By The West Virginia Record | Aug 11, 2006

HUNTINGTON -- Upon entering my first year of law school, a local attorney predicted the progression of my impending legal education.

"The first year, they scare you to death," he said. "The second, they work you to death. And the third, they bore you to death."

As I finished year one, his prognostication held true as they damned sure scared me to death. Subsequently, I had serious reservations about whether I possessed the discipline and talent to be an attorney.

Then, not a moment too soon, there was the summer externship. This experience renewed my desire and confidence.

The Appalachian School of Law takes pride in its community focus and encourages students to perform summer externships in some sort of public capacity. Fortunately, I received the opportunity to work for Judge Patricia Keller in Cabell County Family Court.

Consequently, my summer externship goal was quite simple. I wanted to experience how the legal system actually works in this setting, not a derivative of the cumbersome casebook method.

Foremost, externship bolstered my assessment that effective legal representation revolves around an attorney's ability to find, interpret and apply legal precedent.

Shamefully, I must admit that happenstance and luck generally guided my first year's research methodology. However, externship showed how to better use each jurisdiction's statutes and supplemental materials as investigative case law roadmaps. It allowed for stronger skills in the assessment of precedent's potential effect on even the smallest details of cases.

At most law schools, competitive grading systems pit students against each other. Externship revealed that the most effective attorneys are those who know how to effectively manage the differences between facts, law, opinion and emotion.

I now reason that academia creates this competitive environment in order condition us for the gamesmanship of future practice.

Lastly, I discovered that members of the legal community share a common bond that is bigger than competition or ideology. They belong to something bigger. It unites them united for the common goal of simultaneously using and safeguarding the legal system for the protection of others.

Thus, it gives rise to a sense of kinship that transcends law's inherently competitive and antagonistic nature.

Summer externship was the positive payoff for a year of personal degradation. Academic study conditions students in the art of legal thought and reasoning. However, the summer externship allowed for its practical application.

It was enlightening to apply grand theories to real world situations, all while interacting with Huntington's legal community. My experience provided a small, brief sampling of what future legal practice holds.

Indeed, the first year scared me to death. However, with my confidence restored by the externship, I look forward to being "worked to death" during the second.

A Logan native, Williams now resides in Huntington when not attending the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Va.

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