By: Professor Adam Eckart
When students file into Sargent Hall at Suffolk University Law School later this month, each student will step foot into one of the most important courses of their law school career — Legal Practice Skills (“LPS”). The LPS course teaches students key skills related to the practice of law, including written and oral communication, professionalism, critical thinking, and problem solving.
Historically, some have dismissed these skills as “soft skills” — skills considered secondary to learning case law and legal doctrine. With increasing data regarding the importance of these skills in the legal profession, however, many are reframing the conversation about “soft skills” into one of “power skills.” Recognizing the importance of these skills, the LPS course may be more aptly named “Legal Power Skills.”
Legal Power Skills
Recent surveys conducted by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System have recognized the importance of Legal Power Skills for new lawyers entering legal practice. In particular:
- The National Conference of Bar Examiners found that recent law graduates ranked the following ten skills as the most important for new lawyers: written communication, attention to detail, critical listening, oral communication, professionalism, use of office technologies, critical reading and comprehension, synthesizing facts and law, legal reasoning, and organizational skills.
- The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System found that practicing attorneys placed, on average, greater weight on Legal Power Skills (including effective communication, professionalism, critical thinking and problem solving) rather than doctrine-related legal skills (such as objectively assessing the soundness of a deal in a transactional practice or conducting and defending depositions in a litigation practice) for recent law school graduates.
The Power of LPS
Suffolk’s LPS course focuses on Legal Power Skills and sets a solid foundation for students to succeed in law school and upon graduation. During the LPS course, students gain practice in and exposure to a variety of Legal Power Skills, including:
- Written communication: drafting and reviewing memos and other legal documents;
- Attention to detail: performing detail-intensive skills such as citation;
- Critical listening: practicing interview skills;
- Oral communication: performing oral arguments;
- Professionalism: completing assignments in a timely and diligent manner;
- Use of office technologies: utilizing podcasts, videos, and Word macros;
- Critical reading and comprehension: completing memo assignments and Capstone projects;
- Synthesizing facts and law: analyzing critical fact patterns in connection with relevant law;
- Legal reasoning: applying case and statutory law to client facts; and
- Organizational skills: organizing ideas, projects and groups.
Students should not discount the LPS course as a “soft skills” course but instead should consider it one of the most impactful courses in developing and honing Legal Power Skills – the skills necessary for success in the workplace.
Enjoy your Legal Power Skills course this year!
Adam Eckart is an Assistant Professor of Legal Writing at Suffolk University Law School. Prior to Suffolk, Professor Eckart practiced at Ropes & Gray LLP as an associate in the antitrust mergers and acquisitions practice and taught in the Lawyering Program at Boston University Law School.