology.
Point blank, lawyers aren’t just legal technicians. To be practice-ready and successful in future law, new lawyers need a wider array of skill sets. At the Commission, we’ve said it time and time again. An open mind, paired with a strong sense of character and the technical skills learned in law school, will set you up for success as a new lawyer.