Part IV


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Part IV

  1. 1. Seven Habits of Highly Successful Externs The Whys, and the Hows
  2. 2. 1. Demonstrate a Strong Work Ethic: Why? • No matter whether your externship is in the field you plan to enter, or the city where you plan to live, it will be on your resume for a long time. • Your goal is not just to pass the class; it’s also to: • Gain as much real-world experience as possible • Build strong references • Start building a professional network • Build relationships with mentors • Build Emory’s reputation within the Atlanta legal community – don’t let them think our students have a “sense of entitlement” and don’t work as hard!
  3. 3. 1. Demonstrate a Strong Work Ethic: How • Treat it like a job. • If you are sick, let your supervisor know right away, and when to next expect you. (Email is acceptable, but also call if it is very short notice.) • If you have a conflicting commitment that you can’t move, let your supervisor know as far in advance as possible, and proactively make arrangements to make up your time. • Be helpful. • Don’t just show up and wait for work. Offer assistance wherever appropriate. • Express a desire to follow through on assignments to ensure they are useful to your supervisor. • Don’t just do the minimum. Do what it takes. • Remember that students at other Ga. schools are required to work 20 more hours (and 2 more weeks) than you. • If the workload exceeds requirements and you are genuinely having a hard time managing it, talk to me and/or experienced peers about how to handle it. • At the end of the semester, don’t seem anxious to be done; ask what else you can do in your remaining time, and how you should close out existing projects.
  4. 4. 2. Err on the Side of Excessive Respectfulness: Why? • First impressions mean everything! • No one will fault you for being overly respectful; they will gladly correct you if it’s unnecessary. BUT: • Those who are offended by what they perceive as disrespect will almost never tell you.
  5. 5. 2. Err on the Side of Excessive Respectfulness: What (not) to Wear • On the first day, be conservative: • In the absence of other information, wear a suit. You can always take off the jacket and (if you’re male) tie. • If you interviewed at the office, and recall what everyone was wearing, dress one notch up from that. • Business casual means different things to different people. • Carefully observe for a week or so, and adjust accordingly. • Avoid wearing very casual clothing (jeans, shorts, flip flops, yoga pants, t-shirts, anything with holes) unless someone expressly tells you it’s acceptable. • Ladies: short/tight clothing, heavy makeup, or clubwear is not acceptable. (No one will feel comfortable telling you, though.) It might not be stylish, but more conservative is better.
  6. 6. 2. Err on the Side of Excessive Respectfulness: Respect (Just a Little Bit) • Addressing supervisors: This is the South. • Use “Ma’am” and “Sir.” Judges are “Your Honor.” • Address everyone “Mr.” or “Ms.” until they tell you to call them by their first name. • Staff: Treat them with utmost respect. • They likely know more than you do. • They can help you – or make your life hard. • Humor/tone: This isn’t school, it’s a workplace. • Avoid discussing politics, religion, or anything related to sex, drugs or alcohol. • Don’t gossip about other students or employees. • Even if others do it, avoid taking part.
  7. 7. 3. Communicate! Why? • The most common issues in placements result from communication problems. • Your relative inexperience may lead you to assume things that aren’t the case. • Your supervisor may have forgotten what it’s like to be a law student, and may assume you know things you don’t. • Communication is a professional skill you need to learn. • Supervisors are not always the best communicators, but they will appreciate someone who is proactive.
  8. 8. 3. Communicate! What to Ask (1) These questions are available in a handy printable document on Blackboard. • Background: • Can I get copies of the underlying documents? • Can you give me an overview of the case/situation, so that I can understand the context? • Starting points: • Do you have a sense for where I should start/where is likely to be most fruitful? • I was thinking of starting with [x], does that seem right? • Format of deliverables: • Do you want this to be a memo? If so, how formal do you want it to be? • Do you have any samples of this type of motion/brief/memo? • Do you want sources attached? • Do you want paper or electronic? • Or should I draft the motion/brief/contract language? • Do you want to see interim drafts, or just the final product?
  9. 9. 3. Communicate! What to Ask (2) • Research sources: • Do you want only this district/circuit/state or a broader search? • Do you want me to look only at cases, or treatises/law reviews/practice guides? • Time estimates: • How long do you expect this should take me? • At what point should I come talk to you if it seems like it will take longer? • Progress reports and questions • When/how should I report back on my progress? After a few hours/end of the day/next week? • Will you be available for questions (and if not, who can I talk to in your absence)?
  10. 10. 3. Communicate! How to Receive an Assignment • Ideally: Bring the list of questions and a notepad with you to a meeting to discuss an assignment. • Write down the assignment • Review the list of questions and ask what you need to. (It’s ok to ask for a moment to review to make sure you have what you need.) • Summarize your understanding of the assignment before leaving. • If this is not possible, • Immediately after receiving the assignment, review the list of questions to ensure you have the information you need. • Send an email or write down your questions to ask at the next available opportunity.
  11. 11. 3. Communicate! How to Keep Communicating • Briefly update your supervisor regularly – ideally at least once a week, possibly every day that you are in the office. • Be sensitive to your supervisor’s time: collect questions to ask at reasonable intervals. • If you run into a problem or you are uncertain: • Spend a reasonable amount of time given the scope of the assignment – perhaps a couple of hours – trying to find the answer. • Don’t be afraid to ask: briefly describe what you’ve done to locate the answer so they know what you tried. • If you think you know the answer, say it, and ask for confirmation. You may know more than you think!
  12. 12. 4. Be Prepared! Why • The number one thing supervisors ask me to tell students is this: Always bring a notepad and pen. • Eye contact is important: If you use your laptop to take notes, the person you’re speaking to may doubt whether you are paying attention. • Attorneys need to know how to anticipate questions and be prepared to answer them; your preparation for a meeting is relevant to your professional skills.
  13. 13. 4. Be Prepared! How • Always bring something to take notes: • Notepad and pen is preferred. • iPad/tablet note-taking app is acceptable alternative • Smartphone is not (it looks like you’re texting) • Laptop is ok in the absence of anything better – but place it low on your lap, and maintain eye contact over the screen. • If you know that you are going to be asked about a case or a project, review your notes/memo and do a little research ahead of time. • If you requested the meeting, have in mind a short agenda to keep the meeting efficient and on-topic.
  14. 14. 5. Get in Touch with Your Inner OCD Side: Why? • Seeing typographical or grammatical errors in work product makes the reader doubt the substance. • Particularly in the legal profession, attorneys place a high premium on technical perfection and accuracy in written work product. • As a junior member of a team, you can’t afford to have your supervisors think you are both inexperienced and careless.
  15. 15. 5. Get in Touch with Your Inner OCD Side: How • Never submit a true draft to your supervisor. In form, at least, it should be in a condition to go to the client/court. • Proofread, proofread, proofread. • At a minimum, spellcheck. But many errors are not caught by spellcheck alone. • So, give yourself time to put the work down, and read it with a fresh eye. • Don’t just proof it onscreen. • We may not read as carefully on the computer screen due to Internet browsing habits. • It’s harder to check for consistency in longer documents. • If you are not good at catching errors, have a colleague read it through for errors. • In a time crunch, let the supervisor know that you have not proofed the document, and ask whether they need it in current form, or would prefer you spend more time to proof it.
  16. 16. 5. Get In Touch with Your Inner OCD Side: How Much? In most work settings, you cannot pursue every issue in as much depth as you would for a law review article or seminar paper. You will have to let go of some substantive loose ends. • Hints: • Ask the supervisor to estimate how many pages they expect, and how much time they expect it to take. Adjust the time you spend based on these estimates. • Research as you go, rather than all at once. • Research just far enough to understand the structure of the analysis you’ll need to make. • Write an outline of the steps of the analysis. • Research and fill in the steps of the analysis as needed, keeping an open mind in case you discover you need to add another step to the analysis. • Write the facts section last, using just the facts relevant to the analysis and those necessary for context.
  17. 17. 6. Take Constructive Criticism Gracefully: Why? • You’ll want to explain, “I did it this way because…” • No matter why you want to explain, it will sound defensive. This can lead to: • Your supervisor thinking you’re not really listening to him/her, but just reflexively defending yourself. • Your supervisor thinking you are rejecting their criticism, so that you won’t correct the problem in the future. • Your supervisor interpreting your defensiveness as being hurt, and avoiding attempts at constructive criticism in the future, because it’s uncomfortable for him/her. • Interrupting in order to explain only reinforces these negative impressions.
  18. 18. 6. Take Constructive Criticism Gracefully: How Convey an attitude of desiring to learn how best to work with your supervisor. • Listen carefully to your supervisor and don’t interrupt. • Take the criticism as an expression of your supervisor’s preference, rather than that your work is “wrong.” • Your goal here is to assist your supervisor; you can develop your own style as an attorney. • Even if your supervisor misunderstands the error, take the criticism as a sign that you need to change something to avoid the misunderstanding. • “You didn’t use the correct form for the motion.” But you asked your supervisor’s colleague, because your supervisor wasn’t in the office, and this is what he advised. You should have confirmed with your supervisor. • If an explanation seems necessary, express a solution with the explanation to demonstrate you’ve heard the criticism. • “I did it this way because Mr. Smith had advised me this was how to do it, but I see now that I should have confirmed that with you.” • Ask for advice on how to improve, if it’s not clear.
  19. 19. 7. Read Carefully, and Respond Carefully: Why? • We are in the habit of scanning emails and text messages quickly, and sending a quick response. • Emails are treated the same as hard-copy letters in law practice, so they should be given the same attention and care. • They can be used as evidence, exhibits to a motion, addenda to contracts. • They are expected to have the same level of professionalism in format and tone. • A response – even if only to acknowledge receipt and understanding – is expected within a reasonable period of time (1- 2 days, depending on the area of practice). • In this course, we only meet once a week for a short time. I may need to communicate important information to you between classes.
  20. 20. 7. Read Carefully, and Respond Carefully: How (Writing) • Professional emails should have • a greeting • complete sentences/paragraphs • proper grammar and punctuation (even if less formal in tone and sentence structure), and • a signature block (name, title, company/agency, phone number). • To ensure a quick response from the recipient • make it as concise as possible. • put the “takeaway”/”action item” in the first sentence or two. • attach any documents needed to respond, even if the reader has previously received them. • Draft an email, reread, and edit it, like you would written work product, before sending. • If you are angry or upset, write the email, but don’t hit send! Save it to the drafts folder, and edit it after you have regained composure. • Delete the “sent from a [smartphone], forgive any typos” tagline. If you can’t write a proper email on a smartphone, don’t use it for professional emails.
  21. 21. 7. Read Carefully, and Respond Carefully: How (Receiving) • When receiving written instructions (from me, or a supervisor): • If the email was to you individually, acknowledge receipt as soon as possible (indicating, if necessary, that you will be reviewing in more detail at a later time). • Carefully read all of the instructions. • Look for attachments, and review those as well. • Consult other sources of information you have previously received that relate to the subject of the email. • If you can’t do all of the above immediately, wait until you can, before you substantively respond. • The fact that you only have a smartphone available right now does not excuse you from reading carefully and writing an appropriate response, unless (perhaps) you are in trial or traveling. • Don’t just send an email to ask a question because you don’t have the information available at that moment.