How to make the most of your clinical program this year

First, it’s important that you don’t sit idle, said Trisha Fillbach, director of career development at Drake Law School. It’s a given that you have to finish your assigned projects and turn in great work, but don’t just stop there. Seek out additional assignments, which will expose you to valuable practical experience. Also be open to taking on projects from different practice areas and different attorneys. Doing so will expose you to various substantive areas and may help you cross-market your skills and practical experience to various potential employers.

Second, seek out mentors. Most students realize that they’re not going to walk into a clinic and know everything, Fillbach said. Developing a strategic relationship with a mentor can help you learn the ropes and also build your professional network.

Also affirmatively seek out feedback. Be humble and open to constructive criticism, Fillbach said, and note that different lawyers will give you different forms of feedback. Some people don’t like to be asked, “How am I doing?” after every task, Fillbach said. If your program has a formal evaluation or review, then use that time to talk. Ask pointed questions about your performance, such as what you did well on and how you can improve, Mead said. If there is no formal review, ask your supervisor to sit down with you and provide feedback.

Finally, aim to project confidence when meeting with clients, supervisors and others. Much of this comes down to being prepared, Fillbach said. Know the case and the law thoroughly. Some of it, of course, comes from being articulate, and Fillbach recommends that students take practical courses to help them learn how to talk to clients and others. And some confidence simply comes from practice. Sometimes students don’t believe that they’ve got what it takes until they are asked to perform, Fillbach said.