Practical matters: clinic participation and legal experience

I’ll admit it: Walking into law school, I was pretty sure that every lawsuit consisted of attending depositions with former exercise instructors and discovering crucial evidence by examining an individual’s shoes (“Legally Blonde,” anyone?). I showed up for the first day of orientation in full-blown Elle Woods mode, despite a shocking lack of pink in my outfit. Then Lawyering started.

By the end of orientation, I was introduced to the wonders of Westlaw and LexisNexis and became intimately familiar with the library. By the end of 1L year, I had written memos and briefs and spent too many hours highlighting cases. Somewhere along the way, I realized that being a lawyer had a lot to do with writing and less to do with my knowledge of this season’s flats. Trust me when I tell you that legal writing is a whole new mountain to climb. If you thought “thinking like a lawyer” was a tough transition, writing like a lawyer can be even more difficult.

While Lawyering provides a great foundation for building legal writing skills, there are some things you cannot master in a classroom. Among other things, I chose to participate in a clinic to strengthen my legal research and writing ability. KU’s clinics provide students the opportunity to get out in the field and practice law under the guidance of a supervising attorney. We have our own clients and often carry a case from beginning to end, counseling clients on their options and drafting many of the necessary documents to proceed successfully through a lawsuit. As a result, I have written supporting briefs, petitions and other documents that are ultimately filed with my clients’ cases. Being a great legal writer takes on a new level of importance when there’s a client relying on you.

The clinic has also been a great way to experience what practicing a certain area of law is like. KU offers 12 different clinics in differing practice areas, so regardless of what field interests you, you’ll likely have an opportunity to engage in practice before you graduate. Additionally, it never hurts to build more legal experience for your resume. KU’s clinics are a great way to step outside the classroom and learn what practicing law is like … preferably in a pair of really cute shoes.

Amanda Ferguson, 2L