There can be little doubt that law schools are largely proficient in teaching “hard skills” such as knowledge of the law, legal analysis, research, writing, and drafting. But what about “soft skills”—the general set of skills which influence how people interact, such as communication, leadership, critical thinking, confidence, team building, time management, creativity, public speaking, and problem solving, just to name a few? Most can agree that these skills are needed to be a successful lawyer, but we can also probably agree that they are not being taught in law school.
Other professions have been teaching and using these skills for some time while law schools have been slow to embrace them. Business and medicine are just two examples. If we agree that proficiency in these skills would not only make for happier clients but also more productive working relationships, why not make the teaching of these skills part of our curriculum? Perhaps some lawyers, professors, and students believe that you are either born with these skills or not—and that no specific training is needed to improve them. However, that is simply not true. Research proves that it is possible to develop these skills just as one can develop other skills. As noted in the ABA’s LawPractice Today, “[i]t is astounding that [soft skills] are not taught in law school, and that fact only serves to increase the responsibilities of law firms to create and implement training initiatives that focus on developing an attorney’s service-oriented skills… [a]nd so law firms have begun to teaching these skills—so why shouldn’t law schools?”
The question, of course is how to teach them. I, along with two of my colleagues, am working on a book aimed at bridging this gap by providing information law school professors can use to teach important skills—such as problem solving, creativity, and mindfulness, to their students. While some resources certainly exist, more are needed, along with the recognition of the importance of the skills and a willingness to teach them.
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