This article continues the Career Brief series featuring two stories every week from current 2L students who agreed to answer for PDO, How I Spent My Summer. These stories are posted on the bulletin board outside of PDO’s offices.
John “Jack” Nelson: Law Clerk, Datsopoulos, McDonald & Lind P.C., Missoula, Montana
How did you learn about the job? When I was back in Montana over Christmas break, I approached a familyfriend who is a partner at the firm where I eventually ended up working. I sent her an email and asked if they would be potentially interested in hiring someone going to school out of state, and set up a brief time to meet her at the firm. She was more than happy to meet, and ended up extending an offer to me to work that still allowed me to go through the OCI process. This may be unusual, but the pay scale was a lot lower, so I think I was net profit for them and she was certainly doing me a favor as a family friend. I figured if you have any sort of connections why not use them?
How did you apply and what was the application process like? I sent Becky Summerville, the partner who hired me, a résumé, transcript and writing sample, but I believe the bulk of the decision came after meeting with her. It was certainly less formal than the OCI process, but it wasn’t a sure thing before I even showed up. I treated it like any other interview; it just happened that I knew the interviewer.
What was a typical day or week at your job like? A typical day involved a fair amount of computer time, and unfortunately I was working in a cubicle. Because one partner hired me, the bulk of my work, especially at the beginning of the summer, stemmed from her and those working with her. Later on, if I needed work, I would send out an interoffice memo looking for work, and take whatever work from a partner or associate that was given me. The bulk of it was research memoranda, but I did some affidavit and discovery prep, preliminary motion and supporting brief drafting, and even got to drive a car back to the office from impound one day.
What was the coolest part about the job? It was a great chance to see the rubber meet the road, and to find out that you really do have what it takes to be able to be a real world attorney. Because the firm I was at has a very broad practice, I worked in real estate, bankruptcy, complex-environmental and even criminal law. It was a great to be able to see all sorts of different practice areas and how they compare.
What did you gain from the experience? It helped show you that there is certainly still a lot to learn when it comes to the practical application of the law. How motions, briefs and other documents are filed and interacting with the rest of the staff in the office was a great learning experience.
What advice would you offer future applicants? Apply to anywhere you would be willing work, and be flexible. If you don’t quite make the hiring criteria, still apply, and give them a reason to consider you in the cover letter. The more you put yourself out there, without being rude or pushy, the more likely something will come your way. I didn’t do that well first semester, but I still managed to find a job, and knock on wood it will lead to another one. Also, be ready for 9-5 sit down job that involves a lot of solo computer time. It is unfortunate, but it’s the nature of the beast. Also, be ready for that same kind of unknown feeling you just had all first year, especially if it’s a smaller, less structured program.
Hailey Black: Intern, U.S. Army JAG Corps, Ft. Sam Houston, San Antonio, TX
How did you learn about the job? I became interested in JAG through speaking with other students and listening to the Army JAG recruiter’s presentation. I had lunch with a former Navy JAG and wrote to a Coast Guard JAG, so I could ask all of the questions that I had prior to applying for the internship.
How did you apply and what was the application process like? I sent in an application packet during Spring OCI of my 1L year. It included a form application which I filled out, transcripts, résumé, personal statement, and photography. I was notified that I was selected for the internship in early April, and received my assignment to San Antonio a few weeks later.
What was a typical day or week at your job like? I rotated through three different law offices, so my schedule varied a little between each office. I did physical training with the Garrison Office of the SJA Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This ranged from a four mile run, followed by pushups and situps to a bike ride through the San Antonio missions, to a game of soccer. On these days, my workday began at 9:00 a.m. I was given assignments and a mentor to go to for help on each assignment, but worked independently.
My first office, U.S. Army North, handled North American military operations law. There, I attended budget and command meetings, and reviewed and edited course materials for the JAG school. I then rotated t o the Garrison Office of the SJA. I was assigned to Administrative Law, and worked on a variety of projects. I reviewed and approved administrative separations, wrote legal memorandum on environmental issues surrounding development projects near Camp Bullis, and researched administrative issues concerning civilian uniforms and gifts to wounded warriors. My final assignment was with Trial Defense Services. At TDS, I as assigned a case and worked it from beginning to end. I interviewed all key witnesses, created a theme for the case, wrote direct and cross examination questions, and worked with my supervisor on closing arguments.
What was the coolest part about the job? The best part of the job was seeing the results of my work. I got to attend a public hearing on Camp Bullis development projects, where the lead environmental attorney presented my research. I testified in the case I worked on for TDS, so I did not get to observe the trial until after I testified. However, we got a full acquittal for the client, who broke down crying in the courtroom afterward. There is no feeling as great as putting your full time and effort into a case and getting the outcome you want.
What did you gain from the experience? I gained a lot from my summer experience. I have some great writing samples through my work in administrative law. I learned the rules of evidence and criminal procedure hands on, which will help me in my courses this year. I met some amazing lawyers from a law schools throughout the nation.
What advice would you offer future applicants? If you have never thought about the military, you should look into it. It is an amazing learning experience, where you will get to work with diverse—from from both top 10 law schools and fourth-tier law schools. The JAG Corps provides a regular 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. You get to work out, and you have the opportunity to travel the world. If you are interested, put in an application and see what happens. JAG recruiters look for more than just grades, so stay active and participate in law school activities.