How many times have you argued a motion and wished you’d been better prepared…or hurried through a draft and discovered mistakes after you turned it in? In the field of law, frequent embarrassment and repeated failure are not the building blocks of success.
“We’ve all learned the hard way,” admits division director Dan Clark. “As a mentor, I find myself telling students all the time that they can ‘never be too prepared’ in learning the facts and the law. If you prepare well, you’ll be ready for anything that happens in the court room.”
LSIC intern Sarah McCreary is listening attentively.
A rising junior majoring in history/art history at McGill University, Sarah is home for the summer getting her first glimpse into the world of nonprofit legal services here at LSIC’s student intern program. She’s a quick study though; it hasn’t take her long to appreciate that it can take weeks, sometimes months, to prepare for the first day of a trial.
This month Sarah has been assisting our Criminal Division on an appeal to D.C. Superior Court that argues the right to a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel. To help build their argument, legal fellow Mike Michel directed Sarah to Westlaw, an online proprietary database used by legal professionals. Sarah spent several weeks researching past cases, case law, and other litigation resources to help prove the efficacy of the cases cited in the motion. She also studied how the Supreme Court and other judicial bodies treated similar cases in the past.
“I was glad to contribute some notes to the drafting of the motion,” she said. “It’s been interesting work—not only researching the case law, itself, but seeing it in context with historical case outcomes.”
Another aspect of the appeal involves substantiating phone records dating back more than a decade. Locating the records has been challenging because most carriers, Sarah learned, erase outdated records after a couple of years. Fortunately, her perseverance has paid off. Last week Sarah found the outstanding records she needs, and she’s waiting to receive them in the mail.
“Let’s just hope the phone company doesn’t send all 16 years’ worth of records,” she chuckled. “Now that would really test my patience.”
Sarah admits that she may have stumbled down a rabbit hole, but if she can help find a particular call to corroborate our client’s story, her time will be well spent.
There will be no cutting corners for this intern. She’s learning the fight.