Friday, January 13, 2017

3 Things I've Learned as a Law Clerk


Upon entering the legal field I was excited and eager to see if I had what it took to keep up in the real world, outside of school. I had been warned by other graduates that there was always a learning curve when starting, which I didn’t fully grasp until I arrived.

Looking back, I remember attempting to seek out blogs or articles just like this one, to see if anyone out there had any tips. In 2008, there was little to nothing as very few lawyers had websites or email addresses, let alone assistants or clerks writing about their experiences.

Eight years later, I'm glad to share the top three things I learned after entering the legal field:

Effective Foresight:
  • Put the acronym “CYA” to use, despite its vulgarity, we need to work with it in mind to protect our lawyer(s) and clients. This means, double checking everything we draft, collate, scan, plan for and enter in to a calendar system more than once to ensure there are no errors and absolutely nothing is being overlooked or unplanned for.
  • Reminding the lawyers of deadlines or minor details may seem annoying at first, but it’s part of your role.
  • Ensure there are precedents and make it your business to know where all of them are. If there are none, begin creating them yourself. It is more work upfront, but less in the end.
  • Know the Rules regarding service and ensure that everything is pre-planned in accordance with that knowledge.
  • Make a “Follow Up” folder in your email to remind you of any follow ups you need to complete in the coming weeks.
Client Communications are an Art:
  • Every day you will be communicating with people during the most difficult times in their lives. In many cases, they are extremely upset and looking for a clear way to resolve their problems on an expedited basis. You may be their first point of interaction with the firm and you have to ensure that you productively listen to best assist them.
  • To obtain the information we need from clients, who may be fuming and deeply want to express their story and hardships – is not always easy to do. It is our job to guide them back to discussing the facts we require to assist them in getting results. Doing this while maintaining a sense of empathy is truly an art.
  • When it comes to communicating with clients, I have found that efficiency is golden. If a client emails or calls for an update, despite how busy you are, attempt to get back to them within twenty-four hours even if it is to provide an acknowledgement and quick update, it will mean the world to most people.

Work Smarter, Not Harder:
  • Sometimes all it takes is a 10 minute meeting with other staff members to discover issues that are very easy to resolve. Make a point to talk to other staff members about ideas they have or issues they are facing to see if you can work together to find a resolution.
  • Is your office paperless? Why not? Faxes can come in via email these days instead of print.
  • Utilize whatever technology you can to ensure that your firm is operating efficiently and thus, effectively using client retainer funds.
  • Do you have a knowledge management process? Make sure you do.
  • Do you have precedents for everything? Make sure you do.
  • Do you have any ideas for promoting the firm? Speak up.
  • Could you work remotely if required? Is this something that would increase productivity? If so, discuss it.
  • Keep up to date on legal news and changes in the field. It’s as easy as following legal bloggers, legal organisations and even news on social media. The more in the know you are about what changes are happening, the better position you will be in to assist.
-Rachel Spence, Law Clerk

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