How Law Firms “Grade” Associates: Core Competencies

According to a recent  survey by the NALP Foundation, an overwhelming majority of  law firms use core competencies for training and evaluations.   About half use them to determine associate’s base compensation.  Core compentencies can include “skills (writing, research, negotiation, oral advocacy), client service, work ethic, interpersonal skills and firm citizenship.” (quote from McKenna, Long and Aldridge, L.L.P.’s website).   During a presentation at this year’s AALL conference, the following were mentioned as core competencies:  research and writing, time management, technology, project management, ethics, negotiating, communication, leadership and client services.

A conference attendee asked whether the top law firms were changing their recruiting practices in order focus on skills rather than law school grades.  The answer was mixed.  One panelist said that their firm still only interviews the top 10% of students, but interview questions are more focused on experience,  management skills and other skills.  Another panelist said that firms are now more willing to take a chance on a B student with paralegal, management experience or other useful experience.  The NALP survey says that about half of firms use core competencies for recruiting initiatives.

The challenge for law school faculty and staff is to help our students obtain the core competencies law firms want.