Clinics – the best advice I could possibly give is to DO THEM!
In my time at New England Law I participated in a clinic in my three last semesters. I was a member of the Law Review and so my 2L year fall semester I ended up dropping the clinic because I was nervous about the amount of work that Law Review would involve and I am glad I did. Your first year you just worry about doing the absolute best you can in all the core classes and then once you are in your second year you can try to figure out what it is that you want to do, and what type of law sparks your interest.
My background coming into law school was in Public Interest. I was an AmeriCorps Legal Intern at Neighborhood Legal Services in Lawrence, MA, for a year prior to starting law school. I already knew that public interest work was something I was passionate about, so I wanted to explore new avenues. My background in public service made me a great candidate for working on the Civil Gideon Project with Professor Engler, the clinic director. We analyzed how having an attorney for representation in civil matters affected the outcome of the cases. I did a lot of docket research and gathering of information so that it could be used in the presentation of a study, which specifically looked at representation during housing court issues such as evictions and foreclosures. This was my first internship and a great jumping off point to start my legal résumé and gain valuable experience.
In my 2L year I applied for the Honors Judicial Clerkship in my spring semester and was paired with Judge David Lowy of the Essex Superior Court. This was by far the most influential and interesting time in my law school career. I learned so much from his full-time clerks and from him; there is no other experience in law school that will teach you what clerking for a judge will teach you. I drafted decisions, wrote bench memos, worked on various projects, and gained such valuable experience. I made a long lasting connection with Judge Lowy and was asked to return as a summer full-time intern clerking for him and the other judges at the Essex Superior Court. That summer was even more valuable because not only was it a continuation of everything I had learned the previous semester, but I was also given more responsibility and tasks to complete during my time there.
In my 3L year, I applied for the Federal Courts Clinic and was accepted to work at the U.S. Attorney's Office. This was a great opportunity because being able to go between state and federal law as a practicing attorney is a valuable skill to master. The different perspective was also incredibly helpful since I had now seen the law from a judicial point of view. I got a totally different perspective with the U.S. Attorney's Office because I was now advocating one side instead of drafting decisions.
Finally, in my last semester I did the Criminal Procedure II Clinic and was assigned to the Lowell office of the Middlesex County District Attorney's Office, which is very active and a great learning environment. I procured my own placement by contacting the office directly and incessantly (yet respectfully), e-mailing and contacting the supervisors there and asking if I could be an intern for the spring semester. Once I got the internship and was certified under Rule 3:03, the student practice rule, I gained some amazing trial and litigation experience. I was able to stand up in front of the judges, arguing for bail, motions, during arraignments, and whatever else was thrown my way.
All my clinical experiences were so valuable, and I took something unique and crucial to my development as an advocate away at each stage. The clinics are so important to student's legal development because all the studying and classroom-learning in the world are not going to prepare you to make the decision about what you want to do after law school if you don't go get some real world experience.
I already knew I was passionate about public service, so my decision to explore other avenues was purely out of curiosity and for the sake of figuring out exactly what I wanted to do when I graduate. I have now made my decision to enter the Army JAG and I am positive that that decision is very much influenced by my participation in the New England Law clinics. I was a very competitive candidate and my experience in each clinic gave me not only valuable skills, but excellent talking points in my interviews and cover letters. There are so many aspects of the clinics that are really intangible benefits, but the guarantees are that you will gain valuable skills, have something to talk about in interviews, and become a better lawyer because of them.