By: Marcy Sheinwold
Lewis Johs Avallone Aviles, LLP
Seven years ago, under the gun to tackle a huge document review project related to a federal lawsuit, Lewis Johs Avallone Aviles hired two law students during the summer. From that early effort, our summer intern program developed and we now have eight interns working with us during the summer. During each semester of the school year, the firm mentors four interns. As a moderate size law firm, the firm never intended to commit to developing a summer intern program because we felt that it was really the purview of larger law firms. But over the years, the benefits that we accrued in working with the interns have changed our thinking. We recommend the investment of time and money. In fact, faced with tighter financial constraints, it is a program that we have continued because the multitude of benefits to the firm so outweigh the costs. However, the programs success depends on having one attorney coordinating the effort and the commitment of the partnership.
Today, law students still assist us with document review and research assignments, but they also help the firm in other ways, particularly with our trial preparation efforts. For example, law students in the summer program utilize the Internet to prepare expert profiles, ferret out information about identified experts on the “web,” track court websites to identify experts as defendants, and locate and secure expert transcripts for potential cross-examination. The extra internet research conducted by our summer interns on experts, particularly about our own experts, has helped us avoid unfortunate “surprises” at trial. In addition, law students at the firm have been asked to review and summarize medical records, index and catalogue plaintiff materials for direct and cross-examination, and set up trial notebooks.
But the overall benefits to the law firm are greater than the completion of the specific tasks assigned to the summer interns. In fact, at times the most significant benefits resulting from the firms summer intern program are the less tangible and harder to quantify human benefits. As part of our summer intern program, students get the opportunity to “shadow” many of our attorneys in court at conferences, at depositions, and even during trial. For those attorneys not usually thrust into the role of mentor, this gives them the opportunity to “shine” and teach their craft. Moreover, having student observers also puts everyone “on their toes,” enhancing attention to the work that is being done. Very much like physicians in hospitals with residents, attorneys with interns are under scrutiny for the most routine tasks because to the interns watching everything is new and as a result attorneys simply do a better job. The summer intern program has also helped us develop better working relationships with local law schools.
Interns in our program have also helped us learn more about ourselves. In preparation for a series of recent intern lunches at the end of the summer, we surveyed all our attorneys to find out what three things they felt a new lawyer should have to survive their first year as an associate. The results were illuminating careful listening and a sense of humor were highly recommended. Another year we asked our attorneys what three things should have been taught in law school that were not. In all, we feel that the summer intern program has been a two-way benefit, both to the interns and to the law firm.
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