The Character Quotient: The Foundation of Legal Success?

Author:Doug Ferguson
Date:July 04, 2017

The Association for Canadian Clinical Legal Education (ACCLE) and the Canadian Association of Law Teachers (CALT) held a joint annual conference for the first time at the University of Victoria June 8-10. The theme was “The Whole Lawyer,” with many sessions focusing on experiential learning.

The keynote was an interesting talk by Justice Rebecca Love Kourlis, Executive Director of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver. The IAALS is a think tank working on the development and application of innovative solutions for the toughest problems facing the US courts and legal profession. Its process is to gather research and stakeholders, create recommended models, facilitate and monitor implementation, and measure outcomes.

Justice Kourlis told the conference that US law students are facing huge obstacles after graduation: 38% of 2016 US law grads did not land full time, long term law jobs. A full 24% have no full time, long term job at all.

While 45% of US law professors believe grads have sufficient skills to practice, only 23% of practitioners agree. Clearly there is a disconnect between the US academy and the profession, and I expect the same would be true in Canada.

In light of these numbers, the IAALS set out to determine the competencies, skills, characteristics, and qualities that new lawyers need to be ready for the practice of law. It sent out a survey to which over 24,000 lawyers responded. The respondents were asked about 147 different “foundations” (determined by reviewing past reports and having experts help refine them). The foundations were broken down into three categories: legal skills (27% of the foundations), professional competencies (45%), and personal characteristics (28%).

Of the 147 foundations, the lawyers identified 77 as necessary right out of law school. Character was the key – the IAALS calls it the character quotient. However, to be a whole lawyer, law grads need foundations in all three categories.

Here are some...

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