August 6, 2012
“When you actually get inside a law firm you learn that there is a very human side to the law. You have to be able to work with people. You have to be able to instill confidence in the people you are working with so they are comfortable relying on your work. You have to learn that it’s not only about writing memos and doing Westlaw searches, but it’s about being able to work as part of a team with others.”
Justin Seitz (Leonard, Street and Deinard, PA)
Law School/Year: I am going into my 3rd year at the University of St. Thomas School of Law.
Desired Practice Area: Either the estates and trusts practice or the private business practice.
Why those areas? What interests you about those areas?
I come from a family business background so I’ve worked with attorneys in those practice areas. It is always interesting to me the way those attorneys form a real ongoing relationship with the family, which is something you might not see in other areas of the law.
Past Life: I took a year off after completing my undergraduate degree in finance and went back and worked at my family business. [The year prior to that] I had actually been working at a law firm as a finance intern. I took some of what I learned there and tried to apply it to my work with my family.
Favorite Movie: I don’t have a great answer for that, it seems to change month to month.
Guilty Pleasure: Eating seafood. Going out for a big seafood dinner and taking a couple of hours to do it.
How has your summer associate experience changed your view of the legal profession?
I think that one of the ways it’s changed my impression of the profession for the better is that on the outside looking in a lot of the firms talk about their pro bono work and their training programs. You can come to think [it is] some sort of marketing pitch. By actually being on the inside, you actually see that it is something that is really lived and practiced here.
What’s the most important thing you’re learning as a summer associate that you’d never get from your law school experience?
In law school there is anonymity and it’s a lot about the technical skills and learning the law and just making sure you are proficient in the tools of the trade. When you actually get inside a law firm you learn that there is a very human side to the law. You have to be able to work with people. You have to be able to instill confidence in the people you are working with so they are comfortable relying on your work. You have to learn that it’s not only about writing memos and doing Westlaw searches, but it’s about being able to work as part of a team with others.
What apps, tools, or other resources are critical to your success as a summer associate (Or, which tools just make your life so much easier that you wonder how you got along without them.)?
We as the Summer Associates here are actually a part of a rollout of a new computer system that they are implementing here. It’s a Virtual Desktop system, so you can log in from your desktop at work, or you can login at home and you can see the exact same stuff. You can also get it on the iPad. So there is a seamlessness to that product which really helps you not to worry about leaving something on your work computer. They also issue us iPads. I wasn’t practicing law before the iPad, but it’s been tremendously helpful in being able to kind of cut the cord from your desktop. I can take the iPad and walk around the firm; walk into a partners office and discuss a project and then when they say my schedule is entirely packed, I don’t know where I am going to fit you in, you have the iPad right there so you can look at your schedules and you don’t have to try to tediously work everything out by email. The iPad also has the Westlaw app on it. Which is not a shameless plug; I actually do use it and enjoy it.
If you were not in law school, what would you be doing instead?
I would probably either be working at my family business or working as a financial analyst somewhere downtown.
How did you come to choose the practice of law?
I saw that being a financial analyst has a very set path and you climb the ladder. Obviously people can perform better or worse and that effects how well they do at their career, but in law, you can build your own business and have a little bit more freedom to craft your practice and be your own person. So there is a certain independence I saw in the practice of law.
Do you use social media (LinkedIn, FB, Twitter etc…) for personal or professional purposes?
I have a Facebook account and I am not on there all that often. I sadly use it mostly to keep tabs on what other people are doing. I don’t participate in the conversation. If someone mentions a Tweet or something that is the topic of the day, I can competently Google search the Tweet. But that’s it; I don’t have my own [Twitter] account.
Is there anything that has surprised you?
The work actually. We do a lot of fun activities and outings, but they have actually given us real work. You get to feel like what you are doing is not just some sort of an artificial test…its going to be used in the real world.
What have you enjoyed most about the experience?
All the firms pitch that they are going to give you real work, but the actual importance of the work that they are giving us surprised me. Or at least I didn’t anticipate them being as trusting early on. I enjoy feeling that what I am doing matters.
*[Editors’ Note : Reference Attorneys speak to Summer Associates very regularly. It’s fair to say, our Summers are busy. Every year we’re impressed with the professionalism of these folks. We rarely get a chance to learn a great deal about these new professionals beyond their nuts-and-bolts research needs. This year, though, we had an opportunity to ask a few Summer Associates from Leonard, Street and Deinard, PA about their experience as Summer Associates. So, we’re breaking from our regular research to profile four associates. We learned a lot. Thanks!]