Back from an admittedly ongoing baby detail, I was greeted by a press release in my inbox decrying the state of new attorney readiness. LexisNexis’s Legal & Professional conducted a survey entitled Hiring Partners Reveal New Attorney Readiness for Real World Practice, which found 95 percent of “hiring partners and associates believe law school graduates lack practical skills related to legal research, litigation and transactional practice”. Beyond practical skills, the survey respondents stated young associates especially lacked advanced research skills.
My immediate, knee-jerk reaction to all of this news is: great!
The role of the law firm librarian, of course, is to cover this exact gap. We conduct multiple orientations with new associates, including when they are first introduced to the firm as summer associates and when they eventually get hired. And, during these orientations, it is our explicit goal to show how legal researching is done differently in a law firm environment. But beyond orientations, we are continually answering research questions and advising new associates on the proper directions to take with their research queries. The survey defines advanced researching as “researching more complex legal issues in cases, statutes and regulations, determining strength of validity of primary law, and legislative/administrative intent”–all topics we commonly help our new attorneys research. But, beyond researching, we have to acclimate new associates to the cost structures of conducting research at a firm, cost recovery, subscription versus transactional services, and other hard cost aspects of researching. This survey defines the importance of librarianship in the law firm setting.
The survey posits possible solutions to the problem of unprepared new associates: expand the curriculum of law schools, offer certification programs, and offer workshops, among others. Again, the role of the librarian is central to successfully transition associates from law school to their first professional roles. The survey found new associates spend a mean of 43% of their time conducting legal research, and a robust mean of 12.1 hours using paid online resources. This equates to a significant cost to firms. In fact, the survey states attorneys estimate it costs $19,000 a year to train new associates. The silver lining is: educating new associates on proper researching is big business in law firms, and an area that crucially underscores the librarian’s value to a firm.