ExpndYour Sorons Su me AThE

AThE Su me
May 2011
HeinOnline -- 39 Student Law. 22 2010-2011
Spend time in a courtroom, Many
law students have never or rarely
observed actual court proceedings. Consequently, they are studying their law
courses in a vacuum. Take the opportunity this summer to sit in the public
galleries at the courthouses in your
local area. Choose a variety of courts to
observe across the court hierarchy and
subject matters: federal, state, criminal,
family, traffic, and more.
Through observation, you will gain
knowledge about the daily professional
lives of judges and lawyers. You will
observe good and bad examples of skills
needed in the courtroom. You will see
how the legal process impacts peoples'
lives: plaintiffs, victims, defendants, and
their families. You may even have the
opportunity to network with lawyers
and judges once they realize that you
are a law student sincerely interested in
learning more about our legal system.
Make a difference in your legal
community. Participate in pro bono
activities available in your area. Your assistance will not only give you new skills, but
it also will benefit those who are often the
most vulnerable citizens. Contact legal aid
and nonprofit legal services to see how you
might add value to their work. Consider
training as a Court Appointed Special
Advocate, mediator, or hotline volunteer.
Talk to local bar groups about providing
volunteer administrative assistance on
committee projects. Volunteer to undertake research for a solo practitioner.
Make a difference in your
greater community. Volunteer
regularly for a worthy cause in your
area. Your time will be invaluable to
nonprofits and neighborhood groups.
Law students who volunteer can gain
compassion, become aware of how
privileged they are to attend law school,
and sometimes discover a passion that
becomes their legal calling. In addition,
law student volunteering improves the
image of the legal profession as a whole.
Build houses with Habitat for Humanity. Serve meals at a soup kitchen.
Walk dogs at an animal shelter. Tutor
for an adult literacy program. With each
task, consider how the specific clients
are affected by larger legal issues: landlord disputes, benefits eligibility, animal
cruelty, underemployment.
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Become an armchair critic.
Movies and television series with legal
themes abound. Whether you choose
drama or comedy, you can evaluate the
offerings for their legal accuracy and
perspectives on justice and the profession. Test your knowledge of court procedure, evidence, ethics, and doctrinal
law. "Can they really do that legally?" "Is
that the correct procedure?" Such questions give you an opportunity to research
the law and expand your knowledge.
If you are staying local for the summer, your law school library or public
library may have an extensive DVD
collection for circulation. An Internet
search for "list of legal movies" will
garner a number of website sources.
Whether you prefer classics such as
To Kill a Mockingbird and 12 Angry
Men or newer films such as Presumed
Innocent and Conviction, you will have
a great deal to choose from for your
viewing pleasure.
Switch your legal reading from
cases and statutes to nonfiction.
Autobiographies, biographies, books
about famous trials, and legal histories
can expand your understanding of the
events, lawyers, and judges so instrumental in shaping our legal system. Read
volumes on jurisprudence and ethics to
expand your depth of knowledge. An
Internet search for "list of legal nonfiction" will provide a starting point. Law
schools often have suggested reading
lists for first-year students. Ask your law
librarian for a referral to a bibliography.
Escape with legal fiction. Legal
novels and plays provide both entertainment and an opportunity to evaluate the
accuracy of the legal details. Choose legal
literature from a variety of countries and
historical periods. Dickens, Grisham,
Kafka, Lee, and Turow are just a few of
the well-known authors in legal fiction.
An Internet search for "list of legal novels"
will provide you with many suggestions
for summer reading. Once again, your
law library may have a suggested reading
list and multiple titles in its collection.
Update yourself on news
events and politics. It is easy in the
midst of a busy academic year to catch
only the headlines and skip most news
coverage. During the summer, take time
to read several major newspapers online
daily. Watch a selection of television commentators with opposite political leanings
(even if they make your blood boil) and critique their opinions carefully. Immerse
yourself in local, regional, and national news. Analyze whether the popular media is
reporting legal coverage accurately or oversimplifying complex legal issues. Watch
for law-related stories that build on courses from prior semesters.
Explore a new legal topic. Your law school may not offer courses on a topic
that intrigues you or scheduling conflicts may prevent your enrollment. Spend time
researching your interest on your own. Read basic legal sources to gain background.
Expand your expertise in a specialty area. You may want to pursue a
topic in more depth than prior classes allowed. Perhaps you wrote a paper that could
be expanded or taken in a different direction. Investigate whether your paper topic
could be developed for a writing competition entry. The American Bar Association
regularly lists its law student competitions in this magazine and its eNewsletters,
Local bar associations, law firms,
is not the only
option for a
and fulfilling
and law schools also sponsor
Gain a global perspective
through travel. Whether you
enroll in law school study abroad
courses or travel on your own,
you want to "trade your American
spectacles" for a deeper understanding of the values, perspectives, and culture of the countries
you visit. Go beyond mere tourist
sightseeing. Develop an under-
standing of the legal system by observing trials at local courthouses. Follow the
political, economic, and legal events in the local media. Consider your travels as
your own comparative law seminar and write down your observations.
Gain a global perspective through personal studies. Even if you cannot
afford to travel, you can still broaden your horizons by studying another culture.
Choose a country that interests you and learn more about it. Read books about the
country's culture, history, and people. Listen to its music. Watch documentaries and
movies filmed in that location. Learn about its legal system. What historical, social,
and economic trends affected the emergence of the rule of law? Does the country
have a civil law or common law system? How is the legal profession organized?
What are the current legal tensions and issues?
Study a second language. Bilingual lawyers are highly sought after in
today's legal market. Consider enrolling in language courses at a local college. Teach
yourself the conversational basics through a home course. If you already have familiarity with another language, re-immerse yourself in it for the summer, Add legal
terms to your existing vocabulary for the language.
Be creative about expanding your legal horizons. Adding these strategies can
increase your legal skills, knowledge, and understanding. Paid employment is not
the only option for a productive and fulfilling summer.
AMY L JARMON (amyjarimonk ttu.eduL asistant dean for acadcmicccesporams at
Texias Tech University School of Law, is a professor and coeditor of the Law School Academic
Support Blog. She has practiced law in the United Sates and the United Kingdom.
May 2011
American Bar Association
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