It is a truth universally acknowledged that a summer associate in possession of a good sense of enthusiasm must be in want of “substantive work.”
So, it is perhaps an understatement to say that I—like any other eager law student—hoped to work on intriguing and exciting projects this summer. My expectations were realistic, but I wanted to work on assignments that would challenge me while also providing value to the attorneys and the matter at hand. After all, while I know that working as an attorney doesn’t always entail above-the-fold work, I wanted to get a taste of high-profile work.
I can happily report that, from the halfway point of my position, each project has been unique, interesting and important. I haven’t been given work simply to keep me busy this summer. Rather, it feels as though there are real stakes to the answers that I find, or sometimes don’t find (itself an answer). None of the research questions posed have had easy answers; on the contrary, many have presented additional complexity as issues of first impression.
One broad category of assignment I’ve been involved in this summer is research for ongoing litigation. Typically, this involves first a meeting with the assigning attorney, aiming to provide the background of the case before asking me to research caselaw on a discrete question or set of questions. Sometimes this is for issues that may arise during litigation as the attorneys think two or three steps ahead. At other times, a principle in a filing or communication will need support, and an attorney will ask for caselaw—often very quickly, with deadlines driving cases relentlessly forward.
I’ve also had the opportunity to work to answer questions posed by clients to which there are no clear answers. For one assignment, I waded through the complexities of Colorado water law to propose answers to a series of hypothetical questions asked by the client. In another, I’ve been researching the impact of wildfire on public lands and the people who use them. And, a legislative history assignment required phone calls with the state archives, listening to poor quality recordings, and combing through old documents for indications of legislative intent.
Next week, I will be involved in my first corporate group matter. I’m grateful to be at a firm that allows me an incredible amount of variety for the summer—and my first foray into the world of transactional law that will certainly stretch me in new ways (and likely humbling ones!). So far, the quality, variety and meaningfulness of the work I’ve been assigned has fulfilled my hopes for the summer and more.