How I Got My First Summer Job: Shane Smith (SJQ 2013), Civil Clinic-UTA & Pro Bono Initiative Fellow
1.) Why did you come to law school?
I did a M.A. in Urban Planning prior to coming to law school, and worked as a professional planner for West Valley City. I also performed consulting work on my own for Enterprise, Utah. One of the aspects of the job was to develop city ordinances through which I had the opportunity to interact regularly with city attorneys, which I enjoyed. I also had (and continue to have) a strong interest in social justice, public interest and advocacy. For these reasons I decided to apply to law school.
2.) What did you do last summer?
I applied for the Civil Clinic through the Clinical Program, and was selected to work as a law clerk with the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) in their legal department. I also was selected as the Pro Bono Initiative Student Fellow for 2011-2012.
3.) Why did you decide to apply for a clinic?
PDO was contacted initially by UTA, which was seeking a legal intern who could deal with land use and condemnation issues. Because they were aware of my background in city planning, they encouraged me to apply. I was able to receive credit for this opportunity through the Clinical Program’s Civil Clinic.
4.) What did you do on a day-to-day basis?
I conducted a lot of research and drafted memos and motions concerning eminent domain cases, and spent a lot of time preparing for trial. Most of my work was focused on researching evidentiary issues for motion in limine.
5.) What was the best part about what you did over the summer? What did you learn?
The best part about the summer was really seeing the attorneys work together as a team. We met almost every Friday to talk about the stages of each of the cases UTA was involved in. We’d have litigation meetings where the attorneys could meet and ask for strategic advice as well as feedback. This was really great because it wasn’t about complete independence and individual performance, which you see in some professional environments. The attorneys were thoughtful about making sure that their co-workers weren’t overwhelmed and each of them did what they could to pitch in when needed. The social aspect about the position was really great. About ½ of the attorneys came from larger firms who had left because they wanted a different lifestyle. Although they were paid a lot less than they probably made at their firms, they still worked very hard.
I learned a lot about the pre-trial stages of litigation. It got me really interested in all of the work that takes place before going to trial, including motions to the court, the discovery process, hearings, etc.
6.) What advice do you have for the 1L’s who are thinking about what to do this summer?
My advice would be to keep your options open and consider the opportunities that may emerge not only through PDO, but the Clinical Department, through your own networking, from faculty members, etc. Opportunities can emerge from a lot of interesting places, and although I didn’t get paid for my work with UTA, I gained a lot of experience that I may not have had I turned down the offer.