November 16, 2020
By Ivy Attenborough and Niki Camateros-Mann
A good lawyer does not just win cases, they also develop connections with their community, colleagues and clients. This is a lesson that we and many of our peers have learned through our legal
Before law school, Niki worked as a patent classifier for a USPTO subcontractor and now as a legal coordinator for an intellectual property specialty firm, while Ivy worked as a director of marketing for a personal injury law firm. One of the ways we have learned about the impact of connecting with the community is through pro bono work.
Niki was invited to travel to Zambia on behalf of the firm she worked for with three colleagues to distribute 150 bicycles to communities in need with World Bicycle Relief. During this trip, Niki had the opportunity to witness how owning a bicycle could change the lives of Zambians. Before owning a bicycle, many teenage women often dropped out of school to focus on their chores. With a bicycle, women were able to complete their chores and travel long distances to school in enough time to continue their education.
In addition to visiting schools, Niki also delivered bicycles to a medical center allowing medics to visit more patients each day. Niki experienced a feeling of gratitude and generosity from those she
Working in administrative roles can help incoming law students learn how to connect with colleagues throughout different departments in a firm. Students that work in administrative roles learn the structure of law firms and how each department plays an essential role. In this way, they often gain an appreciation for the amount of work and expectations that are required of each department.
Jacob Rocchi, a fellow 1L student, worked as a legal assistant for an intellectual property law firm on the administrative side. He says he recognized his administrative role was vital to ensure the firm’s records remained current and accurate, which is an appreciation he will carry with him after graduating from law school. Ivy also learned to appreciate the value of understanding other people’s jobs in order to help the firm function better as a team. In her position, she assisted in any job that needed to be completed, from touring billboards to covering the reception desk. No one was above doing other jobs and this allowed the entire law firm to function as one.
Our positions also required constant client communication. We learned how to effectively communicate with clients by simplifying otherwise complicated legal concepts. Most importantly, we learned that clients value quick responses and thorough communication. Because we have experienced supporting our own clients, we feel confident about receiving our own clients as attorneys.
Coda Campbell, a 1L student, says she feels more comfortable about beginning her career as a lawyer because she had the opportunity to learn from newly hired attorneys that were recent law school graduates. Prior to beginning law school Campbell worked as a legal assistant at a firm that primarily handles family law.
“I saw where they struggled and where they excelled. So I feel better prepared to face those obstacles as well,” she says.
Campbell also says she appreciates the connection between her work experiences and the content of her classes so far.
“Being able to relate a lot of what I am learning now to things I am familiar with—I cannot express how grateful I am for that—I am so thankful to have had this solid baseline understanding before diving into this.”
1L student, Arash Sayyah, observes that his previous legal work has aided in his understanding of course material. Through his experience as a Technology Specialist/Scientist at an intellectual property law firm, he learned research and writing skills that he recognizes from lectures in Legal Research and Information Literacy and Legal Analysis and Writing.
Experience in the legal field prior to law school can help diminish the anxieties of the unknown and allow students to focus better during the 1L year. From specific hard skills, to a general increased confidence and optimism towards their careers, any experience inside the legal field before committing to law school is a valuable asset to bring.
Niki Camateros-Mann is a first-year law student at UNH Law and a Legal Coordinator at Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox P.L.L.C.
Ivy Attenborough is a first-year law student at UNH Law and a monthly contributor to Bar News.