IAALS Releases Data-Driven Guides on Educating and Hiring the ‘Best Lawyers’

The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS) is looking to disrupt the status quo with two new guides that target legal education and employment.

“The status quo has been a cycle of tradition: teaching classes the way they always have been taught and hiring lawyers based on where they went to law school and their class rank,” according to the IAALS press release.

IAALS’ recommendations are based on interactive workshops with employers and law schools and a survey of 24,000 lawyers to identify the characteristics, competencies, and skills needed to succeed in law.

For example, one of the recommendations is to “critically assess current hiring criteria,” and “ensure that everyone who participates in the hiring process understands the hiring criteria created and how to apply the criteria.”

Another recommendation put forth is to “conduct a comprehensive, in-depth analysis of each learning objective and its component parts.” This analysis would help educators “consider how each learning outcome functions individually, as well as the role it plays in the set of learning outcomes overall.”

With these tools, IAALS hopes to create alignment between law schools and legal employers to address structural problems and ensure the success of all lawyers, especially those who are “less advantaged because of race, gender, or socioeconomic background.”

Preparing New Lawyers for the Profession

For years, the legal profession has called for new lawyers who are prepared to hit the ground running after law school. However, disappointing job placement and declining numbers of clients have shined a light on the disconnect between the skills new lawyers have and the skills they need, according to the Foundations Instructional Design Guide. [see “Reinventing Professional Development for Lawyers of the Future”]

The guide uses a step-by-step approach for educators to develop measurable standards that describe and assess the knowledge or skills students should acquire by the end of a particular assignment, course, or program.

IAALS’ research, which is based on its national survey of over 24,000 lawyers, identified a set of 76 characteristics, professional competencies, and legal skills that are necessary right out of law school.

“Using this model, we will help schools instill and measure what is important for student practice-readiness,” the guide says.

Hiring and Retaining the Best Talent

On the flip side, employers who seek to improve the quality, retention, and diversity of their attorneys will benefit from the Foundations Hiring Guide.

The guide provides employers with tools to eliminate bias by designing objective ways to assess and hire candidates and create accountability measures. The goal is to help employers hire candidates based on the organization’s needs, rather than traditional hiring practices. This, in turn, can incentivize improvements in legal education, according to the guide.

“The urgency for updating how we teach, assess, and hire budding lawyers has never been greater,” said Zachariah DeMeola, IAALS Director of Legal Education and the Legal Profession, in the press release. “We’ve already seen how employers that adopt our suggested practices position themselves to achieve better hiring outcomes.”

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