Work Experience: Part 1

A lifetime’s road traversed in a week

We all hear, think of and excessively use to our advantage the phrase “Time Flies”. It’s a simple statement, but as I found out, surprisingly true.

I spent last week, from the 18th October 2009 to 23rd October 2009, at Work Experience in Weir & Associates, a law firm in the heart of Central, Hong Kong. It constituted five days of eye opening learning and discovery into the legal industry.

Prior to the week, I was in a peaceful state of mind. I had few expectations and fully assumed I would be given a load of administrative paper work and filing to use up the five days. It wasn’t demeaning in any ways, located in a law firm, it was really the only non-confidential, simple, week long task that didn’t require prior knowledge of legal matters, never-mind that I had dipped myself into law previously.

As I approached the office at 9:00 am on that first day however, a time I later found out was 30 minutes earlier that I needed to be at the office, I was an unusual ball of nerves. The nasty thoughts of the horrible things that could go wrong during the week were prolonged by the long wait, 30 minutes stretched to what seemed like eternity. When my supervisor came up, I was pleasantly surprised after the initial introduction that I in actual fact had been given my own computer, desk and was not relegated to some off distant corner of the office.

My observant mind picked up a lot of noticeable things, chiefly amongst them some technological concerns. I presumed lawyers would be slightly more traditional by virtue of the traditions and customs of the profession. Still, it was rather unexpected to see not one, not two but multiple typewriters in teh office. This ancient piece of technology was something I saw but never used, I learn the keyboard using a computer when I was six and recycled the typewriter with the Salvation Army when I was 10. I didn’t expect I’d ever SEE a typewriter again, let alone USE a type writer. In hind sight of course, I would admit that the typewriter is useful, particularly for a lawyer. It’s ability to place words at specific places comes very hand in filling forms and placing names in documents. Nevertheless, the reemergence of the typewriter was unexpected and quite an eye-opener.

As a student in a Mac school, I’m now very much accustomed to using Mac software and hardware. At the same time, I was mindful of the fact that the majority of the world still used Windows. So it was little surprise that the entire office was littered with PCs. It occurred to me that they were quite old and although they ran Windows XP, (noting that WIndows 7 hadn’t been out yet) the hardware involved was rather antique. When I had to get my email account set up, I got quite a shock to see that the technician had a small room, littered with old Macs and composed of 3 Windows and a Mac. Certainly I found this decision logical, but the simple appearance of Apple’s OS X was unexpected as I presumed that even the technicians would be employing WIndows for better connectivity.

The one thing that wasn’t surprising was the fact that I was asked to a load of filing. After all, it was what I’d expected. It was logical, but no exactly within my expectations that one of the Partners would ask me, a high school student, to conduct a mass of internet research for some of the present solicitors. Certainly, I had trust in my own researching skills after years of debating, but the trust that the partner entrusted upon me was unexpected. For all he knew, I could be a stupid boy who looked 11 that barely knew anything about stocks, data files or tax returns. Indeed, the list of research project I conducted stretched from researching about stocks, companies, tax returns, the US tax code and local employment programs. These not only taught me quite a lot about aspects I had yet to delve into, it provided me with the chance to further furnish my research skills under a difficult time constrain and with external requirements rather than internal motivations.

The first day certainly was filled with many of the surprises I have outlined. But the greatest one was still yet to come.

Towards the end of the day, one of the Partners came by my desk, as asked if I wanted to attend court! His exact words were :

“Hey Paul. Do you want to go to court tomorrow?”
One of the Partners

Next time, I reveal my experience in court, preparing, seeing and understanding.