By David Hsu, Fall 2016 Student Intern
Like most law students, I had no idea what to expect when my semester in the clinic started. We are told that programs such as clinics and externships offer opportunity to get practical experience, and clinics also offer the opportunity to help people who cannot otherwise afford legal services. All these things are true, but only by participation in the clinic did I get a true appreciation for the experience.
What did I enjoy most about the clinic?
By far the most enjoyable thing about working in the clinic is the teamwork and comradery developed between the team within the Investor Clinic we are assigned to. Each clinic is organized differently, and the Investor Clinic assigns its student interns into small teams, working together on cases. Legal work is unique in that our ethical obligations prevent us from discussing what we do with outside people. For those of us without prior legal experience, being able to discuss our work is important to the process of improving our legal skills. The investor clinic has offered me a unique opportunity to go through that process, and with it came friendships developed from working closely together.
What have I learned from the clinic?
The clinic is a far more immersive experience than most people realize. Due to the requirement to bill seven hours of time per week to the clinic and the many deliverables due throughout the semester, there is always clinic work to be done. Through that experience, we learned one of the most important skills needed to succeed in the legal field: to always push forward. As someone new to the legal profession, law students are often paralyzed by indecision. Because we aren’t sure if what we’re doing is right, there is a tendency to not do anything at all. However, when there are real clients with real deadlines always looming on the horizon, that paralysis is trumped by necessity. The end result is we are forced to do what will hopefully become second nature to us, which is making the best educated decision that we can based on what we know and correcting our course as we go.
How will the clinic help me as I enter the legal practice?
My focus above on general problem solving skills and developing relationships is not meant to imply that we didn’t also learn the substance of securities arbitration. Throughout the semester, we had to draft, edit, and ultimately submit claims for our clients. That process, especially with the peer editing that comes from working together in small groups, results in better legal writing skills. The cases we work on involve arbitration through FINRA and offers us a unique opportunity to see how statutes and agency regulations intersect with the arbitration process. The iterative nature of the work product we create in the clinic allows us to efficiently hone our legal writing and analysis skills, through a process of constant feedback from peers and clinic professor.
Additionally, the relationships developed in the clinic, not only between students, but also between the students and the clinic professor, is part of my professional network. Our clinical professor is passionate not only about our work in the clinic, but also about our professional success as soon to be lawyers. Having a network to advocate for our success in practice is something every law student should seek to attain, and the clinic offers a unique opportunity to develop that network in a substantive way that is usually not available before one enters practice.