“Before law school, I had never stepped inside a law office,” said Rutgers Law first-year student Louis Juliano of Hamilton, New Jersey (NJ). “I went on four different law office trips. I learned that lawyers are always learning how to learn.”
Louis is one of several first-year students who recently got glimpses of various big and small law practices in government, private law firms, non-profits, and in-house counsel for corporations. Each fall, in Distinguished Clinical Professor Sarah Ricks’s legal writing course, students in small groups visit lawyers in their offices in Camden and Philadelphia for an introduction to different law practice cultures.
This fall, Rutgers Law alumni and other lawyers hosted students at Stevens & Lee, Dechert LLP, Comcast, Women's Law Project, Camden County Prosecutor's Office, Philadelphia 76ers Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, and Rutgers Law Associates. Lawyers candidly explained how they chose the practice, what they enjoy, what a typical day is like, and what steps first-years can take to follow in their footsteps. Students also researched host attorney biographies before each visit to ask focused questions.
Students selected field trips based on their own career aspirations. Emily O’Donnell of Cherry Hill, NJ, says she was motivated to visit the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office and the Women’s Law Project. “My goal is to work with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault either as a prosecutor or a non-profit attorney,” she said. “At the Women’s Law Project, we learned about their legislative advocacy work, especially concerning the FBI’s definition of rape, and that work that is really intriguing.”
What Lawyers Expect of Law Students
While culture, even attire, differs between firms, some things remain consistent across practices. Alison Armendinger of Cherry Hill, NJ, said, “The best way for a summer associate or intern to deal with mistakes is to address them immediately.”
Makayla Newman of Petersburg, Alaska noticed that, whether at the Camden Prosecutors’ Office, the mid-sized law firm Stevens & Lee, or the non-profit Women's Law Project, “supervising attorneys were busy and expected summer law students to research and write well.”
Taylor Bellman, of Southampton, Pennsylvania added, “Supervising attorneys are looking for summer interns who respect their time and are confident enough to ask questions but humble enough to second guess their answers.”
Several students learned that attorneys handle multiple cases at once. “From that, I realized how important it is to be concise and efficient in conducting legal research as a summer intern to meet the expectations of a supervising attorney,” Emily said.
Coming Full Circle
Dan Moeller `21 said hosting a group of first-year students was a full-circle moment. “When I was a 1L, field trips to visit lawyers provided me with an invaluable look inside different kinds of law practices, helping me determine my own career path,” he said. “It was exciting being on the other side, helping 1Ls forge their own paths.”
Similarly, Stevens & Lee partner Brad Kushner `09 said talking with first-year students reminds him of the privilege to do work that he really enjoys. He added, “This year's group was inquisitive and diverse. They asked insightful questions about the intersection of employment law with current events and the impact of recent Supreme Court decisions. The future of the profession is in good hands.”
Professor Ricks extends gratitude and appreciation to hosting attorneys Sohana (Barot) Sethi, Ahmed Bahgat, Amal Bass, Brad Kushner, Rachel Lamb, Jamal Hill, Daniel Moeller, Christine Castro, and Sharon Gagliardi.