Monthly Archives: June 2012

My Journey: Ways to Accomplish Goals

Susan Zuiderveen

Susan Zuiderveen

Susan Zuiderveen is a third-year Cooley student serving on an externship.  This is the third post in Susan’s series.

Because I would like to develop more confidence and knowledge regarding court documents, I made learning about court paperwork and the paper process one of the goals to work towards in my externship.  My field supervisor and I worked to put together a research project that will help me accomplish this goal.  The project requires me to pull files and extrapolate specific information that would be helpful to her regarding what issues were appealed into a report.  This project allows me to search for the files in their system, work on their computer system and work through the documents to find the information.  This has been a great way to become more familiar with the paper process in many aspects.  This project is also helping me become more acquainted with documents from the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court as well.

An externship is a great place to try to develop knowledge in the areas you feel the least competent and knowledgeable about before actually working with clients as an attorney.  I felt uncomfortable choosing an area I knew the least about and then asking my field supervisor to give me a project in this area.  I was afraid that my lack of knowledge would make me look incompetent in her eyes if I had to ask questions on how to or where to find information.  But the best way to learn is to jump in and do it.  This type of project is exactly what I need to accomplish my goal and feel more confident.  Everyone has been very helpful, and I was surprised to discover how much I really do know and how prepared I was for this type of research!

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My Journey Continues . . .

Susan Zuiderveen

Susan Zuiderveen

Susan Zuiderveen is a third-year Cooley student serving on an externship.  This is the second post in a series she is writing.

Today I was able to observe voir dire for a civil case.  It was a great learning experience.  As the attorneys asked the questions, I tried to understand why they asked what they did and how the answers helped the attorneys decide whether or not to keep the juror on the panel.  Voir dire is a process of trying to understand how the juror’s life experiences and innermost thoughts on issues may affect how they view the issues in the case.  It is easy to see why there are companies that specialize in jury selection.  Voir dire is a complex process of trying to ensure a fair jury to both the plaintiff and the defendant while trying to retain those jurors that most likely would be favorable to your client.  Jury selection is certainly an important aspect of planning your case that requires research and thought.  This is definitely an area I would like to learn more about.

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My Journey Begins . . .

Susan Zuiderveen

Susan Zuiderveen

Susan Zuiderveen is a third-year Cooley student serving on an externship.  This is the first of a series of posts from Susan.

I recently had the first day of my law school externship.  It was a day I have been looking forward to since I started law school.  Finally, I would get the opportunity to see the skills I’ve been learning in class utilized in the courtroom.  I was nervous and excited:  nervous because I felt like I didn’t know enough to be helpful and excited to finally be engulfed in the criminal court system.

When I arrived, I had a brief orientation and then I jumped right into the busy day already underway.  I was able to observe several bench warrant trials and personal protection order hearings within the first few hours I was there.

Learning about a case in a book cannot prepare you for the live event of a trial or hearing.  Even though I’ve read many criminal cases in my trial skills and criminal law courses, nothing prepares you for how you feel sitting in the same courtroom with someone in chains while sheriffs stand guard.  Being able to look into someone’s eyes and hear them answer to the serious charges against them was an intense reminder that cases are about people, not just words on a page in a law book.  I knew that before starting this externship, but today I felt it for the first time.

Law school and externships prepare us to work with people, often at the most desperate times of their lives. It would be easy over time to become calloused and think in terms of cases and not people, but I will always try to remember how I felt the first time observing a trial.

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