Clerkship Day #1: What to expect
The first day of any new job can be a bit nerve wracking.
So when you're not a qualified lawyer, you're not used to getting out of bed before midday and the closest thing you own to a suit jacket is faded denim, the idea of removing yourself from uni life and slotting into the professional legal world can seem daunting.
Here are a couple of things to keep in mind on your first day.
Lawyers are busy. They will not have time, as a general rule, to hold your hand through every minute.
Also, it might seem obvious but dress comfortably. In my experience, quite a lot of walking is often required, whether it be between the office and court, or just around court in general. Nipping up to the coffee shop can seem like your hiking Mount Everest if you are in heels and have been wearing only ugg boots for the last four years.
While what you might be required to do varies from place to place, there are a few general things that if you don’t get to do on your first day, you probably will on your second.
Going to court: If you are working with Legal Aid or the Aboriginal Legal Service, you can expect to be tagging along to court everyday. This is great, because all you need to do is observe. You can learn a lot by watching and listening. It is also a great opportunity to get to know the court staff who you’ll be seeing a lot of over the next couple of weeks. In these kinds of workplaces, typically you will be in court in the morning, and you are back in the office after lunch unless there is a trial or hearing scheduled.
Meetings with clients: You may be asked to sit in, or you may be asked to stay out. It depends on the case and the client. Don’t take it personally if a client doesn’t want you there. If you do get to sit in, on your first day you will probably just be expected to observe, later you might be able to ask some of the questions.
Briefs: You’ll definitely have to read them. It is not always a thrill. It is important though. The more familiar with the cases you are, the easier everything is to understand.
Research: Sometimes a case requires a lot of background research. This could be because it involves obscure laws, or strange topics. For example, I had a case when I was an intern about an illegal snake being found in a backyard. Knowing nothing about reptiles or the laws that apply to keeping them as pets, this was a case that I had to look into with my supervisor.
While it's unlikely that your supervisor will give you anything too daunting on your first day, be as well prepared as possible. Brush up on the area of law your firm deals with, and be ready to do anything and everything.
As a sidenote, it is also important that on your first day, you don’t find yourself filling the role of a secretary. At least not forever.
We all need to do a certain amount of latte-fetching to get to where we want but you didn't get your law degree so you could spend all day filing or babysitting the children of clients when they come into the office.
No matter what happens, be open minded and ready to learn more in one day, than you have in your entire degree.
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