People leave their jobs for many reasons, but it isn’t often a person leaves a job they love deeply. The reasons for such a change (or a “graduation,” as I like to call it) are complex. In my case, there were many factors. One significant factor was a crisis of conscience.
A job I loved
In the fall of 2016, I was working as the Executive Director of a major legal education provider, Director of the bar admission program in Alberta, and had just finished my term as President of ACLEA. This work was meaningful and engaging—and it allowed me to work with a tremendous team.
The one downside of this fantastic work was that I hadn’t taken a real vacation in years (because I loved my job). I decided this was suboptimal for me, my own professional development, and the organizations I supported. It was in this spirit that I took a two-month sabbatical.
What became clear
What I did on my sabbatical led me to a crisis of conscience that affected me in all aspects of my work. In my bar admission role, I questioned whether we were assessing the right competencies. In my continuing legal education role, I questioned whether—in the absence of assessment—we were providing optimal educational experiences.
Ultimately, two things became clear:
- Legal professionals need more than discipline-specific technical competencies. While legal knowledge and lawyering skills are important, they are not enough; legal professionals need strength in an array of “professional foundations.” This fact is underscored by the tremendous research done by the IAALS’s Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers project, recognized by innovative legal educators, and reflected in the “enabling competencies” finding their way into other professional competency profiles. These foundations do more than just facilitate competent practice: they are the key to meaningful, sustainable, and engaging work.
- To develop these competencies, those in the legal field needs defensible and easy-to-use tools for assessment in these areas. Fairly and accurately assessing professional competencies—everything from relationship management, to communication, to attention-to-detail, to technology skills—is imperative for improvement in these areas. The current overreliance on “gut feel” to assess these competencies does a disservice to legal professionals and to those they serve. Lawyers and others working in the legal field deserve access to better tools.
I knew I didn’t have the bandwidth to tackle these issues “off the corner of my desk.” So, the story ends (or begins) with me deciding to leave a job I loved to devote the next chapter of my career to the challenge of assessing professional competencies in the legal field.
Stay in touch
Dan García and I started Principia Assessments to focus full-time on this assessment work. It is new territory and we are not sure where it will lead us. If you would like to follow our journey, please stay in touch or subscribe to our mailing list.