July 17, 2005

I Am Not A Lawyer

by PG

The end of my first year has brought about the phenomenon of which we were warned at orientation: people treat me like a lawyer. Friends, relatives and acquaintances expect me to know, understand and be able to explain The Law. As long as they ask purely out of curiosity, like a cousin's queries about the Michael Jackson case (since I did my best to avoid knowing anything about the trial, I only could explain aspects like the difference between a question of fact and a question of law), or my current tour leader's wish to know whom I thought would get O'Connor's seat and the Chief Justiceship (my dark horse is Professor BeVier at UVA Law, and between Scalia and Thomas I'd pick the latter not only for the First African American Chief Justice thing but also because he appears to be a much less abrasive personality than Scalia), I'm fine.

However, the requests for real legal help also have come in a couple of times, and I have to fight my own desire to pontificate and opine in order to give the approved answer, 'You should ask a real lawyer and not a law student.' I also have a healthy fear of giving someone bad advice, which is part of why my volunteering last year was in the form of academic tutoring rather than assisting immigrants or domestic violence survivors; I doubted whether a day of training would make me feel competent to do such work.

That said, I'm looking forward to doing Real Legal Work next summer, and if anyone has advice to pass along about places they'd recommend for doing it -- firms, government offices, nonprofits -- please do. I'm filling out the bidding form for the Early Interview Program sponsored by Career Services, and the collective wisdom of De Novo readers regarding what might be a good fit would be much appreciated. I'm fairly open minded about the kind of work I'll do; would prefer New York, D.C. and Austin; and have been financially fortunate enough that the paycheck is not the most important factor.

July 17, 2005 11:55 AM | TrackBack

Why not work with a judge PG?

Posted by: Sean Sirrine at July 17, 2005 04:29 PM

I would like to work with a judge at some point, but feel that there are more opportunities available to do so during the academic year than there are chances to work in, say, the Justice Department or for a law firm. Also, there seems to be a very strong prejudice in favor of having had some past practice-y experience before going into practice For Real, whereas the people I know who have worked with judges after law school (in clerkships, etc.) don't seem to have been negatively assessed for such work despite not having done it before.

Posted by: PG at July 18, 2005 09:02 AM

I interned for the USDOJ, Civil Division, Commercial Litigation Branch, Civil Frauds Section, and I found it to be a very rewarding experience. There was a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from going after companies that defrauded the US Government, especially companies that defrauded the US Military and put soldiers at risk with shoddy equipment. It was mostly qui tam suits....

Posted by: Jed Sorokin-Altmann at July 19, 2005 10:22 PM
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