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My First Hearing as a Certified Law Clerk

Brigitta Cymerint

My First Hearing as a Certified Law Clerk

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Law school has exposed me to the world of case law, statutes, and legal writing and research, but it’s notorious for providing only limited practical lawyering skills. Elective courses like trial advocacy and legal clinics aim to bridge this gap, but nothing compares to the exhilaration of appearing before a judge on a case for the first time as a law student.

This is my story of becoming a certified law clerk.

Yearning for Courtroom Experience

While I was a law clerk at Panish Shea Boyle Ravipudi LLP in Los Angeles, my curiosity got the best of me. I heard about classmates working for the district attorneys’ and public defenders’ offices who were actively participating in court proceedings. I yearned for this experience.

Then I came across the Practical Training of Law Students program, a California program that’s also available in many other states. PTLS provides an opportunity for law students to obtain certification to provide legal services under the supervision of a licensed California attorney. I approached my supervising attorney, Robert Glassman, to see if this was something the firm was interested in.

He wholeheartedly embraced the idea.

“This program gives future generations of lawyers a head start before they even pass the bar,” said Glassman, a partner at the firm.

By having them personally participate in real-world litigation as law students, they’ll know if this is either for them or not for them. It helps separate out those who truly want to pursue careers as litigators and those who may think they do, but when they get to do it for real, they realize they actually don’t. We’re thrilled that this process has solidified Brigitta’s desire to be a courtroom lawyer.

How I Got into Court

To be eligible for PTLS, California law students must have successfully completed one year of law school at an accredited institution and continue to be enrolled and in good academic standing. They must also be enrolled in or have completed the civil procedure and evidence courses.

To apply, I registered as an applicant with the State Bar of California’s Office of Admissions, submitted the necessary application along with the required fees, obtained a declaration from my law school’s dean attesting to my eligibility, and secured a declaration from my supervising attorney confirming his willingness to supervise me. For me, the whole process took about a week. It was very simple to execute while working and being a student.

Once I was accepted by the state bar as a certified clerk, I was permitted to negotiate on behalf of clients, provide legal advice, represent clients in depositions, and appear on their behalf in public trials, hearings, arbitrations, and proceedings. I was even eligible to represent a government agency in the prosecution of criminal actions.

My First Court Appearance

On June 20, I took a significant step forward in my career by appearing for my first case management conference. I introduced myself to the judge. I then announced my status as a certified law clerk and that I was accompanied by my supervising attorney. I updated the court on the status of the case and what we were seeking on behalf of our client.

This experience allowed me to grasp the essence of real lawyering. Balancing court appearances with motion practice and observing depositions, mediations, and trials gave me an idea of what it truly means to be a lawyer—and I loved it!

Immersing yourself in the world of litigation is invaluable for the growth of a law clerk. These experiences effectively prepare us for the journey of becoming an attorney.