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Work ethic, collegiality among top skills that impress legal employers

More important than research or analytical skills, a study shows

Law school students entering the workforce—and even legal professionals who are looking to climb the ladder within their department or firm—likely think it’s their writing, research or analytical skills that make them stand out among potential job candidates in what has been a slow legal hiring market. 

But work ethic, collegiality and a sense of individual responsibility are the qualities that most impress legal employers, according to a new study by the University of Dayton School of Law. 

“The most surprising outcome of our research was the primary importance employers placed on the ‘intra- and interpersonal (socio-emotional)’—soft skills—needed for workplace success,” wrote Dayton law professor Susan Wawrose, who authored a report on the study appearing in the Ohio Northern University Law Review.

The researchers interviewed 19 attorneys in the Dayton area who are “actual or potential employers” of graduates from the law school, most of whom were employed at law firms of varying size while others worked as in-house counsel, as an assistant federal public defender, or for legal aid.

“Staying current with the practice of law is an ongoing requirement for law professors who teach legal skills,” Wawrose concluded. “Using focus groups to reach out to the practitioners is a rewarding way for professors to connect with the local legal community to learn from potential employers and make sure students are well prepared to meet employer expectations.”

As for the latest hiring statistics, the legal services industry added just over 1,100 jobs in the month of October—accounting for the third consecutive month of overall growth.

The total number of legal jobs is currently 1,130,000, which is still 50,000 less than the 10-year high of 1,180,000 set in May 2007, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Law schools are undergoing a radical change in how they prepare future lawyers for the legal realm. According to a Kaplan study, 71 percent of the law schools surveyed say they are introducing more clinical courses and practical training into their curricula to make their students more “practice ready.”


For other stories about hiring in the legal market, check out InsideCounsel’s coverage below:


Open letter to young persons contemplating the study of law

Jobs report: Legal sector adds 1,100 jobs in October

Majority of law school hires come from Tier 1 law schools, survey says



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Erin E. Harrison

Erin E. Harrison is the Editor in Chief of InsideCounsel magazine. Harrison’s professional background includes extensive expertise in both print and online media, highlighted by...

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