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Congratulations! You’ve landed a great summer job, and at last you can discover what it’s like to be a “real lawyer.” Final exams are behind you, and here is the chance to put some of your schooling to work. But wait a minute! You know all about proximate causation and degrees of murder and the rule against perpetuities, but you don’t have a clue about how to practice law … It’s true: You do have a lot to learn. Your substantive courses have given you the legal principles you are likely to need. Your skills courses have taught you about where to find statutes, cases, and other legal authority and how to pull together an analysis. The only thing missing is knowing how it all works in real life. Here are some thoughts about how to survive — and thrive — on the job this summer. What kind of work will you be doing? Research and Writing in a Practice Setting, Private, Government, or Public Interest. You will most likely be asked to produce written memos similar to the work you did in your legal research and writing class. One key difference: There will be more emphasis on procedural matters, so you will need to consult practice guides. Analysis in a Policy Setting, Generally in Public Interest or Doing Research for a Professor. You will probably do only one project over the summer, and your research and analysis will have more depth. Draw on your experience writing term papers. Direct Work with Clients. If you are lucky enough to work directly with clients, you may be asked to do intake interviews or preliminary assessments, or to provide help with filling out forms, but you are NOT allowed to give legal advice. Judicial Externship. If you work for a judge, you will review and evaluate the papers that have been submitted to the court by the litigants and/or any decisions below. You will check the research and legal theories, investigate procedural matters, and write a memo to help the judge in making her decision. You will have much more contact with the law clerks more than the judge. You will spend some very interesting days in court watching the judge and the practicing attorneys. Prepare to learn a lot! HOW CAN YOU SUCCEED? Sometimes law students get off to a shaky start because they are not prepared for the different expectations and responsibilities in practice. Get ready to change gears! Here are 10 tips for success. 1. Ask questions about the assignment, from start to finish. Don’t suffer in silence or assume your inexperience is the reason you don’t understand the work. It’s probably genuinely confusing! 2. Ask your supervising attorney four key questions: (1) how long you should spend on any given assignment; (2) the purpose of the assignment (general analysis? argumentative?); (3) how you should approach the research; and (4) deadlines! The fourth item should probably come first on the list! 3. Clarify the writing task at hand. Will your work be included in an office memo? A court document? A court order? A client letter? These all involve different readers, different goals, and very different form and content. Most offices have sample documents available; take the time to read anything relevant so you understand the style your employer prefers. 4. Formulate the question(s) you are researching and show them to your supervising attorney before you spend too much time writing. Trust me, it’s worth the extra time. The number of misunderstandings at this stage is enormous! A detailed memo on the wrong issue wastes everyone’s time. 5. Proofread and correct your citations before you submit anything for review, even a very early draft. Are you judged on the appearance of your work? Absolutely! 6. Revise what you have written. You will end up doing this, even if it is a second draft. You may breathe a sigh of relief when you hand in that memo, but you haven’t completed the job. Industry practice dictates that you will be asked to revise what you have written — there is nothing personal about this. I always tell my students there is no such thing as legal writing — there is only legal rewriting. Go back to work! 7. Communicate with your supervisor. Sometimes you just can’t seem to get it right, even if you do everything you learned in Legal Writing and Research. This usually happens when you are asked to deal with an unfamiliar area of law or told to tackle a question that turns out to be unexpectedly complex. You can’t organize and explain something you don’t understand! Sit down with her so you can get back on track. When the assignment turns out to be a killer, do not wait for the deadline to get help. 8. Hold back a bit. Be judicious with your legal opinions, even in a casual conversation with other attorneys. Lawyers like to discuss the law, and they will ask your impressions. If you make a statement that you can’t back up, you may embarrass yourself. 9. Dress and act appropriately. Julia Roberts could get away with the Erin Brokovich look on the silver screen, but you can’t. Avoid “sharing” personal matters with the attorneys unless they affect your work. The summer is just too short a time to forge true friendships with your superiors. Rather, your true confessions can hurt your future employment chances. Let your personality shine, but don’t let your individual needs obscure your good work. 10. Say yes if they ask you to stay late or come in early or on the weekend to complete a job. For better or for worse, that’s what lawyers do. Above all, have fun! Most attorneys and judges want you to have a good summer experience. They enjoy talking about the practice of law and they enjoy teaching. You’ll pick up substantive knowledge and practical impressions. All of this will have a great effect on your choices in the future, so take full advantage of this great opportunity. Lois Schwartz is a full-time legal research and writing instructor at University of California Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law. She also teaches at University of California’s Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

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