Texas Tech University School of Law
Sana Achraf – My Activities
The adjustment to remote learning and working has been a difficult task, however, my associates at Lloyd & Mousilli have been very helpful in making the process as simple and easy as possible. In my first week, I was tasked with drafting a memorandum on a case Lema is in the process of litigating. The memo was to focus on whether a co-defendant would be able to remove a case filed in state court to federal court once the defendant was served. This was a topic I was familiar with from my civil procedure course during my 1L year, however, this memo required me to delve deeper into the topic.
Charlotte assisted me in getting access to the information needed to become familiar with the case. I read the briefs and motions from both parties of the case to grasp a full understanding of the issue at hand. I had never read a case dealing with trade secrets so I was intrigued by the new information and laws I was learning. The most challenging aspect of this assignment was researching outside of Westlaw and Lexis. In law school, our research mainly revolved around those two sites but Lema made sure to let me know that it was crucial to look for information outside of those avenues. I realized that to really delve into the research you need to find the hidden details and this takes some patience. For instance, on a few sites, the place of incorporation for the defendant was listed as California, however, once I looked into their tax forms, I found that it was actually in Delaware. This taught me to always double and triple check my sources because some things are not easily detectable.
My second task was assigned by Feras and was more on the transactional side of the law. This was an interesting experience for me because I had never done anything transactional. My task was to look over a contract and detect the terms that were specific to the company and change them into more general terms so that the agreement could be used for multiple clients. Essentially Feras wanted it to be a template. Megan assisted me a lot in this task because I was unfamiliar with this type of work. She was very understanding and patient with me which I greatly appreciated. I would say that this type of task was more tedious because it required great attention to detail. This was a task that required multiple people to look over because it is easy to miss something. Overall this is something that is essential to know how to do in the legal field and although tedious, I am happy that I have a better understanding of the transactional aspect of the legal field.
My best advice I can give is to triple check your sources when researching because it may seem like the answer is right in front of you but that might not be the case. As future lawyers I think our ability to delve deep into our research is what differentiates us from other professions. Also do not hesitate to ask for help. I could have saved myself more time if I had initially clarified some things with Lema or Feras and I wish I had asked more questions in the beginning. When I asked Megan for assistance with the contract she was very helpful and I appreciated her clarifying any confusion I had.
This week I had to learn how to balance my work with my personal life which was a challenging task. My closest cousin was getting married and I wanted to make sure I was there for her but also needed to set time aside for my work. This is one of the many positive things about having the benefit of being able to work remotely and it made me realize how much of a blessing it is to have that option.
My first task was a different memorandum assigned to me by Lema. This topic was one that I was more unfamiliar with so it required more extensive research on my part. This memo focused on pressure wound cases in Texas. I was asked to research different cases involving pressure wounds in Texas, the elements needed to prevail, facts involved in the cases, deciding factors and verdicts for each case. I enjoyed this assignment especially because I had no prior knowledge of pressure wounds and it was interesting and shocking to see what hospitals were required to do and how many of them were able to get away with harming their patients. This memo was a little different for me because I wasn’t necessarily defending any party but it was more of a general research paper. I liked learning to go about a memo in a different type of format while being completely neutral in my writing.
My second task was assigned to me by Feras and involved the drafting of an article and operating agreement for PLLCs in Texas. I was asked to research and write an article about PLLCs in Texas. I appreciated this assignment because I think it is crucial to be aware of the different types of business entities a company can choose from. I had heard of LLCs but had never heard of a PLLC and I am grateful to now know the difference between the two. I was intrigued to research the different advantages and disadvantages the various types of entities had to offer. I was also tasked with drafting a sample operating agreement where I was given a PLLC agreement from a different state. I had to really read the agreement carefully because there are many laws that differ from how Texas deals with PLLCs. This was another assignment that dealt with more of the transactional side of law and required much more attention to detail.
My advice is to figure out how to balance your work life with your personal life. I know that many attorneys who have children and families have learned to adjust their time to be able to get their tasks done. This is a learning experience and everyone will have something different that works for them. For me, I would try and get as much work done as possible so that I could reward myself with family time. Being able to spend more time with family was what drove me to get as much work done as possible. I would set time aside in the mornings and late at night where I had less distractions. Lema gave me some constructive criticism about how in the real world deadlines are much shorter than what we are given in law school and this has been a difficult but doable adjustment. I am grateful for getting the real world experience now so that I am better prepared for the future.
Week 3 has taken an interesting turn after being asked to do some different tasks from the ones I had been assigned previously. This week I had to ask for assistance from various colleagues for different tasks and I was really happy with how everyone was quick to assist. I met Jennifer for the first time (virtually of course) and was asked to help her find some policy arguments on justifications for the Texas Court of Appeals hearing a petition. I had some difficulty at first but Jennifer was very helpful and I appreciated her patience with me.
Lema asked me to research possible remedies after the appellate court issued a one-sentence denial of their injunction. I was asked to seek possible remedies for the court to issue a longer opinion on why they denied the motion. This task was difficult because it is not something courts ordinarily do. After some thorough research, I found that the remedies available were actually quite limited. In law school most of our research was straightforward and to the point, however, this topic took a lot of patience and reading the small details in the case law. I found myself becoming frustrated at the lack of information I was able to find and at times very discouraged. However, I think this was an important trial to go through because not everything will be as straightforward as you’d like and it takes a lot of patience and reading to be able to find what you are looking for.
I was also assigned some transactional work such as drafting billing guidelines for the attorneys at the firm. This was interesting because I got to learn how different firms bill their clients and how different firms deal with various charges. I learned that our firm bills in increments of 6 minutes which I had never really heard of prior to this assignment. Although simple, the takeaway from this assignment was great since I will need to know this information once I start working at a firm in the near future.
My best advice is do not let yourself get discouraged if you cannot find the answer you are looking for right away. Sometimes you won’t find the answer and that’s what makes our legal system so complex. Although it may take patience just keep pushing through and don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues any questions to resolve any confusion you may have. Another thing I would advise is to make sure to have someone else read over your assignments because some things may make sense to you but maybe confusing to someone else reading it. It is crucial for others to be able to find your writing legible and comprehensible.
By week four I am definitely starting to get into the groove of things. I am able to complete tasks quicker and I am starting to have a better understanding of how to get tasks done. I appreciate that Lema is able to trust me in assisting her with her cases. I started off with more academic assignments and now I am transitioning into tasks that involve communicating with potential defendants and expert witnesses. I like that I am getting this type of experience because we often get lost in the academic aspect of legal work and forget that this is actually affecting real people.
This week I was given a couple of different tasks to complete. After completing my memo about pressure wound cases in Texas, I was asked to look for 5 expert witnesses in pressure wounds. I was able to find several experts and provided biographies of each. I was then asked to contact each expert to see if they would be available to testify in a possible medical malpractice/pressure wound claim. I made sure that they had no conflicts with the defendant, retrieved a copy of their CV and fee schedules. This task was really cool because it made everything I was doing seem more real since I was contacting actual people and getting information from them. When you’re in law school all your assignments are for academic purposes so doing assignments that affect actual clients is kind of surreal.
I was also asked to draft a letter to the potential defendant in the pressure wound case. The firm had asked the potential defendant for medical records for one of their patients, however, they charged a ridiculous amount of money. Lema informed me that this was a violation of federal law and I was asked to cite the law that forbids charging over a certain amount of money for medical records under HITECH in my letter. I had never heard of HITECH before so it was cool to read about it. I have thought about practicing health law in the past and it was nice to sort of get my foot in the door and experience some issues that come up in the health law field.
Another task I was given this week was to find cases that discussed what happens to the interest of a member of an LLC when they die. Lema was working on a case that involved an individual claiming voting rights after being assigned the interest of the deceased member. This topic was familiar to me because Feras had asked me to draft an article on PLLCs in the past and I remembered reading about this. I was shocked at how little case law there was in Texas that discussed this issue so Lema had me expand my search to other jurisdictions.
The advice I have for this week is to not be afraid to go back to your advisor when you have not found exactly what they are looking for. I researched for hours looking for cases that discussed the death of an LLC member in Texas and found little to no information. I was afraid to go back to Lema with this, however, she also told me that she was shocked at how little case law there was about this and then asked me to expand my search to other jurisdictions. My advice is to not give up right away when you do not find the information you are looking for, however, if you spend hours searching to no avail then do not be afraid to go back to your advisor for assistance because it may be that there just isn’t that much information out there on that specific topic.
This week I continued to contact experts for the pressure wound case. Many of them either did not answer the first time or had said they would get back to my call. It seemed like a simple task where I could just call the expert and get the information I needed but many of them were either in clinic or wanted to perform a background check before giving out information. I was finally able to get most of the information I needed such as CVs, fee schedules, availability, and past experience.
My next assignment was to write a memo about 3rd party discovery. I looked into the discovery rules stated in the Texas Rule of Civil procedure regarding non-parties. The rules differ when requesting discovery from a non-party to the suit, for instance, a party may not direct interrogatories to a non-party of the lawsuit which was something I was unaware of. Discovery was a big focus in my civil procedure class first semester so there were a lot of words and rules that were familiar to me. Although we did discuss third-party discovery to an extent in our class, this assignment was a good refresher since I had forgotten many of the applicable rules.
My best advice is to keep re-reading the rules in the statute and to find cases where these rules have been applied because sometimes it can be confusing trying to gather everything together. One section will be discussing a certain topic but then you find that another section is more applicable to your subject matter. You must look through all the applicable sections of the statute to figure out which one fits your topic the best. Looking through case law is very helpful in this regard.
This week I was given a slightly different task. After the firm’s request for medical records in the pressure wound case was granted I was asked to sift through the medical records and summarize them to make the process easier for the attorneys working on the case. This seems like a simple task, however, the medical records included hundreds and hundreds of papers and hand-written documents that were very difficult to decipher. I made sure to look out for any mention of the patient’s pressure wounds in the documents since this was the focus of the lawsuit. However, I made sure to include other information that seemed important or unusual. The most difficult part of this task was to remain patient and make sure to look at every detail in each document because I did not want to miss information that may be crucial to the case. This task was very time consuming but I was glad to get the assignment before starting my first week of 2L. This took hours of sifting through documents and making sure I got through every single one. Many hand-written notes by doctors and therapists were very difficult to read and I would have to note that in my summary. I had to include which doctor/ health care professional signed off or wrote each document and some signatures were not legible so this was something I also struggled with. I made sure to create a table that included the health care professional’s name, the document title, the date of the document and the description/ important notes from the document. I felt this was the easiest way to organize the information and make it most convenient for the attorney.
My best advice when receiving an assignment like this is to spread it out over a span of a couple of days if your attorney allows it. Sifting through too many documents in one day can be very overwhelming and may cause you to skip over important details and information contained in the document. Make sure to split the records over the span of a few days and have a goal in mind of how many you want to get through each day. This will make your life much easier and will make it a little less overwhelming.
These two weeks were a little more difficult because I had officially started my second year of law school. I had to learn how to balance my reading assignments with the work I was receiving from the firm to make sure everything was getting done in time. This is probably similar to doing mock trial or being on a journal during law school. It is something that students have difficulty with but it is definitely doable with the right organization and time management.
Lema asked the clerks if we would be interested in doing a mock hearing so that we could get feedback from the other attorneys and employees in the firm. I thought this was a great way to gain more experience and insight for oral arguments. I have always had difficulty with public speaking so this was something I was nervous about doing at first, however, I am grateful for the experience. I felt like I gained more confidence in my oral argument skills and I was able to point out my weaknesses that I need to work on in the future. I thought the advice I got was really helpful and constructive. Lema mentioned how we should always try to get on the judge’s good side by telling the judge “that’s a great question” and “I was just about to get to that”. Although this was something small or something that attorneys wouldn’t usually think about, Lema mentioned how a gesture as small as this could get a judge to respect you or like you more as an attorney. The hearing was very realistic and Jennifer threw out some difficult questions to show us what we should be expecting during an oral argument in the future. Although at the time I was not so excited about the hard questions, I appreciated the challenge because now I know what to expect in future court hearings. Overall it was an experience that I recommend all future clerks should try. It seems intimidating and it was even more difficult to prepare for while having other law school assignments but it was worth it.
My final assignment was a memo on Jane Doe lawsuits. I had never heard of this type of a lawsuit before so I was curious to see what it was all about. It turns out that Jane Doe is the name parties of a lawsuit use if they wish to file suit anonymously. This was really intriguing because I didn’t know that plaintiffs could file suit with their identity remaining confidential. Texas explicitly allows sexual assault victims and minors to file suit under a pseudonym, however, in other cases plaintiffs have to file a motion to seal records in order to file suit anonymously. This can be difficult because courts feel that it is the public’s right to view public records except in rare cases where the risk to the plaintiff outweighs that right.
My final advice is to make sure you set aside time for yourself. It may seem impossible to have any free time when you have law school assignments on top of work from the firm but I think it is essential to have a time in the day where you can do an activity such as working out or spending time with family to remain sane. It is good to be busy and have work to do but I think a work and life balance is really important for your mental health. I was able to set days aside for law assignments and for firm work and I would make sure to have a couple hours each day where I would go outside for a walk or workout at home. Your work is important but it should never come at the expense of your well-being.