Purpose of the program is to provide you with a sense of what will be expected from you as a summer law clerk at a firm or other legal organization and how to go about attacking an assignment.
FIRST YEAR FRIDAY - Research Skills (Summer Clerkship)
FIRST YEAR FRIDAY
HOW TO SUCCEED AT YOUR SUMMER
• Greg Cohen– Former litigator with the law
firm of Robinson & Wood in San Jose.
• Ellen Platt– Attorney and Research Librarian at
Santa Clara University School of Law
• Jocelyn Stilwell - Librarian, Sixth Appellate
District Court of Appeals
• In a recent survey of 160 legal employers regarding
their expectations of new legal writers (law school
students and recent grads), the following responses
• After the first year of law school, 91% of employers
expected law students to be able write a legal memo
with minimal supervision.
• After the second year of law school, 58% of employers
expected law students to be able to write a client letter
with minimal supervision, and 57% of employers
expected law students to be able to write a motion
with minimal supervision.
• By the time you graduate, the % of employers will expect you to be
able to write the following with minimal supervision:
• 93%: office memos
• 78%: motions
• 77%: client letters
• 69%: pleadings
• 69%: discovery documents (interrogatories, etc.)
• 65%: orders
• 65%: trial briefs
• 59%: demand letters
• 56%: appellate briefs
• As you can see, there is a very big jump between your first year and
the time you graduate as to what will be expected of you as a new
lawyer. Therefore, the skills that you learn this summer and next
will be crucial to your development as attorneys.
• You receive an email from your supervising attorney
containing the following assignment:
• “Our firm represents the Defendant in a breach of
contract action. We propounded special
interrogatories on Plaintiff. Plaintiff provided his
responses, but they were not code compliant. After a
series of meet and confer efforts, we would like to
compel Plaintiff’s further responses to the special
interrogatories. Therefore, I would like to know how
much time we have from the service of Plaintiff’s
responses to move to compel the answers and what
will we need to provide in support of the motion?
Please respond to me by next Monday”
WHERE DO I BEGIN?
• Ask your supervising attorney for clarification.
• Follow up questions: in the middle of your research, you’re always
going to run into more questions. They may be legal, they may
relate to the fact set, but you will have questions during the
research process! Figure out who to go to with those questions –
your partner, one of the associates, etc. Also ask how they’d like
to be contacted.
• Prepare a game-plan as to how you will attack the
• What are the issues that I need to address?:
– Timing to file and information required in support of motion.
• How do I find the applicable statutory codes and law?:
– Go to the Code of Civil Procedure and California Rules of Court
– Go to a Practice Guide
– Legal Research on Lexis, Bloomberg or Westlaw
• Library Resources
• Goal 1: Figure out where to go to get background on an area of
legal research quickly:
– CalJur, Witkin, Rutter Guides.
• Goal 2: Learn about the secondary sources for the area of law your
firm practices in:
– If you’re practicing trademark law, you should get familiar with your
resources in print (at the firm and at SCU), as well as all the resources on
the online providers. Don’t stop with Lexis or Westlaw – some of the
best materials are from specialty publishers!
• Goal 3: Take notes on what you use as you use it: this is necessary
to show due diligence. Don’t forget to talk to your HUMAN
resources, too! Librarians, associates, partners, etc.
– Firms often have in-house materials such as example briefs and existing
work product that is very useful. It’s worth asking your librarian about
these resources (if the firm has one) or the other associates.
• California Code of Civil Procedure
• Look to index and search for key terms. Code of Civil
Procedure Section 2030.010, 2030.300 and 2016.040
• California Rules of Court
• California Rules of Court Rule 3.1345
• California Practice Guide
• Index search for “special interrogatories” “motion to
• Find appropriate sections regarding motions to compel
further responses to special interrogatories.
• On-Line Legal Research
• Westlaw, Lexis and Bloomberg.
• Shepardize codes for cases related to the issues.
• Perform legal research by searching for issues.
• Use of your Westlaw passwords is restricted to the
• Summer law school classes and study abroad programs.
• Law review and journal, including write-on competitions.
• Research assistant.
• Moot court.
• Unpaid internship/externship.
• If you are being paid for your summer clerkship, you
may not use your educational Westlaw password for
WRITING THE MOTION
• Ask other attorneys in the office for examples.
• Brief Banks: Most firms will provide access to all prior
motions and briefs prepared by members of the firm.
• MISTAKE TRAP: Although these briefs can provide an
outline as to the structure of the motion, do not blindly
rely on the contents therein. Each case has its own
specific facts and issues, and although a case may seem
on-point, always Shepardize those cases to make sure
that they remain good law.
WRITING THE MOTION
• Review file for all needed evidence.
• Make sure you have the required discovery, responses,
• Make an outline.
• Write down each of the different sections you will need
in the motion.
• Write down the evidence you will be using.
• Write down the law you will be using.
WRITING THE MOTION
• DO NOT FORGET TO PROOFREAD!!!
• In the recent study, when the same 160
employers were asked about their expectations v.
the actual abilities of new legal writers, the
majority of those employers found a stark
contrast between their high expectations of
students’ and recent graduates’ proofreading
abilities and the actual abilities of these writers to
thoroughly proofread their work. The majority of
employers were disappointed.
• You may receive a copy of your motion back from
your supervising attorney with numerous edits
and requested changes.
• Do not be shy about asking your supervising
attorney for guidance regarding the requested
• Also, do not become discouraged if there are a lot
of changes requested. You are learning, and your
supervising attorney should understand this. Use
the critique to become a better writer and
• How much time you spend on something isn’t just “What is
due?” It’s also “How long should this take?” You’ll be
billing your time to a client, and being responsible about
keeping track of your time starts now.
– However, do not cut your own time. Bill what it takes you to
complete your assignment, and let your supervisor make any
• Resources: using Lexis and Westlaw costs money. Always
start your research with a print collection, even if it’s
tiny. Make sure you understand how billing works on these
resources and gain an understanding as to what on-line
research is covered in your firm’s plan.