If you’re currently in law school and focusing all of your coursework on bar exam subjects, you are likely missing out on any kind of hands on legal skills classes. A large percentage of law students surveyed in 2010 said law school did not prepare them to understand the needs of clients. Skills classes can help you come out of law school more prepared to practice law, and maybe even get a leg up on your competition.

Network with Established Attorneys

In many law schools, skills classes and clinics are taught by established attorneys. At my school, all of the litigation classes were taught by two experienced attorneys. This is a tremendous networking opportunity. If you form a strong relationship with your professor, he or she can help open doors for you down the line. You will also know more established members of your local bar when you graduate. This means that when you go to local bar events and your fellow classmates are all standing around talking to each other, you can approach your professor. This can lead to even more introductions.

Build Skills

This seems kind of obvious, but skills classes and clinics help you build everyday legal skills. You get hands on experience working on problems that you will see as a practicing attorney. Susan Gainen commented that someone she knew graduated law school with very little confidence as an attorney. With a few skills courses under your belt, you will hopefully be more confident when you hang that state bar admission on your wall. I took skills in witness interviews, client interactions, handling expert witnesses, and using demonstrative evidence. Of course I knew I wouldn’t be Denny Crane right when I graduated, but those skills courses helped me understand what to expect the first time I tackled these integral parts of practicing law.

Boost Your GPA

Rather than fighting your way through four hours of tax class each week, I strongly recommend a skills—based class. This is especially true if you know you don’t want to practice tax law, or family law, or whatever large course you think you need to take. Your bar preparation course will teach you what you need to know about these subjects for the exam. So don’t risk a bad grade in a very tough subject. Instead, take a skills class. The classes are smaller and in my experience this leads to better grades for everyone in the class.

Become More Attractive to Employers

If you’re looking for a job in a small or mid—sized firm, the prospect of training a new associate may not be an attractive one. But if you come to the job and you already know how to take a deposition or talk to an expert witness, that is one less thing the firm needs to spend time teaching you. You can play this up and really get a leg up on the competition.

(photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cushinglibrary/3695802822/)