Finding Your Footing: Clinic Experience Leads to Growth as Attorney

By Geoff Hafer, Spring 2016 Student Intern

With the semester coming to a close, my time in clinic is nearly over. Wow, it has all been a blur! When I think back to the first couple of weeks in clinic I remember feeling lost and intimidated. This was an entirely new area of law where I had absolutely no experience or knowledge. We were handed cases that were already well developed and were expected to scoop them up and hit the ground running. Reading the statement of claim in our first case I remember thinking to myself, “what have I gotten myself into?” UITs, REITs, FINRA rules and regulations, suitability, etc. I quickly found myself swimming in unfamiliar waters. How could I be expected to learn everything there is to know about the world of brokers and investors in just a single semester?

That was perhaps the biggest struggle I had initially in the clinic, realizing that we, as aspiring lawyers, are not expected to be experts on the ins and outs of investing. Success in the clinic was not contingent upon some superior understanding of investing but rather implementing the basic lawyering skills we have all acquired through our own experiences and understanding the strengths and weaknesses of a particular case and developing an effective argument. That’s what it is all about. I spent an excessive amount of time researching products, terminology and investment strategies initially, losing sight of the bigger picture. Expertise with a particular practice area comes with time and experience, but effective writing is something we all can do now. Leave the more technical arguments to Professor Doss and Professor Iannarone, at least for now.

The clinic process itself took on a similar shape to my experience with law school in general. In the first part of clinic, like the first year of law school, it’s a bit scary, new, and you are introduced to an entirely new and unfamiliar process. But by the second half of clinic, similar to your second year of law school, you have a better understanding of the process and what’s expected of you to succeed. It is a process conducive of individual growth. Those who can grasp early on the importance of feedback and trial and error will benefit the most from the process.

Ultimately, I am proud of my progress and the work that I produced in my time in the clinic. I learned a great deal about myself and my capabilities and can’t thank Professor Iannarone and Professor Doss enough for pushing me to my limits. Clinic was tough, but nothing worth doing is easy. Accept that there is always room for growth as aspiring attorneys and at the end of the process you will find you are better for it.