By Jessica Chinnadurai • August 05, 2016•Ms. JD, Writers in Residence, Careers, Law School, Internships and Clerkships
Today is the last day of my internship at Civis! Tomorrow I catch the train back to Missouri to spend a few days with my family and then I’ll be moving into my new apartment before starting the semester. All of this means one thing: it’s back to school time.
Earlier this week, I gave a presentation to Civis about my main takeaways from this summer. I felt fortunate enough to gain the experience I wanted, which was exposure to a variety of legal issues. I red-lined contracts for negotiation meetings and was engaged in meetings related to HR, compliance, data security and privacy. I was thankful for General Counsel’s ability to incorporate my interests into my daily work, which helped solidify my interest in employment law. It’s rare to have a manager that will let you be vocal in expressing your specific goals and give you leeway around how you want to achieve them, so I’m extra grateful for that aspect of the job.
Well I wanted to do something new with my blog this month, and thought it would be a good idea to share some related advice from a few of my law school friends. These women (yes females only, in true Ms. JD fashion!) are from diverse backgrounds and worked at unique internships this summer. They regularly inspire me and our fellow classmates with their hard work and commitment to the legal field.
One friend was a Summer Associate with the prestigious law firm of Shook, Hardy, & Bacon in Kansas City, Missouri.
Lesson learned this summer: "The best lawyers know that they'll never know everything. Instead, they always seek out new learning opportunities and ask lots of questions."
Advice for incoming 1Ls: "No matter what happens, or who your friends are, don't compare what you do to what anyone else does. All that matters is that you know the material the teacher wants you to know and you can present it to them in an exam." She also stressed that the final exam is the final grade, so that's what it really boils down to in the end. During the semester, don't stress about cold calls from teachers or worry about making a fool of yourself in class.
Another friend was a Summer Intern at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Springfield, Missouri.
Lesson learned this summer: “It helps to say yes to as much as you possibly can. There were a lot of optional events and outings, but I went to everything I could, and it made a big difference. Of course an attorney will be impressed by a well-done memo or motion, but they really want to get to know you as a person. I left knowing I will have great references from that job, and I think showing up and being enthusiastic about everything was a big factor in that.”
Advice for incoming 1Ls: “Trust yourself, and know that you got to where you are for a reason. The competition of law school can breed a lot of anxiety and self-doubt, and that's just not productive or healthy. Know that everyone learns in different ways, and that you don't have to imitate whoever seems like smartest one in the class to be successful.”
Another friend was a Summer Intern with UniGroup, Inc. Association of Corporate Counsel in St. Louis, Missouri.
Lesson learned this summer: “Ask questions! Attorneys don’t expect you to know everything. Do yourself a favor and ask questions after you’ve been given instructions and once you’ve started your assignment. This way you’re constantly communicating with your supervisor and everyone has the same expectations.”
Advice for incoming 1Ls: “Make time to build relationships. Whether it’s done back home, with your professors, or with your colleagues, it’s important to connect and foster relationships. One reason is because it’ll make you a better attorney, and the second is that it’ll make you a better person.”
And last but not least, another friend was a Legal Intern at the Missouri Office of the Public Counsel in Jefferson City, Missouri (the state capital).
Lesson learned this summer: “You should always get out and explore, sometimes it is not just about what you are learning in the office, but what is going on outside around you.”
Advice for incoming 1Ls: “As scary as the first year of law school seems and can be at times, try to enjoy every minute. You will meet amazing friends, be exposed to some of the most intelligent professors you have ever encountered, and learn more in a week than you ever did in undergrad. Soak it all in and try to remember that you are very fortunate to be sitting in a classroom learning about the law. Good luck to you all!”
As I said goodbye (again) to friends in Chicago this week, it wasn’t as hard as it was last summer. Last July, I swore I wouldn’t return to the city for awhile, but then opportunity came knocking at my door and I just couldn’t say no. I’m more aware than ever before that circumstances change all the time, and you never really know where life will take you. As a law student, I do have some stability the next two years as I continue my education. But even so, the decisions I’m making now about where I want to work next summer will likely determine where I’ll be after graduation. It’s a lot of pressure, to say the least! In the meantime, I continue to remain thankful for great friends and learning experiences as we continue growing into our careers.