New lawyers spend much of their time doing legal research. Yet librarians and law firm partners agree that new graduates commonly leave law school without the research and writing skills needed to be successful in a law firm environment.
The challenge this poses to law firms, law schools and legal information providers took center stage on Saturday, July 12 here at AALL in Portland at the West town hall meeting, “Partnership & Solutions for Preparing Job-Ready Attorneys.”
The town hall, moderated by Karl Gruben from the St. Thomas University School of Law in Florida, featured a blue-ribbon panel of academic and law firm librarians who explored the challenge law schools face in squeezing research and writing coursework into an already-packed class schedule.
Gruben noted that research accounts for only one percent of law school coursework; this was reinforced by law professor Arthur Miller, who in pre-recorded video remarks decried the gap between what’s taught and what’s needed in that first job.
Research and writing, Miller said in the video, are “crowded out”, and don’t receive the focus and seriousness they should be afforded in law school.
The Town Hall also looked at a unique partnership between West and the law firm Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP that is providing new associates with comprehensive legal research training, including when and how to use print and online resources most effectively.
Monice Kaczorowski, head of Neal Gerber’s competitive intelligence unit and law firm litigation partner Chris Mickus said this training has helped new Neal Gerber associates more efficiently use all of the firm’s research materials. There needs to be more emphasis on research “nuts and bolts”, and new associates need to know how to use the library and its print resources before jumping to online databases, Mickus said.
West produced a white paper to address the key issues in the discussion in the town hall.