Approaches v. Answers: A Semester of Approaching Legal Work

By: Esmat Hanano, IAC Intern Spring 2018

It is very difficult to write a blog post about my semester in the Clinic, because if I wrote about everything I wanted to discuss it would certainly be too long. So in the interest of keeping whatever readers may stumble upon my Clinic story, I will try to boil my time in Clinic down to one distinction that has been a major takeaway for me. That distinction is being confident in your approach rather than your answer. An arbitrary distinction? Maybe, but it works for me and I think you’ll see the logic behind it by the end of this post as well.

At the beginning of the semester, I was very uncomfortable with the thought of being trusted to handle client matters. I had just finished my third semester of law school, and was only beginning to take classes that weren’t part of the required curriculum this semester. I, and a number of my peers, felt that we did not have the necessary background to answer a client’s initial call, walk them through what we do in the Clinic, and then analyze whether we could help them or not. All of it seemed daunting, and it was. However, throughout our supervision meetings and case rounds, Professor Iannarone stressed that for the Clinic we are the lawyers. This meant that we did not have time to dwell on whether we could find the perfect answer to a client’s situation. We needed to act, and act quickly in most cases, so that our clients could be made whole after they had been wronged.

Instead of looking for the perfect answer, as all law students are apt to do, we had to focus on our approach to client matters. If we had an organized approach—a system to scrutinize and analyze matters from the beginning—then the answer would reveal itself as the most natural option to resolve a client’s situation. I was fortunate enough to work with an amazing Clinic II student (students that have participated in the Clinic previously) who guided my group through creating just such a system. By focusing on our approaches, we were able to move through matters at a rapid pace that also allowed us to maintain the quality of work that the Clinic is known for.

My Clinic story started off with a series of doubts about my own capabilities, but now its ending with confidence in my ability to approach a situation and have a system for problem-solving that will allow me to find the right answer.