The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System released a new “Foundations of Practice” study based on a survey of more than 24,000 lawyers nationwide.

The study identifies “foundations” that lawyers need in the short term after graduation. The following are the items that at least 85% of the respondents said were needed:

● listen attentively and respectfully (91.5%)
● respond promptly to inquiries and requests (91.0%)

Emotional and Interpersonal Intelligence
● treat others with courtesy and respect (91.9%)

Passion and Ambition
● have a strong work ethic and put forth best effort (88.1%)

● keep information confidential (96.1%)
● arrive on time for meetings, appointments, and hearings (95.4%)
● honor commitments (93.7%)

Qualities and Talents
● integrity and trustworthiness (92.3%)
● diligence (88.4%)
● attention to detail (87.8%)
● conscientiousness (85.5%)

It is striking how almost all of the items on the list refer to personal qualities – things people should have learned by the time they graduate high school, if not kindergarten.  These generally are hard things to teach and most law schools probably don’t focus on them much, if at all.  To the extent that law schools do teach these skills, it is often in DR courses.

By contrast, law schools do focus on some things that relatively small proportions of the lawyers think are necessary in the short term. These include:

● providing quality in-court appellate advocacy (9.9%)
● preparing a case on appeal (11.9%)
● preparing for and participating in an arbitration (13.8%)
● preparing for and participating in mediation (21.3%)
● providing quality in-court trial advocacy (26.7%)
● preparing a case for trial (26.9%)

It’s interesting that more respondents think that it’s important for graduates to be prepared for mediation and arbitration than appellate advocacy.

The study states that “The employment gap [of graduates without jobs] is exacerbated by another gap: the gap between the skillset lawyers want in new graduates and the skillset lawyers believe new graduates have. Only 23% of practitioners believe new lawyers have sufficient skills to practice. . . . When new lawyers enter the workforce unprepared or under-prepared, it undermines the public trust in our legal system.”

Another part of the disconnect is that a large proportion of our graduates harbor illusions of competence.

This study has a lot of data worth considering so you might want to check it out and share it with your colleagues.

John Lande is the Isidor Loeb Professor Emeritus and former director of the LLM Program in Dispute Resolution, at the University of Missouri, School of Law. He received his J.D. from Hastings College of Law and Ph.D in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is also an avid writer and contributor to