Charlotte Burgess’s Semester in Practice

By Charlotte Burgess
I got the idea for creating my own semester in practice after I learned that a semester with a private attorney was an option and that a pro bono program could also benefit my community. After working with Professor Drake in the Veterans Clinic, I realized how much more I benefited from and enjoyed classes that were hands-on and involved helping real clients. By creating this semester in practice, I was able to get hands-on training without waiting for graduation and completion of the bar.
My idea was to contact local nursing homes to see if they had residents who needed estate planning help but couldn’t afford it.
I have known since I entered law school that I wanted to go back to Gasconade County and work with my father. My great-grandfather, grandfather, and father have all practiced law in Gasconade county, even in the same building. When I begin practicing, I will be a fourth generation attorney. Having the opportunity to learn the ropes and get a feeling of what practicing law would actually be like before becoming an attorney will greatly impact my career. I was able to network with people in my community and make lasting relationships with my clients as well as the nursing home staff. I was also able to learn from my failures while being mentored, instead of having to navigate and adapt on my own.
The program exceeded my expectations. It was difficult in many ways. I had to drive an hour each way and averaged 25-30 hours a week. However, the ability to implement what I’ve learned in school, while also learning how to draft documents, speak with real clients and problem solve real-life issues made the long drives more than worth it.
My advice to all my fellow perfectionists would be to work on keeping life balanced and also use failures to become better attorneys and individuals. Because you will fail. You will be awkward with a client or have to edit something over and over. Learn from that and work harder and be better next time. It’s easy to get down and make excuses. It’s hard to accept failure and use it for your benefit, but that is always the better choice.
The number of deadlines, phone calls and questions that are piled on during the semester in practice is immense. I was trying to get everything done early and this was not impacting my other law class. Plan the best you can, and take changes in stride.
Ultimately, through this experience, I believe I will be a better attorney starting out and in the long run due to this experience.