After the aberration of last summer’s jaunt to Australia I find myself adapting to the perverted inversion of the natural order that is the law student’s summer vacation. You mean that in my time off from the most intellectually demanding course of study I have ever seen, I have to go out and work all summer? (And as higher education addict, I’ve seen my share of courses of study). To be fair, I don’t HAVE to work in the sense that my job is a university requirement, but if I didn’t spend my summer days dutifully researchin’ away and sitting in on depositions I would be pissing away my future career prospects. The curious nature of law school is that it is largely focused on the theory of the law. Oh, sure we learn it through concrete case studies but aside from clinics and externships law students get very little exposure to Doing What Lawyers Do.
To that end, the summer position offers more a practical approach. At least mine does. From day one, I’ve been writing and researching for actual motions and pleadings that actual judges (or their clerks) actually look at. Actually. That is one of the great things about the American approach, although I can’t help but imagine that a system with a shorter time in law school and an offical apprenticeship (or article-ing) program after you graduate like most of the commonwealth countries wouldn’t produce better lawyering in general.
In any case, I’ve been working hard. There have been ups and downs. To date I haven’t totally screwed the pooch on any big assignments. On balance, I think I’ve gotten more pats on the back than reprimands. But the last week or two have been pretty rough and I have made a number of small mistakes that individually wouldn’t be so bad but taken in aggregate, kind of make me look like a putz to my Associate Overlord. Things like typos that slipped past spellcheck and missing dates on correspondence or shallow coverage of issues that require greater depth and deep coverage of issues that merit a cursory mention. It pisses me off, because I know I’m better than that. But I try to make it all part of the learning process and try to ensure that I never make the same mistake twice. Next week will be better than the last.
I lucked out with my choice of firm. The culture here is one I appreciate. The vibe is busy, but with an undercurrent of congeniality that keeps me from being totally on edge. Most of the projects I’ve been working on have been on a longish timeframe so I haven’t run up against any pants-soiling deadlines like some of my fellow clerks have been dealing with.
Recently, the Big Man Upstairs held a mid-summer barbecue for the staff. The idea was to get to know the people outside the confines of the office air. The shindig took place at one his palatial houses in Marin. To be specific, it was held at the pool house to one of his houses. The pool house was lovely and as large enough to have its own mother-in-law suite attached. The Girlfriend, who knows a thing or two about interior design because she watches approximately 12 hours of HGTV a day while reading DWELL magazine, seemed impressed by the decor but I was more focused on the killer view of the sloping mountains and the handy proximity of the taco cart to the poolside. If nothing else, the weekend offered some incentive for those of thinking about the more mercenary benefits of being a plaintiff’s lawyer. I’ve been a (figuratively) starving student for so long that the idea of amassing some form of material wealth feels totally alien to me. It doesn’t even really register that with any luck at the end of this path I will find a job and eventually own things. As a light at the end of the tunnel, I might be more convinced if the legal market was hemorhaging rapidly every day. I picked the worst possible time to graduate from law school.