Common Law: The Recession Is Forcing Law Schools to Be More Practical

Forget lectures and Socratic-style seminars. Law schools are shifting toward job-friendly skills like project management.

Can making law school more practical help grads facing a tough legal job market? That's the thinking behind recent changes in course offerings and faculty at the nation's law schools. Instead of continuing the tradition of theory-based courses in which students learn how to analyze a case, research the law, and make an argument, schools are shifting to teaching job-friendly skills like networking, managing clients, and how to file a case in court.

According to the Wall Street Journal, this shift is entirely driven by the recession. In 2010, only 25 percent of law school grads were hired by big law firms, down from 33 percent in 2009. Firms don't want to hire new grads because clients are "limiting the number of hours" a firm can charge and making policies "not to pay for first-year associates." That's because law schools traditionally equip students with theoretical knowledge, leaving them to pick up the practical aspects of being a lawyer on the job. However, clients no longer feel they should have to pay while someone gets up to speed, meaning that law firms are pushing back on law schools to send them grads that are ready to hit the ground running.

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