Daniel Thompson ’17 Fourth Street Law ‘Suits’

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Wabash intern Daniel Thompson ’17 at Legal Aid Society of Louisville

For my entire college life, I have wanted to become an attorney.  Walking down Fourth Street, the business hub of Louisville, I watched the suits hustle back and forth from their offices to their meetings to their cars and to their equally well-dressed colleagues.  This summer, I have had the opportunity to be a shadow following these individuals.  No longer am I pretending to counsel clients in a mock trial; I am sitting down with real clients and real attorneys to discuss real legal matters.  Each morning, I get to dress up and walk down the business hub with all the other attorneys, and for a brief moment, I feel like I have accomplished my aspiration to become an attorney.  But then I exit the elevator, open the door to Legal Aid Society, and enter my office where I realize how much more I have to learn until I become a real lawyer.

Nothing can compare to real, raw, hard experience, especially when it comes to learning law.  For years, I have heard that you don’t learn to become an attorney in law school but in a law office instead.  For the past several weeks working at Legal Aid Society, I have learned how to file divorces with the courthouse, how to request expungement records from the law clerk downtown, how to navigate the Louisville legal archiving network, how to research attorney profiles, how to analyze client demographics, how to conduct myself around clients professionally, how to interact with other attorneys in a business environment, and most importantly, how to become a young professional.  I don’t remember reading any of those course listings in the law school catalogues.  Already, I feel that I have an advantage over law school prospects because of this summer experience.  Not only have I attained a plethora of legal knowledge, but I have begun to build an invaluable network.

Two weeks ago, I fumbled aimlessly through piles of legal documents in search of what an attorney called a uniform citation.  I remember foolishly nodding my head after receiving these instructions as if I knew what the hell a uniform citation looked like.  Wanting to impress the attorney, I set off down Fifth Street, entered the legal archives building, and confidently requested case #21-CI-000972 from the dead-eyed law clerk.  After writing down the case number, the clerk disappeared for a few minutes behind the legal document labyrinth.  He returned with what must have been a thousand page case file.  There was a motion to appear in court, a lengthy legal brief, exhibit A through exhibit F, a subpoena, a crumbled receipt from Wal-Mart, a copy of a fake ID card, and even a transcript of a 5-second conversation.  Hidden somewhere in this ogre of a file was a small sheet of paper labeled uniform citation, and the thought of finding it made me want to hurl.  Luckily, an attorney with greying hair noticed the panicked look on my face and asked if he could help. I smiled and politely asked if he could help me find the document. Of course, he brushed through hundreds of pages for what seemed like five seconds and pulled out a small yellow paper titled uniform citation.  He smiled back at me and reminisced with me his days as an intern.  We sat there and chatted about the law profession for at least 15 minutes before I remembered I needed to return to work and deliver the document.

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Thompson with fellow Legal Aid Society interns

I see Mr. Reever, a successful divorce attorney in Louisville, almost every day at the court house now, and he knows my name.  Mr. Reever is one of several attorneys who have selflessly paused their busy day to interact with me.  It’s through these daily interactions that I have been able to develop a network of well-known attorneys and legal professionals.  Even inside the office at Legal Aid Society, I have the opportunity to follow the attorneys to the courthouse and watch them in action.  Sometimes I’m able to stay after a trial and chat with the judges about the cases.  I get to hear how both sides navigated their way through arguments and how successful their approaches were.  If the judge is in a particularly good mood, he or she will ask me to stay for the day to observe some other high-profile cases.  Three weeks ago, I was able to watch a heated jury trial.  There were objections, there was crying, there was laughter, there were gasps, and there were cheers.  A few times, it seemed more like a reality television show than a court room.  It’s during these moments that I am most excited to be a lawyer because I remember it’s not about writing, or arguments, or procedures, or even the law.  It’s about people.

Law school seems to approach faster and faster into my life, and this internship at the Legal Aid Society has illuminated that path.  It has reaffirmed my aspiration to become a lawyer, and it has heightened my dedication.  Without this internship, I would be miles behind my competition.  This internship will not only give me an experience that I can proudly discuss in my next job interview, but it will give me invaluable skills necessary to become a successful lawyer.  Maybe one day, I’ll need to find a uniform citation for my own client.  Luckily, I’ll know exactly where to go, who to ask, and how to find it.