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Some law students working for the San Francisco district attorney this summer are getting a new perk — a paycheck. On top of the volunteer intern program it’s had for years, the office has hired 15 third-year law students in a paid training program this summer — one that aims to have each intern handle a misdemeanor trial. “We need to bring these students in and give them a real experience,” said District Attorney Kamala Harris, whose office is scraping together bits and pieces of state grants to write the paychecks. The DA, who got her start in a similar program in the Alameda County district attorney’s office, said she might pluck permanent hires from the summer crop “if I ever get the budget and the money to hire.” Last year, San Francisco’s summer interns were each assigned to a prosecutor, and the nature of their experience hinged on those pairings, said Assistant District Attorney Paul Henderson. This year, the summer litigation clerk program he supervises is smaller and more structured, he said. Each clerk is carrying a caseload and will rotate through misdemeanors, preliminary hearings and a felony unit. “They’re going to be like little mini-lawyers,” said Henderson, who hopes the promised trial experience, plus weekly classes on litigation skills, will lure an increasingly competitive pool of applicants. The new structure probably hasn’t pulled in many extra applicants yet, though, because the program was still evolving when the clerks started interviewing several months ago. Though some participants attend school out of state, most of this summer’s batch hail from law schools in and around San Francisco and Sacramento. Suzy Loftus, who attends the University of San Francisco School of Law, said she didn’t find out about the training or pay until her second interview, but it made no difference. “I would want to be here in whatever configuration.” Michael Maffei, a clerk from Hastings College of the Law who interned in the office last summer, said the $15 an hour this time around was a nice surprise. But he doubts money will ever be the biggest lure, since private firms pay associates much more. Clocking time in front of a judge and jury is the real draw. “On our resume, it will say, ‘Wrote this many motions. Argued this many motions. Argued a jury trial,’” Maffei said. “We’ll have such a leg up.”

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