The Key to Landing A Job As A Lawyer? Practical Experience

legal experience hiring law studentsJobs are hard to come by these days, especially in the legal profession. In 2015, only 60% of graduates found employment requiring a juris doctorate. 25% didn’t find employment at all.

So, what does a recent grad need to do to land a job as a lawyer in 2017? Practical legal experience.

According to a report released earlier this year by IAALS, the independent legal research center at the University of Denver, to land a job in the profession, lawyers need experience.

Since 2014, IAALS has been working on the Foundations of Practice project to determine what new lawyers need to succeed on the job. Last summer, we reported the group’s findings regarding what skills are necessary for law practice. However, this time around, respondents were asked to indicate the helpfulness of distinct hiring criteria when determining whether a candidate is suitable for hiring in their minds — not necessarily what their employer currently practices.

The criteria included a long list of items like legal employment, externship and clerking experience, where the candidate attended law school, class rank, extracurricular activities, etc.

Unsurprisingly, all of the criteria in the survey was considered helpful when hiring a candidate, but certain criteria were significantly more beneficial than others.

Interestingly enough, the traditional belief that law school prestige, law review participation, and class rank “make the lawyer” was debunked. In fact, none of these criteria even made the top ten list of most helpful criteria. Instead, all of the criteria that reflect a candidate’s professional experience were viewed as the most beneficial when hiring new attorneys.

Legal employment took the top spot across the board. 88.3% of respondents believed it was very or somewhat helpful to consider in the hiring process. Additionally, recommendations from other practitioners/judges and legal externships were also seen as an important consideration by 82% of respondents.

That being said, 95% of hiring partners and associates still believe law students lack the practical skills and experience to practice. So how can we bridge the gap?

The Foundation For Practice project suggests law schools incorporate more experience-based opportunities for students as a start. At the same time, hiring partners need to look beyond prestige and ranking to find lawyers ready to practice from Day 1.

How does your law firm find lawyers? And what’s the most important quality to look for when hiring? Share in the comments below.

Erika Kubik

Erika Kubik

Former Communications Specialist at Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism

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Erika Kubik

Erika Kubik

Former Communications Specialist at Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism

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