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Northwestern University School of Law, Northwestern Law, Plan 2008, Accelerated JD, AJD, evolution of JD programs, law firms, legal market, legal education, lawyers, associates, legal profession, careers, experiential learning, leadership, teamwork, collaboration, communication, quantitative skill, project management, globalization

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Law | Legal Education


Dean David Van Zandt presented the keynote address at the 2009 Southwestern Law Review symposium, "The Evolution of J.D. Programs: Is Non-Traditional Becoming MoreTraditional?" The best legal education must focus on preparing students for 21st-Century legal careers. Law schools need to know about the external market that they serve; they must continuously look for the best methods of teaching the skills this market will demand; and they must focus on outcomes. This means focusing on the competencies a law student has once he or she graduates from law school. Northwestern University School of Law recently completed a major strategic planning initiative resulting in a revolutionary report entitled Plan 2008: Preparing Great Leaders for the Changing World. Plan 2008 is the most recent installment of a long-term process to enhance our student quality and programs. Northwestern Law created a strategic plan in 1998 and has implemented several of its key recommendations, including interviewing applicants and crediting students for the leadership skills gained by work experience prior to law school. The goal of Plan 2008, which is our most recent initiative, was to identify the foundational competencies that a lawyer needs for a successful multi-job career. The additional competencies we identified are skills that we feel our students need once they graduate in order to be successful. Beyond the technical legal skills that have been the hallmarks of traditional legal education, our study identified several key competencies that our graduates need: teamwork, communication skill, quantitative analytical competence, strategic thinking, leadership and project management ability, and skill in managing transnational issues and relationships. Plan 2008 will inform all Northwestern Law programs; in particular, Northwestern Law's new Accelerated JD Program focuses on students who have exceptional leadership experience and potential, and offers them an educational program that is condensed but rigorous and focused on the careers future lawyers will be developing.