My practical learning started with my enrollment in a course which no one should leave law school without having taken, The Lawyering Process. It teaches you all of the things you need to know about being a lawyer that traditional law school classes do not. We were given practical lawyering tools and practiced using them together on one another in the comfort of the classroom environment. You sharpen these tools through the clinical placement portion of the Lawyering Process Clinic, assisting legal services organizations that assist low-income clients.
My placement was at Metrowest Legal Services, in Framingham, MA, where I assisted in providing legal services to victims of domestic violence. From a learning standpoint this placement provided me with a wide range of experiences, including representing clients in Probate and Family Court (under SJC Rule 3:03), conducting client interviews and intakes, and drafting pleadings and client correspondence. I felt a sense of pride because I was learning to become a lawyer by providing legal services to members of our community who desperately needed legal assistance, and who without our organization would not otherwise receive this assistance.
Placement of law students in legal services organizations is truly an advantageous opportunity for everyone involved; law students are learning to become competent, capable, and compassionate lawyers, and because of their commitment and time, community members who need legal services the most will receive that assistance.
I next interned for a Suffolk County Superior Court judge through the Massachusetts Practice Clinic. Going from interning at a legal services organization to the judiciary gave me an entirely different perspective. I did far less client-based legal work and more legal research and writing. I no longer spent my days in court or meeting with clients,but instead was in the law library working on cases for a judge.
Although entirely different, this too was an invaluable experience. I got to refine and put to practical use the skills I learned in the legal research and writing courses. I researched real cases, analyzed the legal issues involved, and discussed the cases with the judge. I also drafted judicial opinions on which I received valuable feedback from the judge. I had the opportunity to observe trials, motion sessions, and various other courtroom proceedings, becoming comfortable with courtroom proceedings and confident in my research and writing abilities.
I next interned at the United States Attorney’s Office, a placement available through the school’s Federal Courts Clinic, again gaining practical legal experience in an entirely different public interest setting. I did a great deal of legal research on complex legal issues, and much like in my legal services experience, was able to learn the legal practice from experienced attorneys by participating in cases with them. My supervisors were always willing to involve me in their work and encouraged me to participate in their analysis and discussion of the legal issues involved.
In my opinion, this is the best type of practical experience: seeing first-hand how experienced attorneys tackle the kind of legal issues that we will inevitably face as future lawyers. I always felt that I was able to provide valuable input and help further the mission of the United States attorney. I volunteered for this position and earned the school’s Public Service Transcript Notation.
I ended my public interest journey in an entirely different place from where I started and have gained broad insight into the public interest sector. Along the way I gained invaluable practical legal experience while giving back in a variety of interesting and rewarding ways. I would strongly encourage other students to take advantage of these opportunities and afford themselves of their incredible benefits.