In my prior post I discussed the excitement I felt about beginning my 3L year, and in particular becoming a member of NYU’s Business Law Transactions Clinic. Participating in the clinic has been an amazing experience so far for a number of reasons:
- Diversity of Client Work.
My partner and I have been assigned to represent three clients—a social enterprise, a small business, and an academic institution—who have very diverse needs and goals. We have worked on issues relating to employment law and data ownership and transfer (my personal favorite), and have even helped guide a committee through the legal obstacles of creating an academic program. Although my partner and I did not have particular expertise in any of these fields before the clinic began, under the guidance of our supervising attorneys, we have become knowledgeable in the most important and relevant aspects of these fields as they pertain to representing our clients. We have used this newfound knowledge to assist our clients in a way that meets their goals, business or otherwise.
Adequately assisting our three clients has required us to hone various types of lawyering skills. In drafting memorandums and an executive summary, we have worked on writing concisely and persuasively. When presenting clients with recommendations regarding best practices and compliance with applicable laws and standards, we have seen the importance of listening closely to their concerns and goals, while being assertive, confident, and eloquent in explaining the reasoning behind our recommendations. In drafting legal documents, such as term sheets and contract provisions, we have recognized the significance of writing accurately and carefully. These experiences and improved skills will no doubt help us become more effective attorneys upon graduation.
- Client Contact.
As I highlighted in my previous post, I was particularly excited about the clinic because of its potential to provide me with substantial client-contact experience. The amount of client contact has exceeded my expectations. On an almost daily basis, my partner and I (under the approval of our supervising attorneys) have had substantive contact with our clients through emails, conference calls, or in-person meetings. This level of contact has not only allowed us to better understand the needs and goals of our clients, but has also given us the chance to practice the best methods for effectively communicating with clients from different fields and in different stages of business development.
- Guidance from Supervising Attorneys.
The clinic is structured similarly to a mini-corporate law firm (Washington Square Legal Services, Inc.), where there are junior associates (the student members), senior associates (the NYU fellows), and partners (the clinic professors). The clinic would not be able to function were it not for the guidance of these dedicated and knowledgeable supervising attorneys. In weekly office-hour sessions, my partner and I meet with our supervising attorneys in order to plan the next steps in our client representation. These office-hour sessions are invaluable because we are able to learn how experienced attorneys would handle the issues we are asked to resolve for our clients—from the most routine to the thorniest. There is nothing like learning the ins and outs of creating an employee handbook from a former general counsel who has years of experience solving employment law issues and structuring employment policies.
The supervising attorneys also provide us with detailed feedback on our written work and oral presentations to clients. We are not just given line-by-line corrections of our work, but rather are provided with comments about best practices for legal writing in various contexts. After oral presentations with clients, we usually have debriefing sessions where we discuss how the meeting went and ways we can improve next time. Internalizing this feedback will make us more competent and successful attorneys upon graduation.
- Practical Seminar Sessions.
The one aspect of the clinic that I was not looking forward to was the seminar component. After enjoying my summer working at a large law firm, I applied to the clinic because I wanted to continue gaining experience outside of the classroom. However, the clinic’s seminar sessions have exceeded my expectations because of how they are geared toward teaching us the practical skills necessary to become successful corporate attorneys. Each week we are given interactive presentations from attorneys in different practice areas such as intellectual property, information privacy, employment law, real estate transactions, and nonprofit law. Not only do these attorneys provide us with background information about their fields, but they also give us insight into how attorneys in these fields work to understand and further the business interests of their clients. It is one thing to take an intellectual property survey course to learn about what patent prosecution entails, but another thing to hear an experienced patent attorney discuss the internal business considerations of a company deciding whether it is cost-effective to apply for a patent or bring a patent infringement suit, and the attorney’s involvement in such considerations. In most of the sessions the visiting attorneys also have us think through and comment on the legal implications of hypothetical transactions or sample contracts, and revise or draft contract provisions. There is something invaluable about getting the chance to practice drafting a contentious contract provision, and then learning how an attorney from a Fortune 50 corporation would analyze the same provision and negotiate it in a way that gets the deal done.
I was correct to be “clinically” excited for 3L year, as my experience in NYU’s Business Law Transactions Clinic has been even more fulfilling than I anticipated! I look forward to the rest of our intellectually stimulating seminar sessions, and successfully wrapping up our client representation.