August 23, 2012
[Eds. This is the last in our series profiling this year’s summer associates.]
“You can’t separate the business out from the legal profession. I think in law school what we emphasize is the theory and the application of the law, but when you work in a law firm you can’t forget the fact that time literally means money because we bill. I think for the first time in my life I appreciated the fact that law firms are businesses.”
Saba Syed (Bowman and Brooke, LLP)
Law School: I will be starting my third year at Baylor
Desired Practice Area?
I went to Baylor for litigation. Litigation has been something that I think will end up being my practice area.
Any area in particular?
Yeah. I really like torts. Torts. Products liability.
What did you do before you went to law school?
I did my undergrad at UT Law [University of Texas at Austin] and took about six semesters of Arabic when I was in undergrad and I qualified for a government scholarship where I studied Arabic in Egypt for a year. So I spent a year traveling the Middle East. It was amazing. I have advanced and high proficiency in Arabic now because of that year I spent there. When I came back I started at Baylor.
On the lighter side, what’s your favorite movie?
One of my favorite movies that I can watch at any time is Audrey Hepburn’s movie My Fair Lady. Any time that comes on T.V. that’s the movie I’m watching.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
My guilty pleasure is actually Boy Meets World marathons. I don’t know if you watched Boy Meets World, but it’s a sitcom from the 90’s. Sometimes it shows up on TBS and I’ll just sit down and watch it. My whole day will be gone watching that, but it’s great. I love it.
How do you think your experience so far as a Summer Associate changed your view of the law or the legal profession?
Well, it taught me that the legal profession is really business. You can’t separate the business out from the legal profession. I think in law school what we emphasize is the theory and the application of the law, but when you work in a law firm you can’t forget the fact that time literally means money because we bill. I think for the first time in my life I appreciated the fact that law firms are businesses. That was a cool experience for me because I understood sort of the dynamics of what motivates a law firm-how does it work-and that’s an experience you can only get by being inside the law firm itself. You can’t get that from observing it or talking about it in theory.
You answered part of my next question, but I’ll ask it anyways. What are you learning as a Summer Associate you’d never get from law school alone? What would you add to what you’ve already mentioned that you get as a Summer Associate that law school doesn’t or can’t teach?
Being a Summer Associate taught me about resourcefulness. In law school we have access, unlimited access, to Westlaw, LexisNexis, WestlawNext. Any database we want. We have dozens of subscription databases. Three floors of library space. Literally unlimited resources. Law firms just don’t operate that way because they don’t need those kinds of resources. You really learn to work with what you have and be very cost effective with your research. You do that because you want to keep your clients in mind. I think that’s just something you learn through practice. You would never get that experience in a law school setting.
I remember starting out in practice and having to stop and remind myself that now we’ve got real clients and real money.
That’s exactly right. So you learn to get good with the secondary sources you have and you ask around and you use what you have. You use the people in the firm. Whereas you might have just hopped on the net you use the people in the firm. You have your colleagues you can talk to; so that’s pretty useful, too.
What other tools or resources (apps) do you use that are critical to your success as a Summer Associate or make your life easier or are something you’d not want to practice without?
Secondary sources where the authors have done the research for you. They’ve given you the case law. They’ve made it really easy for you to find the answer quickly. You don’t have to waste a lot of time searching and digging. I think those are absolutely indispensible. I’ve used Google Scholar a lot actually. I think they’ve really developed that program and it’s been very helpful. The firms that I’ve worked at usually have a document management system. Over the years the firm collects many documents and you’re able to access them like a library. And so those are all really helpful tools for me to do my work.
If you weren’t in law school what do you think you’d be doing instead?
I think I would probably be doing my Masters in Middle Eastern studies and traveling abroad maybe looking for a translating job. I did some Arabic translation work when I was in Egypt and that was very enjoyable-very challenging. I loved being in the Middle East, but I’m kind of glad I’m not there right now personally, because there’s a lot of stuff going on there. That would be my alternate universe.
How did you come to choose law?
I’ve actually wanted to go to law school since high school. It’s strange, but I think sometimes people just decide what they want to do and there’s not really a set, life-changing reason why, but I just found that I was good at certain things like reading, writing, history. I enjoyed debate. I looked at these qualities and thought law school would be a good fit. Since high school I’ve kept law school in mind. So there wasn’t one moment for me it was kind of a constant yeah, I want to go to law school.
Not a Boy Meets World episode on law school?
No. You know, there usually is. But not this time.
Do you use social media personally or professionally?
I have a Facebook account and have many friends on my Facebook account and I go on it frequently. I have not yet signed up for LinkedIn because I just haven’t seen a lot of my friends do it. But I might consider getting one. I’ve heard it’s a pretty good way to connect with professionals. Twitter, I think, I just don’t have enough interesting opinions everyday to tell people what I think. Twitter is interesting. I don’t have one personally. I think it’s a cool idea, but it’s not really for me.