Beyond the 'Practice Ready' Buzz: Sifting Through the Disruption of the Legal Industry to Divine the Skills Needed by New Attorneys
Drexel Law Review [Vol. 11:149 2018]
66 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2019
Date Written: March 25, 2019
A heightened velocity of change enveloped the legal profession over the last two decades. From big law to rural practitioners, the traditional law firm model proved ripe for disruption. This disruption is fueled by several discrete changes in how legal services are provided, including technological advances that allow for the automation of many routine tasks and the disaggregation of legal services; enhanced client sophistication and cost-consciousness; global competition from offshoring routine legal services; the rise of the domestic gig economy, creating a new wave of home-shoring legal services; and competition from non-traditional legal services providers. In the face of declining revenues, rapid systemic changes, and burgeoning competition from near and far, law firms have shuttered many of the traditional mentorship opportunities for new attorneys. Firms have also curtailed many once-billable activities that formerly served as profitable training grounds for new associates at law firms.
Given this new norm, students must emerge from law school both ready for practice and prepared to immediately generate revenue, whether they ply their practice-ready skills as contract attorneys, associates, in-house counsel, or solo practitioners. This Article proposes designing a required, upper-division legal writing class that incorporates the skills most needed by new attorneys entering the practice of law. The data shows that most new lawyers are destined for private practice, whether with small firms or as solo practitioners, and most likely, this private practice will include civil litigation. Since most civil litigation resolves by settlement or dispositive motion, new lawyers will focus primarily on pretrial civil litigation. Given this reality, the Article proposes requiring an upper-division legal research and writing course designed to introduce practice-style legal research and writing. This course would serve as an analogue to introduce the pretrial civil litigation skills most needed by new attorneys.
Keywords: legal education, legal profession, legal services, traditional law firm, disruption, technology, automation, disaggregation, global competition, gig economy, competition, mentorship, new attorneys, law school, practice-ready, skills, civil litigation, legal research, legal writing,
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