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How to Properly Use a Summer Clerk

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I don’t work at the largest of firms so I tend to savor the small, simple things that my BigLaw brethren take for granted.  Yes, we both have a smart phone, running water in the bathrooms, and a paycheck that usually clears when deposited, but we don’t have the same level of support staff.  Having to engage in a much more basic level on more fronts simply means I just do not have enough hours in the day to get everything that I need to do done.

Enter the summer law clerk.

For the last couple of years we’ve opened our doors to young lad or lass seeking to pad his or her resume with “legal experience” and we get to lighten our workloads by dumping all of the mindless bitch work that tends to overwhelm the lawyers at my firm.  My clerk is a rising 3L that worked in a litigation firm last summer so he has some idea of what is going on in our professional world.  He understands that I am fairly easygoing when it comes to the practice of law, that I am trying to actually teach him something (i.e. bring my gin martini with three bleu cheese stuffed olives, etc.) and that I am willing to accept mistakes as long as he realizes that my mockery is not to be taken seriously.

The way we approach our summer clerks is by viewing this as a system of tradeoffs:

Clerk’s New Resume Entry

My Replacement Activity

Client communication

Drafting of pleadings

Angry Birds

Answering Discovery

Three Martini Lunch

Document review

Leave Early

Deposition preparation with client


Court appearance

Ssshhhh don’t tell anyone that I was napping!

You get the picture: more experience for the clerk, less work for you.

Today is a shining example of the difference a law student makes.  I returned from a pretty shitty two hour stay at the courthouse, vented my frustration to him, then proceeded to dump a bunch of discovery on his desk, told him to “finish this now” and in several hours it was done.  What’d I do while he was diligently doing my work?  Sat on the phone yelling at a know-nothing ignoramus at the power company. If I tried to do billable work while I was stewing about getting my assed kicked my an incompetent judge, it would have been a mess. This way, I was able to meet a court ordered deadline and get my power turned on at my new condo.

Like I said, it’s a summer thing around these parts.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating giving your clerk all of your responsibilities so that the State Bar comes asking about the unauthorized practice of law so that your bosses think you’ve checked out for the summer.  I am merely suggesting a managing lawyer engage in the proper utilization of his or her time so that he/she/hebeshebe does not think that this lawyering thing is easy.  Because it clearly is not. (See Generally Rakofsky v. the Internet.)

As each of you start to break in that eager, young law student this summer I suggest you work that young legal eagle to the point that they reconsider their final year of law school.  When they’ve reached that breaking point due to the amount of the work you’ve given them coupled with a criticism induced neuroses, smile at them kindly and offer to buy them a Starbuck's.

All will be forgiven.  Trust me.  The clerk is working for free.

[Read more from The Namby Pamby]

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