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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jun. 5, 2017 2 months ago

Young Lawyers: Everything I need to know about how to practice law, I learned as a law clerk

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by: Alexandria Hill

‘Tis the season when the Jacksonville legal community welcomes bright-eyed law clerks and legal interns to experience, if only for a moment, what it is like to practice law in our city.

While it seems like a lifetime ago, I will not forget my first day as a law clerk at GrayRobinson.

I wore a brand-new black suit and sported a brand-new briefcase filled with pens, legal pads, my legal research and writing book and the Blue Book — none of which I used the entire summer.

I was ready to take on complex legal issues, make profound arguments and draft the most amazing memorandum of law the partners at the firm had seen.

By the end of the first day, I had spent eight hours on the computer learning the document management system, being reintroduced to WestLaw and eating lunch at The River Club.

There was my first lesson: Expect the unexpected.

Being a law clerk was nothing like I had prepared for during my first two years of law school. My first “real legal” assignment was to draft a complaint on fraudulent misrepresentation.

Piece of cake. I had just made an A in Legal Drafting and learned the elements of fraudulent misrepresentation. I was born ready for this assignment.

Not. Five iterations with the supervising partner later, I had unlearned everything I thought I learned that past semester.

That was lesson two: Law school does not teach you how to actually practice.

I learned more about the practice of law in those three months than I did in the previous two years. But not all lessons were about the practice of law.

In addition to having my work chewed up and spit out and getting to observe some of the most masterful legal minds I, still to this day, have known, I learned one of the most valuable lessons every lawyer should know: How to build relationships.

When I finally was able to emerge from my office, the first thing I did was sit down with one of the partners, who eight years later would be one of my most trusted mentors and advisers. He spent time laying out the playing field — letting me know what each partner would expect from me and what I should expect from each partner.

The trick, as I learned, was to understand people and be concerned with their concerns so I could relate to them on a very real level.

I was able to further apply that lesson and learn my fourth lesson at the Young Lawyers Section’s Noon in June. It was a day that would become a turning point in my career.

On that very hot day, I encountered three people with whom I maintain a great relationship.

First, Katie Dearing, who was an officer, maybe even president that year. I remember thinking “I want to be her.”

As soon as I graduated from law school, I set a path to get involved with the YLS and hopefully one day become president. That day is Thursday.

Next up, I met Alessandro Apolito, who was a fellow law clerk and has become a wonderful friend and fellow officer on the YLS board.

Finally, there was Pat Kilbane, who has guided me through my whole legal career.

The final lesson I learned: Get out there, get involved, and build your network.

Of course, I know I am preaching to the choir with our subscribers. Nevertheless, I hope that everyone shares this with their law clerks and interns.

More importantly, I hope everyone takes the time to welcome our new recruits and show them the ranks.

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