Law in Contemporary Society
I'm curious about how others are feeling about their internships and clerkships so far this summer. I know there was substantial concern among students this past year about how law school was training us and will continue to train us to do the work of a lawyer. For what it's worth, so far, I've been pleasantly surprised. I've worked on various types of projects in various areas within a large Indy law firm, and I'm finding that there is nothing that I can't think my way through and bottom out on, by using the "tools" that we were exposed to in law school, which I don't think I would have been able to do nearly as effectively before I started law school. But I also know that it takes me substantially longer to complete a project than would be the case with someone who has more experience under her belt. I'm certainly relying on my low billing rate to offset this discrepancy. Granted, I know it's a long way from here to thinking about partnership, but at least I feel like I've got some basics down.

I'd love to hear how others' summer experiences are going -- hopefully, there are others out there who feel similarly and are looking forward to interning again next summer.

-- BarbPitman - 08 Jun 2008

I'm not doing true 'law firm' work this summer, but I have found that the first year has been very helpful with my job. The majority of work I have been doing has been reading through contracts, looking for potential problems (issue spotting anyone?). Ironically enough, I have also become the designated proof reader for any documents leaving our group, so I have Eben's voice in my head as I read, which has been very valuable.

-- AndrewWolstan - 08 Jun 2008

I'm also not doing that much true "law firm" work. But I kind of expected this as I am the only American summer intern here at my firm. Instead I have become something of the de facto translator/editor of documents in English, which has been fun, but I dont think required any special training that I got from my first year at CLS.

-- AlexLawrence - 09 Jun 2008

Alex -- which country are you in this summer? I'm kind of jealous -- several people from our class went overseas this summer. Hope you're getting some sightseeing in along with all that translation and editing experience.

-- BarbPitman - 10 Jun 2008

I'm working in Paris for a French law firm. It's pretty great, but the culture is definitely very different from working in the US. Everyone stays late and works fairly long hours, but at the same time, literally nothing happens from 1-230 because everyone is out having a civilized sit down lunch, no matter how busy they are. Not the hardest thing in the world to get used to...Plus now that the European Cup has begun whenever there are big matches on work slows down noticeably as people listen to it at their desks.

-- AlexLawrence - 10 Jun 2008

Have you noticed any difference in the attitude that people have towards their work?

-- AndrewWolstan - 11 Jun 2008

I think the difference in attitude that I have witnessed have to do with when and how work is done. As I said earlier lunch is pretty sacred. From about 1-230 literally nothing happens, emails and phone calls stop, and everyones out getting lunch. Plus the weekends are pretty sacred and not a ton of people come in over the weekends preferring to stay late and hammer things out during the week. Also, while I haven't witnessed it yet all my french collegues have warned me that things slow down drastically come end of July or start of August. Overall though I really love it here and think that the work culture is more relaxed and civilized. The other interns (we're not summer associates here, instead we are "Stagaires" which is the french term for an intern) are all really great people who have studied at some pretty cool and impressive universities here in France including quite a few from les grandes ecoles. What I do find interesting though is that despite the solid reputation in France and Paris of the firm I'm working at a lot of them seem to really want to try and get spots with US firms even if it is here in Paris (and many have already worked as interns in US firms).

-- AlexLawrence - 11 Jun 2008

The thing I'm noticing most in my summer work is that the parts emphasized least by 1L (memo writing and even more importantly legal research) are those I find myself doing. Relatedly, I'm horrified at the thought of taking my muddled legal research to a for-profit setting where Westlaw/Lexis access is metered.

-- DanielHarris - 13 Jun 2008

That frightens me as well. I still find the interfaces of both counter-intuitive and find myself spending more time than I really should looking for things.

-- KateVershov - 13 Jun 2008

For what it's worth, during the first couple of weeks, I was also horrified at the thought of pulling up Westlaw and Lexis databases that cost the firm, and often the client, anywhere from $8 to $134 per click of the mouse. I don't know how representative this firm is of other firms or for-profits in general, but we were given 1 to 1-1/2 hour training on each database (again) during the first week, and we walked out of that training with a freebie pass for a week. Nothing like spending that week frontloading research assignments, then downloading, emailing, printing, and comparing research strategies with each other (there are 25 summer associates here). By the end of the week, and after researching a 50-state comparative analysis, my anxiety at the thought of switching to "pay per view" declined substantially. Plus, you may have the choice of being charged by the minute or by the transaction, and that can make a difference, depending on what information you need. You probably already know this, but if Westlaw or Lexis reps visit your organization to offer advice, they are inclined to give you a day pass if you ask. Then there are the 800-number representatives who give you research angles for free, if that's included in your organization's package. Hopefully, we'll all feel more relaxed about this by the end of the summer.

-- BarbPitman - 14 Jun 2008

Thus far, I'm quite happy with my summer internship. I'm interning with the Kings County DA office and it's definitely been a great experience thus far. I haven't really used my "research skills"...mainly because my assigned ADA hasn't really been working on any motions that he could pass of to me. However, some of my fellow interns have, and they don't seem to be too worried about the costs of Westlaw and Lexis.

As for using skills taught and honed during 1L...well, I can say that I've used some of them, mainly in conversation with my ADA when I'm trying to understand the law that someone has been charged under or just really trying to understand the fundamentals of a case. Learning how to spot potential problems that the defense could jump on has been a good thing given that I've been allowed to participate in questioning witnesses.

Basically, despite already knowing that crim law isn't for me, I'm really glad that I'm working at the DA office.

-- NicoleMedham - 15 Jun 2008

I'm working at EPIC, a pro-privacy advocacy group. Many concepts are outside my grasp, but mostly because they're technical, e.g. about Internet technologies. Still, I think that some of the habits I formed this year -- distinguishing the meanings of words, etc. -- are actually making it harder for me to read and speak "advocacy" and "computer technology". Among crash-tested practical lawyers, "thinking like a first-year law student" turns out to be too thorough and too slow, like demolition by an oral hygienist. It is something I'm adapting to.

I wanted to share this recent article in Rolling Stone, about surveillance in China, which made me proud to be at EPIC at this moment. If people find it worth discussing, we can move it to a new thread.
"Remember how we've always been told that free markets and free people go hand in hand? That was a lie. It turns out that the most efficient delivery system for capitalism is actually a communist-style police state, fortressed with American "homeland security" technologies, pumped up with "war on terror" rhetoric."

-- AndrewGradman - 16 Jun 2008

So I think part of the problem with 1L year in terms of its value as a preparation for 1L summer jobs is that students end up in such a variety of different types of jobs that it is tough to fully prepare people for all of them. For example, while I definitely feel that thanks to LPW my legal research and memo writing skills are not what they could have been, I'm also in the position of wishing I had had access to better language training while at CLS. Obviously language training is the sort of thing that at law school will always be voluntary because most students probably don't care about it or don't need it, but language classes such as they are at CLS are very thin. I worked at and went to the "French Table" from time to time, and it generally seemed to just be a discussion in French, that while helpful in keeping the rust off, did not teach me much technical legal French vocabulary. Therefore, I was wondering if other people here thought that language classes might be better attended if the law school actually brought in profs/alums/lawyers who practice extensively overseas or with foreign clients and taught classes on "legal French/Spanish/Japanese/etc." Now before people dismiss this as far fetched, think about it this way, the school gets similar people to come in and teach LPW, so I imagine it would be a comparatively easy sell to get similar people to come in and teach languages to a bunch of students who are anxious to learn about technical vocabulary and who have voluntarily signed up for the class. It seems to me that for at least 5 languages (if not more) you could probably find 20 or so students willing to sign up for, say, a 1 credit class that meets once a week that teaches them the fundamental legal jargon of a foreign language. I know for me it certainly would have been a hell of a lot easier if I had known how to explain topics like easements etc in French before I arrived here instead of having to learn them on the fly. What do people think? Also are there any other ideas like this that people have? It just seems to me that the LPW system is definitely broken (and that most people agree about this) so I think it is interesting to try and think of ways to improve it or similar programs that might thrive along side it.

-- AlexLawrence - 16 Jun 2008

You make some good points, Alex. I guess I now better appreciate the implications that go with a career area that people describe as so versatile – there are so many different types of jobs out there that require legal skills and a law degree, and so many different areas of law (and even different countries in which to work!), that it is hard for law schools to develop curriculums that make students feel like they are being exposed to more than broad brushed principles, at least during the first year. I will say that whenever I come across or need to use legal terms and concepts, argumentative angles, and judgment calls on what to include in an analysis, I do appreciate what we picked up during our first year of school. What’s interesting to me is that I’ve found that several of my projects have butted up against administrative agencies and their procedures and regulations, such that, if I had to make one curriculum suggestion, it would be to include more of such in the first year. Then again, someone at my firm recently moved from another state (after moving from yet another one) and is prepping to take her third bar exam. She commented that a lot of Indiana agencies, as compared to agencies in the other two states in which she has practiced, are very dominant – so my perspective about this may be skewed. And, the projects I’ve worked on have involved entities like utility companies, which are heavily regulated, and the environmental agencies they have to answer to. I guess if all of my work were in, say, litigation, my perspective would be different. So I gather this just goes to show that people who work in the same firm may walk away from the summer experience with very different perceptions about law. And the more areas I work in and the more lawyers I work with, the harder it is to decide what area of law seems most promising. Talk about a crap shoot. All I’ve really walked away with at this point is the idea that I should keep an open mind and a positive attitude.

-- BarbPitman - 18 Jun 2008

I would suggest making legal writing a three credit class with a much more substantial amount of time spent on search strategy, drilling citation, and dealing less with concrete (spoon-fed) memo assignments and more with amorphous projects that may involve looking at various fields of law and learning to pull everything together.

Doing the research I've done so far makes me realize just how difficult and laborious civil litigation is. The strategies, the analogies made, the different types of law you may have to look over to buttress your arguments, can all be incredibly complex. Sometimes, it feels like you may be looking forever for something that doesn't exist in the hopes that you'll find something helpful in the next click and other times you only realize after the fact that something you saw long ago is actually helpful to you. (I would like to insert a caveat here - and that is that I work for a non-profit civil liberties organization, so my experience may be unique and perhaps other types of legal work is, in fact, much more approachable and really is just like researching a particular type of tort, etc.)

I would say that law school really hasn't helped me much in my job - not skill-wise, anyway. I think having a background in civil procedure, con law (very much so, considering the type of litigation I'm working on), etc. is helpful, but I can't say that I'm now somehow a better writer or a more analytical thinker.

-- KateVershov - 02 Jul 2008

To add one point to this string of comments, it also seems that whenever you first stretch your mind around the assignment at hand, you think, "Why, this sounds like a customary enough dispute that there must be an entire cargo of cases factually on point." And so you begin. Search, click, search, search, click, click, read, search, click, read, next term, click, read, next document, read, read, search - ughhh. Nothing. Exasperation.

I guess legal reasoning is premised on more tenuous similes than first imagined. Everything is like something else, but equally unlike it just as well, which ultimately reminds me of Felix Cohen and the "Rule of Law."

-- JesseCreed - 04 Jul 2008

Jesse, aren’t you working in a big firm in LA? Do most of your research assignments entail one aspect of a case or dispute? I don’t know if what I’m about to say is relevant to your assignments, but at my firm, it seems clear that when we “summers” get research assignments, they are almost always narrow questions that the assigning attorney needs an answer to, and he or she has done just enough research or general review that he or she knows that an answer, especially an on-point one, isn’t going to be easy to find. Heck, why do they need us (with our low billing rates) for the easy answers? Plus, the student I share an office with and I can now almost predict, based on the type of question posed, if a given question is one that the assigning attorneys know will probably not have an answer that they want, but the last thing they want to do is to go back to the client and say, “sorry, but . . .”. I’ve had several assignments where “on-point” was a nice thought, but only that – so I had to think around the question and keep widening my net until I bumped into law that could be used, just not authoritatively (kind of like setting out to catch that hefty lobster, and all that you get when you keep scooping around with your net are two or three scrawny crayfish).

One thing that is interesting to me is that, whenever I do something for the litigation department, the assigning attorney has, without exception, said that he is thinking about sanctioning the other side. I find litigation assignments interesting, but I can’t imagine getting into the sandbox with other litigators who don’t want to play by the rules. Maybe some attorneys get into this type of game, but I would find it exasperating dealing with others who want to flick sand in your face or engage in other more covert activities just to get an edge. I also better realize that managing a given case, let alone several cases simultaneously, plus a practice in general, is the real challenge here, and it’s obviously not something we will have our arms around (I’m accepting the fact that I will be clueless on this one) by the time we graduate.

-- BarbPitman - 04 Jul 2008



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r18 - 22 Jan 2009 - 01:54:24 - IanSullivan
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