What I Do Everyday as a Personal Injury Law Clerk

I started working as a law clerk before I had even attended law school. I currently work at a smaller personal injury firm that focuses heavily on nursing home abuse, car accidents, workers' compensation, premises liability, and daycare accidents. When I first started as a law clerk, I will be honest I had no idea what I was doing. I was asked to draft documents that I had never even heard of. I have been here now for 2 years and I am finally confident about the work I am doing. Here is a glance into what I do everyday. (Note: this is a lot of stuff you go over in your civil procedure class - so when you take this class it will make more sense)

Medical Record Research and Chronologies
In personal injury cases, before anything else you have to do research within the client's medical records. This by far takes the most time over any other task in a lawsuit because medical records can be extremely lengthy and are many times handwritten which can be very hard to read. During the research I usually make a chronology which maps out the symptoms, injuries, and hospital stays that are relevant to the case. Making an organized chronology helps with every other portion of the lawsuit. I usually divide the motion into 4 columns (date, facility, page number and document, and description).

Drafting Complaints
This is the first pleading of a lawsuit that sets things in motion. Once you draft one complaint, the rest are relatively simple. I typically use the same template for each complaint that I do. Depending on how many counts your client is alleging, they can be anywhere from 4-30 pages long. It sounds confusing, but my boss gave me a complaint to work off of that helped me complete complaints in the future. Generally, I outline the case and the clients, the negligence or abuse that is being alleged, and what act or law you are filing the case pursuant to (for example: most nursing home cases are filed pursuant to a state's nursing home care act).

Drafting Demands
This is a staple for most law firms as 95% of the time cases settle rather than go to trial. Demands are generally summaries of the case as well as a detail of the bills and the amount of the demand being sought. I usually outline demands by introducing the client, detailing the demand for settlement amount, listing the injuries and the alleged negligence, list the bills, and conclude with a generic statement about settling the case in an amicable matter. Again, this is something that I tend to use templates for. So, when you do one demand - save it for others in the future.

Answering Discovery
Discovery consists of questions, requests for information and documents, a list of witnesses, and requests to admit information. This is one of my least favorite things to do, because generally I am answering these questions with little information about the client. I will say though that most of the questions are answered with objections (ex: not limited in time or scope, overbroad and unduly burdensome, requires a medical opinion, not making a claim regarding this subject matter). This makes my job a little bit easier but it can take some practice as to when you should object to questions. Again, going off earlier work that has been submitted by your attorney can really help you with this. 

Legal Research
I am asked to do legal research all of the time because the attorneys I work for don't have subscriptions to legal research websites and I do because of school. I am often asked to research trends in case law, laws in the state I work in, and different rules that apply to the case. This is a pretty easy job as it just consists of searching information and then compiling and summarizing it for the attorneys. 

Drafting Motions
This can be a tricky part of any legal job as motions are typically confusing and are not easy to follow a template with. This is a great time to ask your boss for help and to walk you through how to write and answer motions. I have been doing motions for over a year and still need help to write them. Don't worry! It gets easier as you go on.

Working at a Small Firm
I currently work at a smaller firm with only 5 attorneys. While I had originally thought that this may be a negative, its a HUGE positive. I have learned so much because of the size of the firm and have been able to work on many more different cases and types of personal injury because of the size. I highly recommend working for a small firm when you are first starting out because you will learn more, get more individualized attention, and gain experience that you otherwise wouldn't at a large firm.