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Heather O’Connor is a 3L. After a seven year marriage and three kids, Heather went through a divorce that left her questioning what to do with her life. She decided to become an attorney and has never looked back since beginning the long journey. She entered a local community college after...

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3L year is off and running - I'm just trying to keep up! =)

Posted by Heather O'Connor on 09/14/2010 at 11:36 PM

Almost one month has passed since my third year of law school began. Last I wrote, I was wondering what the future held. Well, some of those questions have been answered.

The first question answered is whether I was going to be bored to death my third year. Most law school students have heard the catch phrase, "First year, they scare you to death. Second year, they work you to death. Third year, they bore you to death." I can say with 100% certainty that, so far, my third year has been anything but boring. I have honestly started thinking that when I become a "real attorney," it will seem like I have so much more free time on my hands.

This semester I am taking the Criminal Defense Clinic. This is a six-credit course that includes two days of classes and then two days of clinical work. During clinic time, I schedule interviews with clients (although my first client keeps not showing up to his appointments, but he is homeless, so I'll give him a break - I even bring in muffins and donuts in hope to lure him into the office to no avail.) I also have watched court proceedings a number of times. I am writing a motion for a case that could possibly go up to the Rhode Island Supreme Court. I get to go ride along with a Providence police officer to observe the streets as the police see them at night. I will be conducting intakes, where the judge referrs people to our clinic to be represented. It's really exciting and I highly recommend it to everyone.

I'm also taking a Criminal Litigation and Oral Advocacy class. This class keeps me extremely busy, but I believe it is providing me with very practical skills I will be able to use in the courtroom, both while representing my clients in the clinic and when I get out into the courtroom after passing the bar. For this class, we have to each write a 4 - 6 page motion and memo to support our position regarding a given issue (for example, tonight we focused on search and seizures of a person's house). Additionally, approximately four people each week have to stand and argue thier case before the judge (one of the professors). I love this part of the class.

I am also doing a judicial internship for a Superior Court Justice for at least this semester. This isn't related to any classwork. It is merely for my own benefit in helping to perfect my research and writing skills. Besides this is researching and writing for a local attorney who gives me a lot of his family law cases to take care of and get ready to present in court. I love this because I believe my passion truly lies with family law. I am also the Developmental Editor of our school's Law Review. I think that's about all I do, school-wise, right now. My kids just started school, so tonight was the first night I stayed up helping them with their homework until about 10:30 at night. There will be many more of those nights.  About a month ago, I got a little Pomeranian puppy named PePe.  He is the cutest thing ever.  Lots of work, but so cute!!!

As for my 'post graduation' future - A year ago, I thought for sure I did NOT want to do a clerkship. At that point, I wanted to get out there and be in court, arguing before a judge as much as I could be. However, as last year came to a close, I began feeling as though I hadn't learned enough yet. That I only had one year left of law school and there is still so much out there left for me to discover. Based on this, I began searching for a clerkship. I figured a clerkship would give me an additional year or two of learning (while getting paid - bonus!!!). I also rationalized that it would help to make me a better attorney in the long run. So I applied. I sent out approximately ten or so applications to the justices of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, to a few federal judges, and to a few Massachusetts judges.

Less than a week later, I recieved a phone call. It came in to my phone just as a few fellow interns, two supervising attorneys, and I sat down at a small cafe in Providence to eat lunch. The number came up as a private number, and although I almost never answer private calls, I picked this one up, already with the expectation they would be trying to sell me something.

The cafe was crowded and rather loud, but I listened as the lady on the other side of my phone told me she was selling home construction. I let her know I wasn't interested. She seemed shocked and asked to clarify, "So you are saying that you are not interested in an interview with Chief Justice Suttell?" This time I heard her loud and clear, yet couldn't believe what I was hearing. "Yes, yes. Oh, now that I am 100% interested in." I explained that I thought she was asking me if I was interested in home construction. She laughed, but I was certain my name was getting crossed off the interview list.

However, the day of the interview came. One of my supervisors asked me if I was nervous. I replied, "No. I'm going to sparkle." She laughed and shook her head, "You're going to 'sparkle' for the Chief Justice?" (Let me take a minute to explain that I own sparkly notebooks, I love the color pink, and I write in purple ink - yes, I sparkle lol) I just smiled and said, "Yup."

I guess that is exactly what I did though because Chief Justice Suttell of the Rhode Island Supreme Court offered me a two-year clerkship beginning in September of 2011. I am super, super, super excited about this! Because (1) it means I will be able to purchase food to put on my dinner table, (2) I don't have to worry about looking for a job for another 2 1/2 years or so, which means I can enjoy my last year of law school without the stress of job hunting hanging over my head, and (3) I honestly believe I am going to love this job. I see the clerkship as a way to continue my education - it's almost like going for my masters, but getting paid rather than getting a degree!!! =)