Catie McLaughlin is a third-year Cooley student on externship with a law firm this term. She keeps a journal of her experiences. In this post, Catie notes an important way her externship has changed her.
During law school, I was always very confident. I always spoke up in class and I always got good grades. I was very outgoing and competitive. The very first day of the externship, I was scared out of my mind – I didn’t want to be a bother, I didn’t want to be annoying, I didn’t want to ask too many questions. When I got to the externship, I felt like my demeanor immediately changed. I became meek, self-conscious, and I started to question the quality of my work – something I never did before.
I have noticed since the beginning of the externship that I have become much more assertive when it comes to asking questions and making comments to other attorneys. It’s almost like I went back to how I was before the externship. Before, I cared so much what everyone thought about me – whether they thought I was stupid, or my idea was silly, or my comment was irrelevant. Now, after I have had several repeat assignments from the same attorney and a lot of “good jobs,” I feel like my confidence has come back.
Thus far, I have learned that a lawyer is much, much more than a law student who got good grades. A lawyer has to be sensitive to the needs of the client and the needs of the opposition. A lawyer needs to be creative. A lawyer has to be able to put herself in the shoes of others. A lawyer has to have perspective – not just hers, but must be able to look at the perspectives of others. To be all of these things, an attorney has to speak up and not be so afraid of what others think. At the end, I’m glad I did because I am getting much more out of the experience than had I kept my mouth shut.