Transitioning From Classroom to Clinic - What I Didn't Expect

This is my first time being a part of a Legal Clinic and honestly it was not what I was expecting. To be totally truthful, I’m not sure what my expectations were going into it. All I knew was that it would be a great opportunity because I would be getting hands on experience working with clients and improving my research skills.  What I did NOT expect was to be pushed so far outside of my comfort zone that I would break down in tears in front of my professor.

Being a part of a Legal Clinic is completely different than being in class and learning about the law. In a class the professor tells you what to read, what to research, and that there is an answer out there to my questions. In the Clinic, Professor Lawton does guide you, to some extent, but you have to figure out what to research. And sadly, there is no easy answer to your client’s legal question. I learned that lesson the hard way. I spent several hours researching, searching every database I could think of and came up with no answer. To my astonishment, when I told the professor that I tried and could not find the answer, a tiny smirk appeared on her face. She knew I would do that, and she knew there would be no answer. I found out that I would have to come up with the answer myself, by reading statutes, case law, executive orders, state polices, etc. I was dumbfounded, I just couldn’t believe it, and finding out this awful truth only added to my stress.

Transitioning from classroom to Clinic has definitely been one frustrating process for me. I keep expecting the professor to tell me what do, what to research, where I can find everything I need. But instead she just looks at me, and calmly says, “Well what do you think you should do next? What do you think you need to research to provide a sufficient answer to your client?” And I cannot express just how frustrating and annoying that is! And I know she asks me these questions to prepare me for the real world, because when I am out there working my boss won’t tell me what to do or what to research; I will have to figure all that out on my own. So, even though I appreciate my professor for taking the time to teach me how to be an effective lawyer, it still frustrates me to no end.

But even though this is an EXTREMELY frustrating and stressful process, I am so grateful to be experiencing it. Professor Lawton is one of the hardest, most honest, and best professors I have ever had. She makes me want to do better and keep trying, because she told us as long as we don’t give up, she won’t give up on us. And since I can use all the help I can get, I will not be giving up. I will continue to push myself and I know I will stumble along the way, but that’s ok, because I know Professor Lawton will be there to show me why I stumbled and how I can avoid stumbling in the future.