I never planned on working at a law firm. I started
law school not knowing if I even wanted to be a lawyer. I didn’t know any
attorneys growing up, and I was considerably unfamiliar with the practice of
law. As I settled into my life as a law student and began to absorb all of the
new subject matter, I realized being a lawyer might not be so bad—but I
certainly was NOT going to work at a big law firm. Not one of those cold, unfriendly detached
places with demanding, workaholic attorneys.
In early January, a friend talked me into attending
Martin Pringle’s recruitment event, a Q&A session about summer clerkships.
I reluctantly agreed because I was absolutely NOT interested in working for a
I walked into the room a few minutes before it
started. I was surprised to see four friendly faces at the front of the room,
eager to answer all of our questions. I left that evening thinking, “If this is
what working in a law firm is like, count me in!”
Sure enough, four months later I found myself living
in Wichita, beginning my summer clerkship at Martin Pringle.
I sat down in the conference room on the first day
facing two large portraits of the firm’s founders. As I nervously waited for
the commencement of the orientation meeting, the official kick-off to the
summer, I wondered, “Am I what they had in mind? Am I the kind of lawyer, the
kind of person they would want representing their clients and the firm they
worked so hard to build?” The thought only made me more nervous. Although I was
a rookie at lawyering, I decided in that moment to tackle the summer head on
and do everything possible to learn all I could in order to make them proud.
Soon after we finished our orientation, we were handed
our first summer assignments. I was terrified. The short paragraph described a
simple legal issue to research for one of the partners. It also contained words
I had never seen in my life. I felt in over my head. I was drowning in a sea of
legal terms and protocol that my first year of law school had not prepared me
The summer proved to be one new experience after
another. Although I felt that I had learned so much in my first year of law
school, I was quickly reminded I was but a legal novice. However, each
assignment I was given was an amazing opportunity to research something new, a
chance to immerse myself in an area of law I had never imagined I would
encounter. After just a few weeks, I felt I had learned more than in my entire
1L year. I was now familiar with bankruptcy, employment law, medical
malpractice and adoption law.
My new experiences didn’t stop with my legal research adventures
in Westlaw. The summer’s extracurricular activities provided me with
opportunities to add to my life’s resume. I went skeet shooting, played my
first round of golf, and contributed to the Lawyer League summer softball
championship victory. I tried cuisine from all over the world without leaving
downtown Wichita. I met Chris Mann of “The Voice” fame, experienced the 4th of
July in Andover (where fireworks are legal, and very popular) and participated
in “burger week,” eating five of the greasiest burgers in Wichita in five days.
As the summer winds down, I can’t begin to explain how
glad I am that I went to that Martin Pringle recruitment event. I am so glad I
kept an open mind and gave this whole “law firm thing” a chance. Thanks to my amazing opportunity at Martin
Pringle, I have gained an incredible amount of knowledge, insight and skills
that carry me confidently into my 2L year. I am now inspired to become the next
U.S. Olympic skeet shooter, and I am now an expert in Wichita’s best burgers.
Most of all, I am so honored I was able to meet and work with some of the
state’s most talented, honest, passionate and hardworking lawyers.
– - Whitney Novak is a
second-year law student and a KU Law Student Ambassador.
Labels: 2L, career options, clerkship, recruiting, summer, Wichita