The best law school classes for practice: Harvard survey

The Abstract of this recent publication:

“We report the results of an online survey, conducted on behalf of Harvard Law School, of 124 practicing attorneys at major law firms. The survey had two main objectives: (1) to assist students in selecting courses by providing them with data about the relative importance of courses; and (2) to provide faculty with information about how to improve the curriculum and best advise students. The most salient result is that students were strongly advised to study accounting and financial statement analysis, as well as corporate finance. These subject areas were viewed as particularly valuable, not only for corporate/transactional lawyers, but also for litigators. Intriguingly, non-traditional courses and skills, such as business strategy and teamwork, are seen as more important than many traditional courses and skills.”

The full document is here.

In addition to the many other caveats that apply to such surveys (e.g., legal education is not just for practice or even big law firm practice, practitioners may not be the best judges of which courses are best, etc), for law students and law schools outside America the usual cautions apply to the applicability/relevance of such surveys in the different contexts of non-American legal systems and within different educational environments.  Nonetheless, the survey is interesting.

Although perhaps a minority view among the survey respondents, I particularly liked the following:

One self-identified Yale Law graduate with five to ten years of experience in a corporate department wrote:

What most matters is that students (i) develop deep analytical abilities, and (ii) can navigate accounting materials and technical literature (e.g., figuring out how the economics are working within a complex fund structure).

This commenter suggested, however, that Accounting and Corporate Finance were useful as “vocabulary” and to “help students identify issues,” but emphasized there was “value to having  students develop their analytical abilities both within those more practice-focused realms and within areas of more academic interest (e.g., Islamic law).”

By Colin Picker

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One thought on “The best law school classes for practice: Harvard survey

  1. What I found surprising and somewhat worrying was the way in which the survey as a whole focused on corporate and business skills and did not ask the respondents to nominate the type of courses that would be valuable additions to their core workplace requirements. The anecdotal evidence from Australian law firms is in this direction – more breadth of knowledge and ability to adapt flexibly to changing conditions and areas of law; rather than detailed knowledge in core areas.
    It would have been interesting to ask the lawyers what courses not directly related to their practice areas they found most useful; what they were most surprised was useful; and how their perceptions of what was useful had changed in the course of their career.

    Like

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