If you don't want to find yourself on the short end of an easy lawyer joke,
actively seek opportunities to train under licensed attorneys before
representing your first client. You can start by scoping out your legal
backyard. Law school.
Continuing our trend of "Top 10" for "2010"...this one comes straight from the course catalogues of law schools across the country. The law school clinic. Make it happen. Here's why:
1. To learn how to issue spot. Better. When doing an intake you may well hear multiple issues spanning many areas of law. And unlike an exam question, you can't reread and highlight potential issues. You'll learn to listen carefully and ask the right questions.
2. To experience what a small to mid-size firm is like. Depending on how the law school clinic is structured, as cases come in they may be assigned to students or groups of students by the professor or by volunteering. It will give you a feel of how a firm may distributes new cases to their attorneys.
3. To draft legal documents, meet with clients, and propose further legal recourse. That's right, stick in for a semester or more and you will likely acquire some hands-on drafting experience. Simple wills, TRO's, child custody orders are all documents you could be drafting in a law school clinic under the purview of licensed attorneys.
4. To work on your 'bedside manner'. Some attorneys have an instinctual rapport with clients. And some, well, don't. Make the most of the law school clinic opportunity to develop a good working style with clients and potential clients.
5. To experience a niche field of law. Within broad subjects of law live crevices of niche fields. By delving into cases in a specific field you will get to know and understand its unique issues. Who knows, you may discover an area of law you never knew you always wanted to practice.
6. To work with professor-attorneys in the field. Professors often choose to supervise clinics in areas of law in which they have expertise, experience, and interest. It is a great opportunity to connect with them and learn from them...on their home court.
7. To understand why legal ethics is such a big deal. Some theoretical issues you learn about in Ethics don't make sense until you actually start working with clients. The fine line of consulting with a person and holding out to represent him/her is just one that you will likely understand more clearly through hands-on clinic experience.
8. For the twofer. Course credit and practical experience. In a tough economy we are all looking for good deals. The opportunity to receive real experience and very real course credit fits well with the best value specials out there.
9. To serve the underserved. The funny thing is, if you are looking to serve the public many of these other reasons won't matter to you as much as who you could potentially be helping and how. You may question what difference you can make as a law student, but be assured, the exchange of your skills and the opportunity to learn can plant the seeds of impact. The connections you make and the resources you become acquainted with may pave the way to a future public interest legal career. The public interest law sector is a community unto its own, and a law school clinic may be an earnest introduction.
10. To collaborate with fellow law students, any of whom could become your future law firm partners. It is a unique experience to be collaborating with your peers regarding actual clients and live legal issues. Whether furiously legal researching to find precedent before a court hearing or calling an emergency meeting with a client to discuss a legal development, it's a ride, and you'll form a special working relationship with those you are carpooling with.
- 51 Interesting Law School Clinics Around the Country
(FindLaw's Greedy Associates)
- Best Law Schools Specialty Rankings: Clinical Training (U.S. News and World Report)
- How To Start a Solo Law Practice For Under $3K (FindLaw's Greedy Associates)
- 3 Tips for the Seasoned 3L (FindLaw's Greedy Associates)
- 111 Ways to Find Your Next Legal or Non-Legal Job (FindLaw's Greedy Associates)