Among the first of its kind in the nation, this new seminar teaches key critical skills for attorney success.

by Elizabeth Kelley Gillogly B.A. ’93

In her previous work as a senior manager of attorney training and development at several AmLaw100 firms, Sandra “Sandee” Magliozzi had an up-close view of hundreds of new lawyers–and what they were missing. “I saw that many of these junior associates were missing key skills they needed for success as an attorney,” she says. Magliozzi explained that these key skills, often called “critical skills,” include things such as effective communication, active listening, managing one’s own work, creative problem solving, handling mistakes, team work, and self-development. She later conducted, with several Professional Development Institute co-presenters, a survey of 50 chief talent managers for law firms about the top “lawyer effectiveness factors” they were looking for, and these same critical skills came up again as something the talent managers were seeking.

Magliozzi came to Santa Clara Law in 2006, first as director of professional development and externships. In her current role as Associate Dean for Experiential Learning and as a Clinical Professor of Law at Santa Clara Law, Magliozzi helps students gain practical experience in clinics and externships that will help prepare them for theirfuture careers. In 2009, with these critical skills in mind, she created an upper-division class, based on a list of lawyer effectiveness factors (developed by Schultz-Zedeck), to help students in field placements develop these critical skills. “We took that list and started teaching those things in that course,” she says.

Over the past few years, as she has continued to work closely with Dean Lisa Kloppenberg to help best prepare Santa Clara Law students for success, she says she realized that “students needed training in these critical skills earlier in the curriculum to help them succeed and to help them leverage the experiences they were having in andout of the classroom.”

To meet that need, Magliozzi designed an all-new Critical Lawyering Skills seminar, which is among the first of its kind in the nation. She worked with Professor Thiadora Pina, director of externships at Santa Clara Law, to create the list of critical skills to be taught as well as to oversee the program. The first group of 1Ls took this class last Spring, and it is now a required part of the first year of law school at Santa Clara. In the course, students work with a faculty member to engage in a very interactive seminar featuring small group work, scenarios, role playing, and group feedback. “It is really a series of progressive workshops focused on these competencies that students need to be successful,” says Magliozzi. “Students have many opportunities to learn a skill, practice and apply that skill, get feedback, and try it again.” Each section is limited to 15 students to make sure students get lots of hands-on practice with these essential skills.

law students in class at Santa Clara Law

Photo: Keith Sutter

“New lawyers are most successful when they come to the job with a broad range of legal skills, that comprise the whole lawyer,” says Magliozzi. “This new seminar will be a big help in preparing our students for success—to help them understand these critical skills and why they are important, and then give students ideas to help them continue developing those skills on their own.”

First-year law student Erika Skeels, who was among the inaugural group to take the course, raves about her experience, saying “it is vital to our future success that we learn these skills.”

“In most of our law school classes, we focus on legal analysis, legal writing, issue spotting, and advocacy skills,” she says. “But I think that we often forget that the most crucial part of being a lawyer is understanding how to interact with people. The Critical Lawyering Skills seminar teaches us these skills and, through role play, reminds students that this profession is one designed to be of service to others.”

Skeels says the course taught her many important skills, such as an awareness of body language and how to ask open-ended questions, that serve her in all parts of her life. “I was surprised by how many of the skills I actually internalized and find myself using on a daily basis,” she says.