Why am I spending the summer at a law firm?!
Read my Article on LinkedIn.
I had no idea what an internship at a law firm would be like, but if I had to imagine, I would probably expect it to be sitting in an office all day. Well, in the summer of 2021, I found out at Ravenscroft & Schmierer. And it was nothing like I would have expected.
"What we need is a court riot!", a barrister angrily exclaimed as we continued into yet another hour of waiting at Eastern Magistrates' Courts in Sai Wan Ho on Hong Kong Island. It was nearing noon, and we had been there since 9:30 in the morning. I thought to myself, if this is what being a lawyer is, that is a lot of money for just waiting around.
The waiting room was crowded with barristers, solicitors, members of the general public, and student interns alike. All waiting for the same thing. For their case to be heard by a judge. Eventually, our case number was called at noon. And we entered the court room, just to hear the judge say, “This case has now been committed to the High Court for trial".
I was disappointed. We had spent hours going through witness transcripts. Putting together case files. Printing pleadings bundles. Only to arrive here, patiently wait, and be in and out of the courtroom within 5 minutes and 32 seconds. This particular case had already been dragged out for over a year. And now the case would have to wait another 5-7 months before being heard at the High Court.
The past week, I read up on the case itself and all the previous case bundles to understand its background. At the same time, I helped review drafts for court. It was exciting work, especially given my very limited experience in the legal industry.
How did I arrive here? Well, the application process for me started over 9,500km away from Hong Kong. I was in Reims, a small a city in northeastern France when I saw the job advertisement on LinkedIn while looking for summer internships. This opportunity seemed like a long-shot for me as a dual-major in political science and economics. I was still unsure of whether I should major in law later on. But I was surprised to hear back within a week, with a video interview set up not much later. Despite the distance and time difference, there were multiple video interviews and calls which made the application process as smooth as possible.
Soon after that, I accepted a 5-week summer internship with Ravenscroft & Schmierer, a law firm in Hong Kong. I was offered work on both legal and non-legal tasks. This made my internship a valuable experience.
As an operations and finance intern, I had a typical day of work consisting of tasks like accounting and billing procedures, analysing our social media analytics, as well as optimising the firm's internet presence. Internal operations like filing, printing, and scanning substantial legal work were also crucial to my understanding of the firm's organisation and management. I assisted with coordinating interviews, updating files, and sitting in on meetings for the company's insurance plans.
And I was able to be exposed to the world of law. This was particularly exciting for me, because I am considering a degree in law. I was introduced to a variety of legal cases such as commercial, matrimonial, criminal and fraud, where I had the freedom to read up on case files. This helped me understand more about the cases itself as well as the legal proceedings.
Towards the end of my internship, I had the opportunity to finish a tenancy agreement process, do some notary work as well as legal research and co-author an article about Norwich Pharmacal Orders on Lexology, a webpage geared towards providing international legal updates, analysis and insights. Norwich Pharmacal Orders are court orders that require disclosure from a third-party who has been mixed up in wrongdoing – more often than not, these third parties are banks in fraud cases.
Nevertheless, these were all unlike tasks I had expected to have, and I was thankfully guided through every step by various members of the team. They carefully explained to me what was expected and what had to be done, including rereading and reviewing the tenancy agreement itself, calling the landlord to confirm specific clauses, sending off the tenancy agreement with our messenger for stamp duty at the IRD (Inland Revenue Department), and then posting the stamped agreement to the landlord and the tenant. The pressure that could be felt at times when there were numerous clients at the firm, all waiting to have documents notarised while we were rushing to finalise their documents, was exhilarating. It was through these moments where I learnt the most about working at a law firm.
From left to right: Shirley Ng, Michael Hwang and me.
Alongside the other interns, I quickly discovered that there was never a dull moment at Ravenscroft & Schmierer. Whether we were preparing for a client to arrive, doing research, scheduling meetings, speaking to clients over the phone, reviewing drafts for court, or painstakingly printing out page after page for bundles after having somehow messed up the page numbers. There was never a day where I was just sitting still in front of my computer for too long. And that made my time at the firm so valuable, constantly learning and absorbing new things in the legal field. An experience that far exceeded my expectations this summer.
Ashley Chan is an incoming 2nd year student, pursuing a Politics & Government major at Sciences Po Paris, and an Economics major at UC Berkeley.