Law schools falls short of preparing students for practice, survey says

The McGill Law cohort earned top place at the École du Barreau’s exams for 2022-2023, with an astonishing 97.3 per cent of McGill Law graduates passing the assessments without preparatory courses, and 100 cent of the graduates who took preparatory courses.

At least at first glance those are impressive figures.

But a recent survey calls into question whether law schools sufficiently prepare students for practice.

Nearly half, or 45 per cent, of 546 junior associates said law schools did not sufficiently prepare them for their current roles, according to a survey conducted by legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa and legal data intelligence provider Leopard Solutions. What’s more, nearly a third, or 31 per cent, stated that their law firm experience didn’t meet their expectations coming out of law school.

There was a near consensus that law school was too heavily focused on theoretical concepts and doctrinal analysis while failing to impart practical skills necessary to facilitate a transactional business, said the survey.

The COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with remote law school and remote work impacted the development of associates, affirms Laura Leopard, CEO of Leopard Solutions. “We know that younger attorneys place a premium on work-life balance,” said Leopard. “At the same time, though, there’s no denying that many have missed out on vital in-person training that’s necessary for growth in their legal careers.”

The survey found that most junior associates are satisfied with their career path, with the majority, 83 per cent, stating they would select to work for their current firm, and 79 per cent reporting they are satisfied with their assigned work. The majority, or 67 per cent, also said they plan to stay at their firms for three or more years. Less than 10 per cent said they plan to leave within the next year.

The survey also revealed that more than a third, 36 per cent, cited partnership as their top career goal, followed by working as in-house counsel (24 per cent) or a government/NGO role (12 per cent).

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