By Evelyn Tan
I remember stepping into the office feeling apprehensive on the first day of my internship – unsure about how I would fit in (being the only intern), worrying over whether I would be a hindrance and uncertain how my first ever legal internship would play out. Thankfully, the weeks to follow proved to be an enriching and fruitful experience for a young law student. Each day in office had me trying my hand at something different; there was hardly any time spent sitting at the desk with nothing to do.
In my short month at OTP, I was handed a huge variety of tasks. I was taught how to draft simple documents such as affidavits, letters to clients or court orders pending approval by the court, and fill out simple forms to be submitted to the court. At other times I would be given the case files and asked to do research for some of the ongoing cases. Additionally, I could tag along with the lawyers for their court hearings, something that I always looked forward to. Of course, there were also simple administrative jobs – such as photocopying, paginating, binding, labeling a few hundred pages – but even in doing these tasks there was always something new to learn when I scan through the documents. For example, it was through preparing the bundles of documents for trial that I gained a deeper understanding about the trial process. In fact, I was quite glad to have the chance to learn things bottom-up as well. Getting exposure to the work handled by the paralegal and assisting her taught me so much about how a file is handled from the start. Beyond that, I’ve also gained exposure to a multitude of practice areas beyond what I’ve looked at in school.
Though I was quite clueless about many things in the beginning – especially civil procedure – the lawyers and the staff would always take time out to check on my progress, teach me and to answer my questions. Initially, I couldn’t even tell apart statement of claims, affidavits, summons and writs – all seemed pretty much the same to me. Thankfully, the lawyers and staff were always patient with me. Perhaps because it’s a small firm and I was the only intern around, I felt that they were eager to teach me and to share more with me.
At the end of the day, it was immensely rewarding to be able to see some of the things I learn in law school come to live in practice. Practice is a different ball game altogether. There is a certain academic slant in school, where the focus is on legal arguments or reforming the law etc. Yet this is such a narrow reflection of the work of a lawyer. Much of practice – or what little of it I’ve seen thus far – is about precision, timing, and deploying the correct strategy in reaching desired solutions.
As interns, what we can contribute to the firm in terms of our research or other legal skills is definitely limited. However, I think the value of an internship lies in the chance to see how a firm is run, to understand the firm culture and gain a deeper idea of the scope of a lawyer’s job. I was glad to have been able to do that. My four weeks at OTP Law definitely flew by in a flash. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be able to see and learn so much in my short time with the firm. I have also been touched by the amazing hospitality I’ve personally experienced. At the end of the day, I’m thankful for this open door.