Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Law Students Ready for Work

York College of Pennsylvania conducted a national survey of human resources directors and business leaders who make hiring decisions. The study showed that the most important factor that people who hire considered in whether to make a job offer is the candidate's demeanor in five areas: 1) personal interaction including courtesy and respect; 2) communication skills; 3) work ethic; 4)professional appearance; 5) self-confidence. Responders were asked to rank on a scale of 1 (very rare) to 5 (very common) the appearance of these traits in recent college graduates. For all of the five traits the mean rank was below 4.

Recent college graduates appeared to survey responders to be concerned about opportunities for advancement. This trait garnered a mean of 4. Unfortunately for job seekers, those hiring rank this trait as among the least important in the hiring decision.

53% of responders believed that the level of professionalism among recent college grads looking for entry level work was stable over the last five years. 33% percent believed that professionalism had decreased. Those that saw a decline in professionalism identified the causes as a false sense of entitlement to the job, changes in culture and values, and erosion of work ethic. 61% of responders reported that a sense of entitlement to a job had increased among recent grads over the last five years. Responders frequently noted that recent grads had problems accepting personal responsibility for on the job decisions and behavior, difficulty acting independently, and appeared to have no clear sense of direction or purpose in office environments.

I wonder whether law students possess the essential professional traits most valued in the market for legal employment. How can a law school give its students the competitive edge?


Kelly J. Bozanic said...

We all learn by example, I think. For law students, the professors are usually the first group of lawyers the students encounter. Professional dress, class decorum, structure, and respect can all be fostered by the professor in a collegial - yet authoritative - manner. If a professor is late, disorganized, or unprofessionally attired, a student is presented with a model that perhaps falls short of the expectations of the industry.

Buce said...

Here's something else we don't convey to law students: the reasons why our clients pay us. Law students tend to be good at cooking up clever arguments, not so hot at coming in on time and under budget. Or as they say, thinking of ways our client can do what he wants to, not reasons why he can't. Very few professors have to worry about making the money to cover the monthly nut. Clients often do, and so do lawyers. It's a gap.

Afterthought: I haven't worn a tie to class in 39 years and I am not about to start now. So sue me.

Ray Campbell said...

One easy ways for law students to show courtesy and respect, demonstrate work ethic, and enhance their own self confidence in the interview setting is to come into the interview extremely knowledgeable about the firm they are meeting with. If you know who the interviewer is, read their profile at their firm in advance, and know where they went to school, in which areas they practice, recent matters they've handled (if listed, and they often are) and so on. It allows the student to ask prepared questions about what the interviewer does, and, to the extent their are common links, to work those into the interview. In the same way, do research on the firm. If they've been in the news lately for big deals or big litigation wins, or for ranking high in the Pro Bono 100, knowing that (and showing that you know that) provides an entree into questions about the firm's practice that clearly aren't just rote.

The point is, you are coming into the interview prepared to talk knowledgeably about them, which demonstrates you get the most important point, which is that it isn't all about you.

That said, don't be creepy. Firm profile pages and info about the firm are fine; I would stay away from referencing personal info about the interviewer that came up during your Google tour.

Alison M. Kilmartin said...

All five of the characteristics sought by hiring committees I learned in the home at an early age, from my parents. As Kelly said, we learn by example. That's why it is so important that parents see the younger years as a time to equip their children with life skills, rather than as a time to just play and have fun. Parents who see childhood as one big romp cheat their children out of skills needed later in life.

With that said, anyone can learn anything at any time . . . if they want to. You can teach old dogs new tricks and law students certainly are younger than old dogs. If students care to learn, there are reservoires of knowledge all around them to tap into.

I think law schools should do whatever they can to scare the heeby jeebies out of students and put the fear of God in them. The message: Grow up, now, and we are here to help.