Summer Clerkin’: Early Days

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.

Of course, I thought it was going to be absolutely horrific so any first day that end with me curled up in a ball under my desk weeping softly to myself as my inbox filled up with research assignments and my phone ringing off the hook with domineering associate attorneys calling to belittle my choice of shoes and incessant typos was bound to be a good one.

It’s intimidating to start a new job. I’ve only recently begun working in a law firm before and my past experience working for a solo practitioner was a whole different kettle of fish than what I’m doing now. I was also a little freaked out because we didn’t have our orientation until a full two and-a-half days after I started the job. That meant that for two and one half days I would be in the deep end of the pool, hopefully swimming but sinking potentially.

Here’s the thing, though. I needn’t have worried. I actually think I lucked out this summer because this seems like a genuinely pleasant place to work. The attorneys I’m working for gave me assignments, but they didn’t pile them on and they made sure that I had good places to start each assignment before I walked out the door to their office. Prior to starting this gig, I had been afraid that assignments would be designed to make me fail but so far they have consistently all come with the tools to succeed, which I am grateful for.

That being said, it hasn’t all been wine and roses. This is a tough job and I find myself having to take a more rubber-meets-the-road approach to some areas of the law that have remained largely academic until now. It’s all well and good to spit out the elements of a tort claim on an exam and quite another to write out a demand letter for a motor vehicle accident. I’ve had the opportunity to see “Civil Procedure In Action!” as I wrote memos evaluating different venue choices for a personal injury case. On the very first day, the Big Man Upstairs (he who signs my paycheck) gave me a little research task. The job wasn’t that hard, but a keen desire not to fuck up on the first day combined with a complete lack of knowledge about the matter to drive my internal pressure sensors up through the roof. While the junior associates took my Fellow Law Clerks out to a leisurely celebratory lunch, I stayed behind toiling in our shared office. I must have read and reread the statutes I found at least eighty times before I even started typing my findings. It paid off the next day when I got the requisite “Nice job” from The Big Man Upstairs. And on to the next assignment.

I felt a little better after we did have our orientation. Since then the pace has been brisk and demanding, but not too overwhelming. It looks there are some interesting cases on the horizon that I will do my best to insinuate myself into. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what type of lawyer I’m going to be and I’m happy to have the opportunity to explore what trial lawyers do.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some medical records to summarize.

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