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August 15, 2013
Federal Court Observer Program

U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE PAUL C. HUCK, left, presides over the Federal Court Observer Program for law students in Miami.

Federal Court Observer Program shows students how it’s done

By Megan E. Davis
Associate Editor

More than 150 law students recently received an opportunity to observe how the concepts they’re learning in law school are put into action by practicing attorneys.

Judge Paul Huck U.S. District Judge Paul C. Huck of Miami invited the students, half summer associates with Miami area firms and half federal judicial interns, to spend a day sitting in on hearings and interacting with judges and area lawyers.

“I think it brings home and makes real what they learn in law school,” said Judge Huck, organizer of the Federal Court Observer Program. “They hear how you understand the law through their legal education. Now they’re actually seeing that in play.”

This year’s program featured several panel discussions, including one by firm partners called “How to Keep the Partners Happy.”

“We talked about how to distinguish yourself with a partner or any attorney you work with, how to be diligent, how to think outside the box, how to keep an open flow of communication between you and your partner,” said Jaret Davis, co-managing shareholder of Greenberg Traurig in Miami.

Davis also shared the most important quality partners seek out in young lawyers — good judgment.

“We as law firms train you many times in several aspects of the law and the substantive side, but it’s judgment that we look for in assessing whether an associate has the potential to get to the highest levels,” he said. “At the most junior levels, judgment can be gauged in how they approach a given project in terms of research protocols followed, in terms of their ability to gauge when it’s appropriate to come back to us with questions, and their ability to incorporate the guidance we’ve given them.”

Matt Scheer, a law student at the University of Florida and intern at Podhurst Orseck in Miami, said he found the discussion particularly enlightening.

“One of the partners said one of the things he finds most useful is having associates who are given a project not just say, ‘I could only find one case on the matter,’ but if they feel like they’re getting stuck, coming in and saying, ‘Here’s a brief summary of the wall I’m at. Can you give me any ideas?’” he said. “It helps develop the thought process and research process to become more efficient and effective as an attorney.”

Scheer said he also appreciated getting the perspective of young associates on a panel of “Young Guns.”

“It’s good to hear about the difference between law school and the real world,” he said. “They pointed out those experiences they’ve had of walking in, getting handed something, and being told to run with it.”

A third panel shared judges’ “View From the Bench.”

Students also received an opportunity to sit in on four federal court hearings.

“A lot of these young people don’t get to see the courtroom very much,” Judge Huck said. “The ones interning here for the judges do, but the summer associates with law firms don’t get a chance to show up in court often. This is a good opportunity for them to see what goes on in a courtroom.”

Huck said his favorite part of the day was interacting with the students.

“I really enjoy doing it because it’s really great to see all these young, enthusiastic, energetic young people going to law school,” he said. “They’re all very bright, and it’s just great to see them all out there.”

[Revised: 07-27-2014]