A Horrible, Disgusting, and Wonderful Road

Through the experiences that I have gained while working at the Law office of Roger Stough, I have learned that the work of an attorney is neither emotionally nor mentally easy. The days in the office have the potential to be long, and often I found myself in the office much earlier than the advertised 8:30 A.M opening. Messages needed to be taken and files needed to be retrieved for that day’s cases. The court houses in this rural area are thirty minutes to an hour apart, and we often had to go to multiple in one day. The attitudes of many of the clients that we dealt with were often difficult, and their living conditions made me grateful for what I have in my own life. The exposure to extreme cases of child neglect and spousal abuse was sometimes shocking, and even in the brief ten weeks that I worked there it has already caused me to develop a mild case of cynicism in regard to what is normal human behavior. Attorneys are tasked with learning about all of their clients’ dirty laundry, and then helping them get through it even if they do not deserve the help. My time with Roger came with many bad experiences with the local people of this area, and it showed me what the life of a lawyer is really like. I had many conversations with pedophiles, drug dealers, sexual abusers, and thieves. All of these negative experiences allowed me to answer the overarching question that I had set out to answer in the beginning of my experience, “Do I want to be a lawyer?”

The job of an attorney may require long hours and a majority of your time being spent with deviants, but it provides something that many other professions simply cannot, excitement. My experiences, while many of them uncomfortable or disgusting, were extremely exciting. I learned that I can quickly develop a mentality that allows me to deal with these kinds of people and situations, and this process excites me. In my learning contract I stated that through the process of completing this internship I would like to learn if law school was what I wanted to pursue post-graduation. The excitement that I felt through the entirety of my internship has proven to me that this is the route that I would like to pursue. The excitement of my experience was not the only thing that brought me to this conclusion. The other professionals in the legal field, such as attorneys, judges, clerks, and law enforcement officers, were all wonderfully nice people with whom I developed a sense of comradery. Attorneys in this area often work with the same professionals every day and they develop personal relationships with each other. I had the opportunity one day to sit in a judge’s chambers for over two hours and engage in conversation. Someone with the tremendous amount of power and respect that results from being a judge was happy to sit down and goof around with the people that work under him. The relationships that I developed just during my experience and the possible future relationships I may be able to develop played a huge role in cementing my choice for post-graduation.

Along with my overarching goal of figuring out what direction I wanted my life to take post-graduation, I had also laid out some important goals in my learning contract during my first week on the job. The practice of legal research was an exercise that going into my internship I had a strong desire to perform in order to get accustomed to reading cases and learn what the usual process was research-wise to get ready for a trial. Through the duration of my internship I was tasked with performing legal research on topics ranging from what the court’s definition of  firearm is when it comes to it being in the possession of a convicted felon, all the way to the definition of the legal term laches, which is an obscure term used in civil trials in order to have them thrown out because of a passage of time. Roger tasked me with writing case briefs on the relevant cases I researched so he could have an abridged look at the cases to give him ideas prior to trial. My goal of learning how to perform legal research was met and exceeded. I feel confident that going forward I will be able to efficiently research any topic that a class or employer could task me with.

In my learning contract, I stated that learning how to perform legal writing was another major goal that I wanted to meet during my internship. During my time with Roger I was tasked with writing land deeds, deeds of gift, property settlement agreements, divorce complaints, orders for bond hearings, motions for discovery, and a whole host of other legal documents. I even created templates for divorce complaints, final decrees, and affidavits. These templates allowed us to create these documents in minutes. Along with the writing of these documents, I also learned how to write an appropriate cover letter to deliver with them to the clerk. I had plenty of opportunities to hand deliver these documents to the clerks as well. I discovered that legal documents are quite simple after doing the first few, because after that it is just taking out and putting in the information of someone else.

My final goal that I stated in my learning contract was to learn how to conduct interviews with witnesses and clients. I was a part of many interviews during the duration of my internship. Every time we had a case, we had one, or often more, interviews with the parties involved. I learned the different questions to ask in different situations, such as if the attorney is a GAL for a child or if the attorney is the parent’s hired counsel. Interviewing people that have been charged with crimes did not always go as I expected, most of the time the people were just embarrassed to be in the situation. Interviewing can be the most exciting part of the job, and the main thing that I learned is that the attorney needs to be the leader in the room, because they are the one that is tasked with doing

The classes that I have attended in the Jepson School have taught me many things, but three major abilities that I thought gave me the most help in being successful in my internship include the ability to identify problems, the ability to solve problems, and the ability to effectively  communicate the solutions to problems. The duties of a general practice attorney include, for the most part, solving other peoples’ problems. These problems can range from defending someone for a crime that they allegedly committed or getting the most out a divorce settlement. The nature of the problem is mostly irrelevant, all that matters is that there is a problem that needs to be solved, preferably in your party’s favor.  These problems cannot be attacked in a way that simply solves the problem at hand, it is imperative that the problems be solved in a creative way that works in the favor of our party. The Jepson School equipped me with the tools I needed to successfully attack this type of work. In order to solve a lot a lot of the problems that we encountered; research needed to be done. I was often tasked with finding precedents for the current cases we were working on, these precedents gave us information on how the law has been interpreted in the past and how a current judge will probably interpret it. Finding precedent did not always work in our favor, but then that allowed for alternative options to be explored. The plethora of research, but mostly the interpretation of that research, that I was tasked with in the Jepson School, helped me to prepare for that part of the job. One project that stood out in my mind that tested my ability to creatively problem solve, was the reading of a discovery on a client charged with an array of felonies. A discovery is a file with all of the commonwealth’s evidence against out client. I was tasked with reading this file and coming up with holes in stories, evidence that the commonwealth may have missed, and things that generally just did not line up. While looking through this file, I was able to find major discrepancies in the stories that label our client the perpetrator, as well as pieces of evidence that did not line up with everything else. Using this information, I was able to communicate possible solutions to the problem at hand and help Roger build a defense for our client.

The experience that I had over the course of my internship was an incredible one. Roger helped me fulfill every goal that we had agreed upon on my learning contract, and then exceeded it.  I was able to use the skills that I learned in the Jepson School to exceed hopefully Roger’s expectations. Along the way I was able to make many important connections that will help me in the future. I feel as though my time interning this summer has exponentially helped my future career.