Clerking at Rice Law: Jessica Farmer

As a law student, I can say with a great degree of certainty that students hate it when a professor answers that one all-important question of “What should we expect for the exam?” with “Just be prepared, and you will be fine.” I am convinced that the sigh of devastation leaving the classroom can be heard around the world. When you hear that strange noise while you are sitting at home and ask, “what was that?.” Well, now you know; it is the sigh of disappointed students somewhere in the world who honestly believe that “Just be prepared,” is not any answer to any problem.

Well, in my short time working as a law clerk for Rice, Amundsen & Caperton, PLLC, I have seen more and more the value that exists in that wonderful, yet sometimes horrible little phrase. As a law clerk, I can honestly say that I have never seen an attorney approach a judge to ask, “Exactly what issues will you be focused on during the hearing next week, and what exactly do I need to say to win?.” Although, I must confess it would be interesting to see a judge’s reaction if someone ever tried that.

Law school is supposed to groom students to become attorneys, and as the faculty always say, it is supposed to teach us to “think like lawyers.” Well, if the professors were to just inform the class of all possible legal avenues they would be addressing and concerned with for the exams, students would not have any need to sit down and map out possible legal road maps in their minds beforehand. What a shame that would be!

Students are actually learning a valuable skill that will prove to be a necessary piece to the practice of law. Attorneys will always say that the best way to prepare for anything in a case is to know the facts, know the law, and be prepared. Always try to stay one step ahead. The question is, when have you reached one step ahead? When have you passed the opposing counsel’s preparation level? Ahhh, if only these questions were being asked of law professor, because the inevitable answer would be, “Just be prepared.”

If you are not preparing cases to your capacity, then you are not likely to be one step ahead. The important lesson here is to just prepare for any case as if the opposing counsel has a law professor sitting on his or her shoulder, saying “just be prepared,” just as we learned to do in preparation for law school exams.

Do not get me wrong, I would LOVE to know what is coming my way in my upcoming Legislation Law or Remedies exams, and I am sure that there are plenty of attorneys who would LOVE to have their next major trial issues scheduled and outlined with remarkable specificity for them. However, if we just follow the advice of so many who came before us and stay one step ahead, we will be prepared for whatever challenge comes along.

I am fortunate in that I am learning this at such an early stage in my life. I guess that when you have great teachers as a law clerk, you are fortunate enough to learn a lot of things a little sooner than the curve. That is just one step this law firm takes to make sure that future associates will “just be prepared.”

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