Lai-Lai Ho's Experience as MSLG's Summer Associate
During my second summer of law school I had the opportunity of working at Marshall Suzuki Law Group (MSLG) as their summer associate. In just one summer, I gained experience in a variety of legal fields because of the extensive mentoring I received. I worked closely with MSLG attorneys most stages of a case and learned a lot about effective lawyering and client sensitivity.
The amount of mentoring I received from the attorneys at MSLG was amazing. Prior to MSLG, I worked at a well known law firm where training consisted of weekly classes, resource books, and videos, but lacked the most vital element: Direct mentoring from attorneys. Lawyers were always busy with their doors closed so it was difficult to ask questions or expect more than a five minute explanation. I had to learn by asking other paralegals or by teaching myself. Even though I worked there for a year the managing partner never even knew my name.
In stark contrast, at MSLG, one of the partners Junji Suzuki directly supervised me. He always welcomed by questions and was generous with his time. For every assignment, Junji would provide a background lesson on the law involved, describe the client's situation, tell me what he expected, regularly check up on my progress, and update me with developments. We had great communication since his desk was right next to mine.
Junji was not my only my mentor. The other attorneys and paralegals always took the time to explain something despite their busy workload. Everyone at MSLG is easy to approach because they are always helping each other. MSLG has an open office that fosters team work. All employees, even the founding partners, work together in an open area where we can see, speak, hear, and help each other at anytime. If anyone has a question it can be brainstormed by many. Attorneys are aware of each other's cases and can offer each other creative solutions. I experienced first hand how group effort can increase productivity and lead to the best legal solutions.
Because we work as a group all the time the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly. Most days of the week, Junji takes the entire office out to lunch. We spend our lunches discussing legal issues or just socializing. Because we spend a lot of time together as a group in and out of the office, we have fun and work is never tense.
Variety of Cases
MSLG attracts a diversity of cases involving corporate, immigration, estate planning, bankruptcy, criminal defense, personal injury, among other legal fields. The variety was ideal for me because I wanted to work on different types of law before deciding on my specialty. Junji always asked me what type of law I was interested in and gave me related assignments.
The great thing about working for attorneys at MSLG is that encourage you to work on all stages of the case from start to finish. Their faith and trust in my ability gave me confidence to handle a significant part of each case. For example, in a personal injury case, I assisted attorney Masi Takeda in drafting the summons, demand letter, and complaint. I also accompanied him when he visited his client's homes, made court appearances, went to judge's chambers, had client conferences, and engaged in settlement negotiations.
In a bankruptcy case, I accompanied attorney Edward Miyauchi to a first interview with a potential client. I acted as the translator for the Japanese client. Afterwards, I regularly spoke with the client to gather information for the bankruptcy filing so we could file it with the court. By working with MSLG attorneys on significant parts of each case I learned the procedural steps, the law, and how to conduct effective client relations.
MSLG attracts many Japanese clients because most MSLG employees speak Japanese and are knowledgeable about Japanese law. Many of these clients have limited English proficiency and need assistance beyond regular legal matters. For example, some clients cannot read their documents, cannot speak English, or do not understand basic US legal processes. These difficulties can create a harrowing legal experience for the foreign client.
To help these clients, MSLG will translate documents, complete their forms, make calls on their behalf, and even go to their homes. They will go the extra mile to make the experience for the client pleasant. Working with MSLG showed me importance of being an empathetic lawyer who is aware of each client's unique individual needs. I had a great time working at MSLG and hope to come back after graduation.
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