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Every fall semester, a steady succession of familiar faces graces my office doorway. Last year’s first-year students are returning from the front lines and are eager to share war stories about their summer jobs. They always seem a little older and a great deal wiser. Something about their presence is more like a “real lawyer” even though they have abandoned their summer suits and have reverted to regulation law school jeans and T-shirts with the names of rock groups I’ve never heard of. Their summer stories are always terrific. As an instructor in the legal research and writing curriculum at several San Francisco Bay Area law schools, I get to hear the straight dope from the students, in contrast to many of my colleagues who get a sanitized version. This year I decided I wouldn’t wait for the fall semester to begin — I would muster my technology and use my class listservs to survey my students while they were still on the job. I asked five questions: (1) Where are you working? (e.g., private firm, public interest organization, court, government agency, job unrelated to law, just chilling with no job at all) (2) What has been your best experience? (3) What has been your worst experience? (4) What effect has your summer job had on your desire to participate in the on-campus interview program this fall? (5) What influence has your summer job had on your future career plans? The stories get better every year. Here is a small sample of what students had to say about summer 2001: � I am working for a U.S. district court judge. We had a great case where the plaintiff was in pro se [representing herself] and brought a sexual harassment suit against the company where she used to work. The woman wasn’t well educated, but she had determination and will. It was a great learning experience to see the judge interact and try to help her through the process without biasing himself in any way. The worst experience was watching her lose. She was so emotionally involved that putting on the evidence was too much for her. � I am working for a large firm. The best experience has been meeting some decent folks and acquiring a mentor as well as participating in some great summer activities. The worst experience was stepping on the toes of egotistical young lawyers insecure about their jobs and resentful of the summers and of the time they’re obligated to spend with us for those non-billable hours. Personality is greatly scrutinized, somewhat of a campy Greek system atmosphere. Really must be savvy in terms of obtaining quality work assignments. � I am working for a large public defender’s office. There is never a dull moment. It’s difficult to list the best experience because nothing good ever really happens in the PD’s office. Most everyone’s guilty, victims are never healed, the clients yell at you, and the cases just keep pouring in. � I am working for a public defender’s office. I was asked to go over to the jail to review documents with the client on a section 187 murder charge. I spent almost three hours with him when he looked me straight in the eye and said, “I killed the bastard.” As for career plans, most things about the law are boring so I figure I might as well give myself some interesting facts and people to work with and criminal law can’t be beat for that. � I am working for a non-profit public interest law firm. I would have to say that my best experience would be the praise I got for my work product. They had me drafting motions, declarations, complaints, answers … pretty much everything. I really didn’t realize what an advantage I had, having been instructed by the finest legal writing and research instructor in all the land [that would be this columnist, of course]. The good feedback hasn’t gone to my head, however, since I realize this firm sucks. � I am working in a government agency in Washington, D.C. My best experience was researching and preparing a memorandum for an amicus brief to the Supreme Court! My worst experience was dosing myself with a large glass of orange juice loaded with vitamin C on my first day, and having to make a dash for the bathroom about 15 minutes after arriving on the first day — apparently the orange juice I drank that morning was bad. � I am working for a legal publisher. My worst experience was having to read the citation manual cover to cover to pass the test to get the job. In my first year of law school I just avoided using sources I didn’t know how to cite. � I worked as a carpenter for the summer. My best experience was framing up the rafters for a project. My worst experience was waiting for the union to call me. I still plan to litigate someday. Lois Schwartz is spending the academic year as a law clerk for D. Lowell Jensen in the U.S. District Court for Northern California. She is also an adjunct professor at Hastings College of the Law and Golden Gate Law School.

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