From clerkships to clinical assistantships to working as summer associates at firms, summer legal work helps students gain practical skills and experiences that benefit them during law school and beyond. This is the third profile in a series featuring the summer job experience of UW Law students. Find more profiles in our Summer Job Series.
Henry Weiner '14
Clinical Law Student, Neighborhood Law Clinic
Describe your summer work experience.
At the Neighborhood Law Clinic (NLC), I am essentially a practicing attorney. I interview clients, make decisions on what cases to take on, write memos to our supervising attorney, demand letters to the opposition, and many other tasks a licensed attorney does on a daily basis. Our focus at the NLC is landlord/tenant and employment law. We also occasionally handle public benefits cases. We take on clients who would not otherwise be able to afford an attorney. I have had a tremendous summer, learning more than I ever have before.
What has surprised you about the work you are doing?
The most surprising, yet also the most exciting, is the amount of freedom and discretion we are allowed. When we ask Professor Mitch, our supervising attorney, a question about what our next step should be in a case, his usual answer is “What do you think we should do?” And he means it. He encourages us to first think through the questions on our own and encourages us to make the tough choices necessary in law practice. For example, the important strategic decision of whether to write a stern demand letter to a landlord or simply conduct a more friendly problem-solving phone conversation is in the clinical students’ hands. We are pointed in the right direction and then allowed to research and find the answers ourselves. At the same time, we have the safety net of our supervising attorney, who reviews and approves all of our work. He gives us feedback and guidance while allowing us to make strategic, professional decisions judgments that are our own. It is a large responsibility and a daily challenge and I love it.
How do you think this work experience will shape the rest of your time at UW Law School?
I think my NLC experience will give me a true real-world perspective on a great majority of my coursework. The sometimes-abstract idea of “Law In Action” is much more concrete to me now, and my schoolwork will benefit from it. Being able to put the word of the law into the context of real people and real problems is extremely valuable for a future lawyer.
What classes have been particularly useful in preparing you for the work you are doing this summer?
Legal Research and Writing was particularly useful in preparing me for the daily research and writing I do at the NLC. Contracts also taught me to read everything closely and appreciate how different people can have different, yet equally reasonable, interpretations of the same text.
Submitted by Law School News on May 13, 2015