Let’s take a look at a day I recently had.
9:00 a.m. Smoothies with an associate
- Location: Mother Juice
- Purpose: To beg for advice
- Summary: Anyone who has interacted with me at the firm this past week knows which project I am simultaneously the most excited about and the most terrified of doing—namely, my pro bono assignment with Greater Boston Legal Services (“GBLS”). For all my readers who might be unfamiliar with the organization, GBLS provides free civil (non-criminal) legal assistance to low-income people in Boston. One of the reasons I picked WilmerHale for my summer associateship is the firm’s partnership with GBLS. During the summer months, GBLS refers some of its unemployment insurance cases to WilmerHale, which the firm then assigns to summer associates who volunteer for the task. This allows GBLS to take on more clients and provide more assistance to the greater Boston community.
As a former union organizer, the desire to know how to effectively advocate for workers pushed me to apply to law school. I admired the lawyers at GBLS, and I hoped to be able to help workers within the Boston community navigate the legal system. Thus, I jumped at the opportunity to participate in this WilmerHale summer program. Within my second week at the firm, I had a client contesting the denial of her unemployment insurance, with a hearing, run by yours truly, already scheduled in front of the Boston Department of Unemployment Assistance for the week of June 17th.
Confession time: It took until the first time my supervising attorney and I met with my client on June 6th for me to realize a very important fact. I’ve never had a client.
That’s a terrifying realization to have as someone is sitting across from you, describing her past work situation, counting on you to help her fight for the unemployment insurance to which she is entitled. At the hearing, my job would be…well…everything. I would have to prepare and perform a direct examination, a cross examination, a closing statement, and a proposed finding of fact and law.
I spent the week between June 6th and June 13th just about how you would expect—or, buried in an unemployment manual, furiously drafting legal analyses, and reading books on how to ask questions (which is surprisingly harder than you would expect from watching Law & Order).
All of this to say that this morning meeting for smoothies consisted of me asking a more experienced WilmerHale litigation associate to give me any advice to cross her mind about how to be an effective unemployment lawyer.
9:45 a.m. Help Felicia Ellsworth prepare for a MCLE presentation
- Location: 60 State Street (my office, I just like the address)
- Purpose: Try to provide something useful
- Summary: This assignment seems random if you just read the whole summary of my last meeting. The great thing about being a WilmerHale summer associate is that amazing assignments do not come one at a time. So, at the same time I was prepping for my second-ever client meeting, I also had the opportunity to help a partner at the firm who I greatly admire prepare for a lesson she will give some of the state’s most accomplished appellate lawyers next week. After three hours of research, I contributed two quotes to the presentation. These two quotes earned me an invite to the conference next week, where everyone from WilmerHale partners to First Circuit Court of Appeals judges will be speaking.*
*Disclaimer: The quotes were not worth that.
12:00 p.m. Lobster Roll Lunch
- Location: James Hook
- Purpose: Prepare Kim for client meeting (translation: get Kim to stop panicking)
- Summary: At the same time that WilmerHale is investing in GBLS and its mission, the firm is also kind enough to be investing in me. As previously stated, everything about having a client is a learning experience for me; however, the firm has not left me to learn on my own. Instead, they’ve assigned me an amazing attorney, Stephen Provazza, to supervise me through this experience.
Like any good mentor, Stephen took the time to hype me up before the client meeting, giving me advice and letting me practice my direct examination questions. Going above and beyond, he had us do this over a meal of lobster rolls outside in the sun.
2:00 p.m. Meet with client for second time
- Location: WilmerHale Conference Room, 60 State Street
- Purpose: Practice for Tuesday’s unemployment hearing
- Summary: The client meeting happened! I brought my direct examination questions, and we practiced answering them for the hearing next week. Stephen turned to me and asked how I felt at the end. The only description I could think of was “incompetent.” But the two of us are going to fight for this client, and I am working as hard as I can to be the best advocate I can be.
6:00 p.m. Lawyers for Civil Rights
- Location: State Room, 60 State Street
- Purpose: Awards recognition event (#LegalWarriors)
- Summary: I ended my day as a guest at an awards reception for Lawyers for Civil Rights. This event could have been a whole post of its own. But, as someone who spent the whole day panicking about her own advocacy skills, one moment in particular stood out. Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins was the keynote speaker, and outside of being just generally amazing, she ended the talk with a message to the room that I will now carry with me:
“Our civil and constitutional rights are under attack. You no longer have any excuse not to be involved. As my military dad would say: ‘Lead, follow, or get out of the way.’”
10:00 p.m. Bedtime
- Location: Brookline
- Purpose: Get ready to do this all again tomorrow
- Summary: I went to bed thinking about Rachael Rollins, the moment I shook her hand, and how fortunate I was to have WilmerHale providing me with the opportunities to lead and to follow strong leaders in the law. I have no plans to get out of the way.