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LIV President's Blog 2012

LIV President's Blog 2012

Michael Holcroft, LIV President 2012 on the latest issues and topics. Read and comment.

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Transforming law students and graduates into the lawyers of the future

Transforming law students and graduates into the lawyers of the future

The practice of law in Australia is undergoing fundamental change. We are witnessing the globalisation of legal practice through international mergers, the outsourcing of legal work to low cost jurisdictions and technology being used to undertake work previously done by lawyers. The question is whether the education of our law students and graduates is keeping pace with these developments.

A recent survey conducted by the LIV suggests there is an expectation gap between what universities and practical legal training providers are producing and what law firms believe they need from graduate employees.

Something needs to give if we are to transform our law students and graduates into the lawyers of the future.  Indeed, a recent article suggests the need for action is critical. The article identified nine jobs that humans may lose to robots. And yes, lawyer was one of them.

Stating the facts

The LIV has been considering this issue through our Future Focus Committee.  Over 2011 and 2012, the LIV undertook a study, ‘The Law Graduates of the Future Survey’ which surveyed employers and law graduates. The survey asked employers and law graduates to indicate the extent to which they felt that university and practical legal training prepared graduates for the future.

The LIV is hosting the inaugural Law Graduates of the Future Forum on Monday at which an executive summary of the survey results will be released. I will launch the forum, which will include representatives from the Victorian universities with a law school, as well as law students, PLT providers, government representatives, large law firms, rural, regional and remote practitioners and members of our Future Focus Committee.

Identifying the gaps: Key skill sets employers seek

There are a number of essential skill sets that are integral in securing employment as a recent law graduate and embarking on a successful career as a lawyer. In the survey, graduates were asked to rate their own skills and capabilities which were then compared to ratings awarded by employers. Results indicate there is a difference in perceptions as to the level of skill between graduates and employers in the following areas:

  • Communication Skills
  • Thinking Skills
  • Ethics & Professionalism
  • Research Skills

Graduates tended to rate themselves higher than the employers did in these four areas.

For example, an issue highlighted by the survey is the ability of graduates to identify and articulate legal issues, apply legal reasoning and research legal issues, engage in critical analysis and think creatively.  While 21% of graduates thought they had very strong skills in this area, only 6% of employers felt the same way.  Thinking skills are obviously critical to the practice of law. It is what differentiates us from robots: namely the ability to tailor solutions to unique client problems.

Interestingly, there was actually one area where employers rated graduates higher than the graduates themselves; team work.

Bridging the gap

So how do we bridge the gap and ensure our graduates grow to become trusted advisers to their clients? Survey comments from employers and graduates alike reflect a concern that there are insufficient practical skills taught in university courses and that PLT courses devote too much time to issues that are only relevant to some lawyers.

I hope that this will be an opportunity for all of those involved or that have an interest in the legal profession to work together to ensure we are creating “work ready” lawyers that are well placed to address the challenges that lie ahead for the legal profession.

Monday’s forum will also discuss:

  • How we can work together to ensure Indigenous representation in the legal profession
  • Inclusion of appropriate Indigenous content in university and practical legal training curricula
  • How we can ensure access to justice in rural, regional and remote (RRR) areas through legal education as well as ensuring inclusion of appropriate RRR content is included in the education program  
  • How resilience can be promoted amongst law students and the legal profession.

If you are interested in knowing more about the project, or becoming involved in the next forum, please contact Joy Acquaro, General Manager of our Legal Policy and Practice section jacquaro@liv.asn.au.

What has been your experience as an employer or graduate, and what do you think can help transform law students and graduates into the lawyers of the future?

*Today’s guest blogger is LIV President Elect Reynah Tang.

LIV President Elect Reynah Tang

 
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Comments

Comments

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George Mantzoros
I think the LIV is misconceived on this issue.

The real issue that the LiV should be tackling is the oversupply of law graduates from all of the uiversities in Victoria and not been able to obtain employement in private practice because of declining job opportunites particularly in suburban law firms which are dwindling every year due to competition from non lawyers such as conveyancing companies.
24/11/2012 7:49:35 PM

Robert Cudlipp
Only ONE blog on this and in the era of IPads ruling the world, I find this difficult to accept.
23/11/2012 3:05:32 PM

Robert Cudlipp
When I completed a 5 year degree at Monash some years ago, I was essentially unemployable as a solicitor. There was no practical orientation in the course and I think being in the first group of Leo Cussen graduates gave me some employment skills. I consider it nothing less than an outrage that Law Schools are able to qualify for funding when providing such useless practical profession focussed courses. I trust medicine is not the same - we all know it is not- otherwise we would not have enough room for expanding cemetries.
How can law schools be held accountable for offering such esoteric, non employment focussed courses!
19/11/2012 2:27:16 PM

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