Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Importance of Asking Questions by Justin Steele

            When I first started here at Rice, Amundsen & Caperton I was told that I should ask as many questions as was necessary to get the job done right.   I was, of course, reluctant to do that because I believed that it would seem like dumb questions or like I was less capable than other people in the office.  However, the truth of the matter is that everyone asks questions and asks a lot of questions.  I quickly learned the value of making sure to get all the information on the front end. 
            All of the staff here and Larry himself are very accepting and understanding of asking a lot of questions.  When I get a new assignment or project I spend a significant amount of time asking questions.  Who is it for?  What’s the story behind this?  What are we trying to accomplish?  How long do I have to get it done?  Where do you want me to send it, file it, save it?  In my opinion, this is one of the most fundamental skills of working in a law office.  Whether it’s a big firm with big name clients, or a small firm, cases get complicated and it can be difficult to know about all the developments or positions that need to be taken.  Therefore, we ask a lot of questions.
           While asking questions is fundamental to understanding the goals and tasks that are assigned to you, it is not the only thing that we do to make sure everyone is on the same page.  We spend time discussing the cases in meetings and trying to figure out the best way to approach each case.  These meetings are the place where law clerks like me get to sit down and ask a lot of questions and see how attorneys organize and strategize in complex litigation.  Asking questions in and out of meetings and before or during assignments is the best way to start learning the practice of law.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Legal Field and Innovation by Bo Murphy

In law we have an affinity for unique and old things, like historic court houses, old cases that set precedents that have been followed for generations, and hard copies in our hands. However, as almost all fields in everyday life are transforming to being “Green” and more sustainable, the legal field in most places is intent on staying the way they have been, and is reluctant to change. While this is not exceptionally bad that we do not want to change, and perhaps a lot of change is not needed because the law field is dictated by formalities, some parts of the field can and should be revolutionized.
            In any courtroom trial, both sides will have tens of boxes filled with paper that costs the client a varying amount per page, and it is not just the lawyer’s way of getting money out of the client, all of this printing is required.  When someone goes to court to file a document, they must have several copies of each document, and each party must get a paper copy. While we understand the reason for this, it can become costly in both mailing and printing for the client, and with our technology today, we should be able to minimize these costs through electronic means, instead of having to pay for the printing of four separate counterparts and the shipping to the respective counsel we should be able to electronically mail each party a copy.
            While some counties have now institutionalized filing and made filing available electronically, still many, many, many others continue to insist on in personam filings and do not have electronic means to allow filing. For instance, if there is a trial a county over from where the attorney hired is located, most jurisdictions require someone from that office to personally drive to the respective court clerk to file the document, which expenses time, resources, and the client’s hard earned money, when the technology is more than capable of reducing these costs by electronic means.
            Some may think of this is as a completely ignorant idea and believe that there is no place for a complete electronic take over in the legal field, and they are correct. I have not said that everything should be electronic; I understand that some things must be in hard copy, but I firmly believe that other things should be allowed to be sent electronically, not in paper form. I further think that having the documents on a computer and sending them electronically to the court in preparation for trial instead of having to print of thousands of pages of documents in preparation for trial would be the more responsible and a much more cost effective way to conduct business in the future. Will this happen any time soon, the answer is affirmatively “No,” but will it happen in the future, I will just say it is hard to imagine it not.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Meetings by Justin Steele

            This past Friday we closed the doors and hung up the phones a little early so that we could have an end of the month meeting.  Everyone here at Rice, Amundsen & Caperton works very hard but they also knows how to have a good time and actually enjoys being around each other. These meetings are some of my favorite times at work.  There is always a purpose to the meetings (this time it was bonuses) which is nice. However, my favorite part sitting back with everyone and telling stories, jokes and just having a good time.
            In my opinion, it’s a rare thing that staff in an office is willing to stay past five on a Friday for anything, much less an informal meeting.  The fact that the majority of the staff was here and laughing along until past six is a good indicator of what a fun place to work this is.  Prior to becoming a law clerk, I always assumed that law offices were the types of places where everyone was very upset and no one liked each other.  I guess, somewhat juvenilely, I expected something similar to Scrooge’s office in A Christmas Carol, maybe without the ghosts. By working here, I got the exact opposite.  Normally, everyone is in a good mood and, even though they are working hard and getting a lot done for a lot of clients, they have time to tell a good story or make a joke.
            I feel very fortunate that I get to work at an office with such fine, hardworking, and interesting people.