Tuesday, October 13, 2015

An Open Letter to a Clinic Student at Mid-term

Dear Student,

We are halfway through the semester, and I still don’t know why you signed up for clinic. Sure, I know what you told me and what you put on the form, but I never really know. Perhaps you heard that clinic is a good way to jumpstart your GPA, in which case you have been misinformed. Perhaps you longed for the opportunity to use your legal skills to help someone. Perhaps one or two years of law school left you tottering on the brink of existential despair, and you needed something to remind you of why you wanted to be a lawyer.

Whatever your reasons, the reality of clinic is probably not what you imagined. And that’s how it always is. It's not what I imagined either. Clinic changes depending on the case, the client, the judge . . . who knows? Some hapless butterfly beating its wings in Waikiki?

But one thing that does not change is that clinic requires a lot of work. We ask you to learn and practice a whole new set of skills and often, after you have worked hard on something, we tell you that you didn’t do it right. And all of this happens against the backdrop of the rest of your life—classes, law review, trial team, a bad cold, a new romance, an old romance gone south, a roommate who might in fact be Satan, aging parents, a difficult commute.

So, what do I want from you at this point? I want you to succeed—to become a better writer, to think more clearly, to do right by your clients. And ultimately, I want you to soar—to find a great job, to lead a happy life, to make the world a better place.

I want you to prove wrong the mean fifth-grade teacher who pronounced you feckless, or to prove right your priest, your boss from your first summer job, or your mom, who believed you could do anything you set your mind to. I want you to grow as a person and as a lawyer. But as Bruce Stachenfeld observed, “the trainer can’t want it more than the fighter.”[1] So with just eight weeks left, make it count. Be kind, be creative, be brave, and, please, do the job you signed up for.



Your Clinical Law Prof

[1] Bruce Stachenfeld, Reinventing the Law Business: How to Train Super Associates (Part II), http://abovethelaw.com/2015/09/reinventing-the-law-business-how-to-train-super-associates-part-ii/


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Nice. I'm going to share with my students. Thanks, Faith, for providing a nice short cut as we do midterm evaluations next week!

Posted by: Virgil Wiebe | Oct 15, 2015 9:18:31 AM

Lovely letter. I couldn't help feeling some irritation, however, not at the writer or the feckless? student, but at the law schools that continue to do so little to create structures and practices that might help students recognize the importance of writing and "practice."

Posted by: John Warnock | Oct 21, 2015 11:12:19 AM

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