The question of employability is quite cardinal in the world of professional education, because it has a direct impact on the career prospects of all such graduating students and aspirants. So it is in the field of legal education.
Briefly, the employability skills for law students is designed to help them identify the academic, practical and transferable skills that can be developed whilst studying for a law degree; recognize the value of those skills to employers (within both law and non-law professions); identify any gaps in their skills portfolio; maximize opportunities to develop new skills through participation in a range of activities; effectively demonstrate their skills to potential employers; and improve their employability prospects on graduation from university or a law college.
Experts believe that students overestimate some of their soft-skills and they need to hone in on some of the behavioral traits that could hold law students back.
The first is an assumption by the academic high-achievers who tend to be drawn to law that teamwork is a straightforward task that they don’t have to learn.
Students tend to make assumptions about their capacity for teamwork. What they often don’t realize is that the transition into the workplace is a big one – where they are joining a large organization they will be entering a setting on a scale outside anything they have ever experienced before. There will be a broad range of ages, and people with very differing attitudes and capabilities.
Working well with these other individuals isn’t something that students can learn overnight, particularly when students have spent most of their lives hanging out with people who are pretty similar to themselves.
Another challenge faced by students when entering the workplace — and this is particularly prevalent in the law field – is the type of feedback that they expect. In an educational setting, feedback is all about the quality of work that is submitted. But, as an employee, feedback tends to rotate around behaviour, because quality of work is largely taken for granted.
This is where behaviours are highlighted. How do you relate to other people? Do you have a pleasant manner? What is your mood like under pressure? These factors often shape people’s careers far more than they are willing to accept. So, preparing students to accept this sort of feedback, and respond to it, becomes really important.
Again, there are things like IT skills and presentation ability. For many, these aren’t aspects of the working world that are particularly keenly anticipated, but it makes a compelling case for students to put in the time to get themselves up to a decent standard.
Then, there is an assumption in the digital age that graduates can do anything IT-related. However, the fact is that they often come up short on the more complex office packages. For an employer, this can be frustrating and also costly. Similarly, students would much rather take on someone who has had some experience of delivering presentations in a formal setting.
All this is certainly a shift from the good old days. Twenty years ago people left university and colleges and jobs were plentiful. So they could afford to stumble along. Mistakes at an early stage didn’t have huge consequences. Now they can affect the whole direction that their career takes.
The sharp increase in undergraduate fees has also changed attitudes to employability, as students consider “how they can get a return on their investment” in a way that would have been alien to previous generations who benefited from government grants and free tuition.
Such is the shift in attitudes that experts predict that employability will become a hot enough topic for universities and colleges to find a way to weave it into syllabuses rather than continue teaching it as a standalone extra. Indeed, this is already happening at top law colleges in India like Asian Law College (ALC), Noida with their law programmes including compulsory hours of employability classes that are built into their curriculum.
Asian Law College, for instance, has a dedicated Centre for Skill Development Program that offers one to one individuated interactive sessions wherein each prodigy (student) has a Crafter (faculty advisor), who is the counselor as well as the mentor for academic, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. Special emphasis has been given to court room exercises so as to gain excellent rhetoric skills and in-depth knowledge of precedents, and also to familiarize students with the environment of the courtroom long before their actual entry into the legal world.
The teaching pedagogy also includes:
Ø Classroom discussions, to prepare students for their future roles as lawyers or public orators.
Ø Simulation skills for handling real life problems.
Ø Assignments on various non-law subjects and current affair topics so as to encourage the research skills of students.
Ø Conducting workshops by eminent legal dignitaries on issues of contemporary legal significance.
Ø Guest speaker sessions and seminars with distinguished scholars.
The institution firmly believes in the amalgamation of high quality teaching and overall development of students, and that the results are much more positive when both learner and learned play an active role. The secret of ALC’s effective pedagogy lies in promoting group dynamics which include bringing a group of diverse students into a state of homogeneity and coherency for accomplishing a task.
Internationally, this honing up of employability is also being attempted through the unique “pro bono culture” by opening the possibility to incorporate free legal advice into formal learning through the clinical legal education model.
Whatever be the case, the question of employability is indeed quite cardinal in the world of professional education including law and, therefore it is imperative for institutes to provide the required training to students in this regard. And for the law aspirants, it is equally important to also check on this aspect of the law college before they enroll themselves for admission in the first place.