Clerking at Rice Law: by Chelsea Conn

The pressures of going to school and working can be extraordinary, but I have found that the key to getting through just about any situation is being prepared. Sometimes, you have to learn the value of preparation the hard way. Professors at law schools use something called the Socratic method in class, meaning they call on students at random to answer questions. This ensures that each student is prepared and ready to talk about the day’s assignment.

My first class in law school was a Torts class. The Professor called on a student, but she didn’t know the answer because she hadn’t read the assignment. Instead of making her leave, the professor decided that she should read the case while the class waited. It was an agonizing fifteen minutes for the class to sit silently while she read. Most of us could imagine ourselves in her position, and we felt embarrassed and sorry for her. After that, no one came to class unprepared, including her.

It is important for people to be prepared at school, but it is even more important for attorneys to be prepared at all times. I can’t think of a worse situation for an attorney than a judge deciding that a client should lose a case because their attorney was unprepared. It is one thing to lose a case, but it is unacceptable to cause harm to a client because of a lack of preparation.

Since preparation is so important, most of the time at the firm is working towards preparing a client’s case. All the ducks need to be in a row, so to speak, and everyone works towards keeping everything organized and updated. I think every attorney owes clients a duty to be prepared in front of the judge.

In the end, I think that is why professors use the Socratic method – to ensure that we are ingrained with the habit of staying prepared. If we can master the art of preparation, we can create new arguments and approaches to problems with ease. I am endlessly impressed with Mr. Rice’s focus on preparation at all levels of his firm. To my knowledge, no one at the firm has ever been unprepared to go to Court. Perhaps that is because that along with emphasizing preparation, the attorneys also have the qualities of competitive spirits and a genuine interest in their clients’ cause. Mr. Rice always stresses that the law is supposed to be fun, but I seriously doubt that anyone would be having fun losing cases because of their own personal failures. In order to have fun, you have to be prepared!

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