Doctor Silvia Hodges Calls on Law Schools to Teach Reality

Silvia Hodges, law firm marketing, "We are painfully familiar with client complaints that large law firms charge too much for new associates who know too little about the practice of law to be worth it," said Prof. Silvia Hodges, who is a full-time faculty member at Emerson College in Boston, where she teaches professional/legal services marketing. She is also an adjunct associate professor of law at Fordham University in New York.

"The clients may have a broader complaint. For all their glittering academic records, these young lawyers not only don't know much about the realities of the practice, they know even less about the business world.

The new LexisNexis survey reveals that law school students are feeling the impact of the current turmoil within the legal industry. More than half of law school students surveyed (54%) say that the current state of the legal industry has made them consider career alternatives, while almost two-thirds (65%) believe law school does not teach the practical business skills needed to practice law.

As a former litigator, I remember that law school was several years of reading statutes and appellate court opinions. Absolutely nothing was taught about running a law firm and getting clients. It makes sense that the survey found that one fifth (21%) of students say that based on the changing legal marketplace, they regret attending law school.

"Law schools have also started down this road. Some have long offered joint J.D. and MBA programs but as a practical matter that effort is too long and too expensive to attract all but the most obsessed. Instead, by my count, at least 17 schools have created courses that purport to teach basic practice management concepts," Hodges says.

She makes sense when she says a model "law business" survey course should include:

  • A taste of business concepts and strategy
  • Finance and economic indicators
  • Firm governance and organization to firm ownership
  • Law firm economics
  • Client relationship management
  • Marketing and business development
  • Human resources

"The financial collapse of 2008 has given this discussion new urgency, and a do-or-die burden on legal practitioners. The young generation is called to take a fresh look at their profession and how they approach client needs, because, to vary the cliché, it's the business model, stupid. And no one wants a stupid lawyer," she says.