We have written before about how law firms need to adapt to the new generation of millennial workers if they want to attract and retain the best young legal talent. However, it’s not just law firms that have felt the pressure to adapt to a changing market: law schools have undergone steady changes in recent years as well. With the value that millennials place on work-life balance and meaningful employment rather than financial rewards, fewer millennials are choosing to go to law school.
The consistently high cost of a legal education, coupled with the drop in employment rates and the lower expected salary for a law firm lawyer today, have also contributed to the dip in law school application rates. Now, schools must compete for students who will become successful lawyers, demanding that schools modernize their offerings.
The good news is that, in much the same way that law firm changes benefit all of their employees, updates to law school curricula and practices promise to create a better, more practical legal education, to the advantage of both graduates and the firms they eventually work for.
So, what specifically has changed, and what do those changes mean for your firm?
1. Law schools are offering more instruction in concrete skills and real-world integrated problem solving.
With their graduates facing greater competition for a shrinking number of legal jobs, law schools are focusing on training a generation of lawyers who can hit the ground running, preparing them with tried and tested skills in research, writing, interviewing, and negotiation. More schools are also intentionally teaching about the overlap between legal areas, introducing students early on to legal problems that blend subjects such as contract law, civil procedure, and ethics rather than artificially considering each subject separately.
2. Law schools are embracing—and teaching—more about legal technology.
Millennials have never known a world without sophisticated technology: they grew up constantly connected to everyone and everything, able to instantly access answers to any question. Today, the rest of us are getting on board with their natural enthusiasm for technology, which is poised to transform how we practice law. Law schools now offer legal technology classes, such as hands-on coding sessions where students develop apps to solve specific legal problems.
3. Law schools are putting more focus on the meaning of a legal education and how it can help people, often through hands-on practice opportunities.
The American Bar Association recently changed its core curriculum requirements, adding six experiential credits, such as clinical practice or field placements, and two dedicated ethics credits that must cover the “values and responsibilities of the legal profession.” Changes like these reflect the importance to millennial attorneys of finding meaning within the practice of law and give students immediate opportunities to start making a difference in their communities.
Make no mistake: learning how to think critically and analytically about legal issues is still at the heart of any law school’s curriculum, but we’re excited to see how this updated approach to legal education will turn out a new generation of hands-on, technologically savvy, purpose-driven lawyers.