Law School Failed To Prepare 45% Of Junior Associates For Practice, Survey Finds

Law school preparation for practice

A new survey has found that nearly half of law firm associates believe that law school did not adequately prepare them for practice.

The survey, conducted by legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa and legal data intelligence provider Leopard Solutions, interviewed 546 junior associates in January and February.

Of those surveyed, 45% stated that law school did not sufficiently prepare them for their current role, while 31% expressed dissatisfaction with their law firm experience compared to their expectations coming out of law school.

When asked about changes they would make to their law school experience, the most common response from the surveyed associates was a desire for more practical skills and a greater emphasis on transactional practices.

Many of those who felt their law firm experience fell short of expectations attributed it to legal education’s focus on litigation and a lack of training in their current type of legal work.

Impact of COVID-19

Laura Leopard, CEO of Leopard Solutions, attributed some of the dissatisfaction among the surveyed lawyers to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that many began their law firm careers during this time, missing out on vital in-person training opportunities.

Additionally, the survey revealed that most junior associates are satisfied with their career path. A majority (83%) stated they would choose to work for their current firm again, and 79% expressed satisfaction with their assigned work.

Furthermore, 67% indicated they plan to stay at their firms for three or more years, with only 9% planning to leave within the next year.

The survey also highlighted gender disparities, with men being 15 percentage points more likely than women to say they plan to stay at their firms and to aspire to law firm partnership.

Nathan Peart, managing director of MLA’s associate practice group, emphasized the importance of law firms addressing these disparities, noting that female attorneys often perceive issues like the gender pay gap more acutely than their male colleagues.