Deciding to work as a law clerk in a law firm while you are a full-time student in law school should not be a decision you take lightly. You might ask yourself: how else am I supposed to get the practical experience I need? Fair point. Gaining hands-on, real work experience at a position such as a law clerk at a law firm is not something you get by attending classes. Working as a law clerk can also potentially turn into full-time positions after graduation.
However, the practical experience and the likelihood of being offered a full-time position after graduation are only as good as the amount of time and effort you can put into working as a law clerk. Unless you are committed and have enough time to spend working in a law firm, accepting the offer to work as a law clerk can affect your chances of achieving your goals.
It’ll be alright if I only work 20 hours a week.
Most law schools impose a 20-hour limit on the amount of time students can work as full-time students. Theoretically, a 20-hour workweek is achievable with good time management skills and effective communication with your supervising attorney. Unfortunately, that’s not how things work out in the real world, and certainly not in a law firm. Many of the projects you would be working on as a law clerk (provided the law firm you are working at gives you substantive work) can’t be put on pause and resumed next time you are at the office. Deadlines imposed by your supervising attorney, a judge or your clients do not run on your personal schedule. Rather, it’s the other way around.
It is an understatement to say that lawyers are busy. As a law clerk, you might be expected to perform at the level of a junior associate, depending on the law firm. In other words, you must complete assigned projects with internal firm deadliness and external deadlines in mind. Strictly working 20 hours a week is not enough time to meet the deadlines that you are required to abide by while creating high-quality work product.
As a future lawyer, you will be entrusted with a great deal of responsibility that simply cannot wait for the next time you are in the office. Of course, by communicating any expected delays to whoever is counting on you to meet a deadline, you might be granted an extension to complete a project. However, you can’t make that a habit. Ultimately, your clients’ and the law firm’s livelihood depend on team members like you completing tasks on time. If you are unable to meet the demands of working as a law clerk, your work product will suffer and so will the quality of the practical experience you receive. As such, making sure you can meet the real-world demands of working as a law clerk while balancing a full-time class schedule is imperative to your success.
I’ve worked at another firm before, so I know what it’s like.
You might have heard that law firms are not created equal. That notion holds true in every aspect you can think of. But of course, that’s not surprising. Each law firm has its own internal operating procedures and guidelines, which can quickly undo any expectations you might have of what working at a law firm is like. Even if you have worked at a small firm before and are considering working as a law clerk in another small firm, you will quickly realize that you can’t rely on what you think will be expected of you.
Substantive knowledge about the law aside, your experience at a prior law firm might not have included turning in weekly status reports to your supervisor, employing firm-approved templates for internal and external emails, or adhering to strict requirements for completing deliverables. You might not have experienced balancing a full-time law school curriculum with substantive legal projects. Either way, you should not rely too heavily on any previous experience working at a law firm when considering working as a law clerk while a full-time student.
About CORPlaw. Headquartered in Miami, FL, CORPlaw is a boutique business law firm that helps modern entrepreneurs grow and protect their business. Founded in 2017, this minority and female-owned law firm has advised countless small businesses owners, startups, and creatives through the state of Florida, the national, and abroad. The CORPlaw team continues to grow and build a reputation of professional excellence and client satisfaction. Contact CORPlaw today at 1 (833) 545-7526, email@example.com, or on our website (www.corplaw.us).
This article is for general information only. The information presented should not be construed to be formal legal advice. By using this blog site, you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the blog site publisher. The blog site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.