Important New Report on Essential Lawyering Skills

Ohio State Professor Deborah Jones Merritt and Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System Research Director Logan Cornett just published an important report, Building a Better Bar: The Twelve Building Blocks of Minimum Competence, based on insights from 50 focus groups.

They found that minimum competence consists of 12 interlocking “building blocks,” including the ability to interact effectively with clients, communicate as a lawyer, and see the “big picture” of client matters.

They propose 10 recommendations that courts, law schools, bar associations, bar examiners, and other stakeholders should consider in their efforts to move towards better, evidence-based lawyer licensing.

These include requirements that candidates for licensure should be required to complete coursework that develops their ability to interact effectively with clients and negotiate.

In addition, they recommend that candidates should be required to complete coursework that focuses on the lawyer’s responsibility to promote and protect the quality of justice and includes closely supervised clinical and/or externship work.

They encourage students to engage in continuous self-directed learning because they cannot learn everything they need merely by completing graduation requirements and passing the bar exam.

They include recommendations to use performance tests and restrict use of essay and multiple choice exams.

Here’s a summary of the report.  You might share it with your deans and curriculum committee chairs in case they haven’t seen it.

This brief summary doesn’t do justice to the insights from the report.  The report doesn’t include all my radical ideas for a negotiation school, but it clearly recommends moving in that direction.