Throughout last week’s 19th annual Law Firm Leaders Forum hosted by Thomson Reuters, there was discussion about the evolving legal market and how lawyers and firms must adapt. As lawyers are being forced to think and perform in a new capacity than in previous decades, the way students are being educated and trained has to evolve to meet expectations for their career path as well as firms’ expectations of new lawyers.

Moderated by co-chair Ralph Baxter, the panel included: Richard Hays, chairman and managing partner, Alston & Bird LLP; Alan Michaels, dean and Edwin M. Cooperman professor of law, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law; Regina Pisa, chairman, Goodwin Procter LLP; and William Treanor, executive vice president and dean of the Law Center, professor of law, Georgetown University Law Center.

Dean Michaels opened by noting that the law school of today is very different than the one most attendees went to, in a better way. In response to the primary complaint they hear which is “an absence of wisdom that comes with experience,” he noted that clinical training has expanded, experiential training is growing, multiple externships and skills competitions are available, and many third year students work several hours a week for pay, thus providing them with real world experience before graduating.

Michaels highlighted two programs that have been integral in the schools’ and students’ success as well as continuing to find new ways to educate while providing experience. Those programs are The Moritz Corporate Fellowship Program and the OhioLex Legal Solutions Center.

The Moritz Corporate Fellowship Program connects graduates with an opportunity to gain insight and knowledge of what companies desire and need from their firms while working in the legal department. This program was launched in 2011 and has seen great acceptance from corporate partners and provided immeasurable benefits to the students.

The OhioLex Legal Solutions Center began in 2014 and is a wholly-owned subsidiary through an agreement with United Lex, a legal services outsourcing company. The solutions centers will staffed by Ohio State law students, except for the two organizational leaders, which will afford the opportunity to track these students through training and curriculum, and in theory, create new and expanded career opportunities.

Dean Treanor noted how the hiring of first year associates changed dramatically in a very short period of time. It used to be that graduates were hired by a firm which taught them how to practice or graduates went to work for the government and figured it out on their own. No longer viable options, Treanor maintained the emphasis of the importance of post-graduate learnings similar to that of the medical residency model is crucial.

The multiple experiences Georgetown University Law Center has brought into its teachings include clinics, externships, simulations, and practicum where students attend a seminar and then perform a period of 15 hours at a firm or government entity. The simulations have been a big success as alumni have become heavily involved and the students earn credit for participating. The simulations, many held over a weekend, may be a takeover and the team of students must develop and present their plan to the CEO the next morning, followed by a board presentation on another matter the next day.

From the firm’s perspective, training employees continues to evolve and improve. Pisa noted her firm’s highly developed leadership training program offering third years a career-development course and fifth years a transition to leadership course. In addition, new partners benefit from an advanced leadership program, and partners or key leaders attend a Harvard leadership training program. Finally, associates are offered an opportunity to attend a mini-MBA program before beginning their job.

These methods, amongst many more, are transforming legal education and career development, allowing students and legal professionals to take advantage of vast resources and capitalize on the new legal market.


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