If my first week was about getting to know my colleagues, my second week was about letting everyone get to know me. I was fortunate enough to have the perfect icebreaker: I recently won an essay competition held by the Local Bar Association, and my article was recently published in their Magazine. Quite a few of the attorneys I work with are aspiring or published writers, so having an article of my own to discuss with them was ideal.
Judging by the responses I received, I’m going to need a lot more published articles. Rather than having to interrupt someone in their office simply to introduce myself, I was able to connect with a group of interested writers. I even picked up a few tricks from their feedback!
Having a shared interest with the attorneys I work with has made work that much more enjoyable. It’s a good thing too, because there’s so much work to be done. In fact, the workload is one of the best parts of my new externship. We probably spend more time in court in one week than I did all of last semester. While the work is less complex, both legally and factually, I know that the increased time I spend in court will be a huge benefit for me.
As an aspiring trial lawyer, I need to become so comfortable in the courtroom that I can make a jury feel comforted by my presence. I know that by soothing the natural aversion most people have to merely being in the courtroom, I will be a more compelling advocate. But I have a far way to go until I reach that goal. Although I’ve spent my first two weeks wisely, and I feel that I’ve completed quality work and established good working relationships, I know that I’m still a courtroom outsider.
If you’ll forgive the lengthy analogy, it’s a bit like how I go swimming at the beach: I arrive with a car loaded full of everything I’ll need (chairs, beach blankets, an umbrella, a cooler full of drinks, etc), I step out onto the beach with flawless hair/makeup and the perfect outfit, I construct an elaborate beach cabana, put on more sunscreen, and walk towards the crashing surf with the confidence of a native Floridian. Then…just after getting my feet wet, I stop and say to myself, “OK, that’s enough swimming. Who knows how many sharks could be waiting out there! I think I’m better off here on dry land.”
Essentially, I feel like I have done all the preparation I possibly can, and that I need to just dive into the deep end head first. I’m terrified of the mistakes I’m going to make. I feel like I’m going to embarrass myself in front of the judge so badly that I get thrown out of the courtroom. But at the same time, I know that if I keep thinking that way, I will always have an excuse to fear the courtroom and never overcome that fear. So, my mission for week three is to try to speak on the record as much as possible. I need to stop playing it safe up on shore. I can’t be a shark until I can swim.