The full text of the interview is below:Jonathan Hilton: So Amanda, what brought you from University of Minnesota to come here, for our program at Hilton Parker LLC?
Amanda Maharg: I found this internship on Indeed, and I instantly really liked your website. And the fact that you put information about the internship on the website was really great. Because most companies don’t do that, they just say we have an internship. And so I felt like you seemed to care more than some of the other places I was applying to, and you have such a wide variety of cases that you do, that I knew I would get more experience and more useful experience.
Jonathan Hilton: Tell me a little bit about the first half of your summer, what was that mostly dedicated to?
Amanda Maharg: Drafting motions and complaints and things like that. Basically, just learning how to be an attorney from the document side of it. Because they really don’t teach you that in law school, and so I had no clue what I was doing.
Jonathan Hilton: Did you get to see any trials?
Amanda Maharg: Yes, I got to see a couple. Every time that you went to court, I was able to go with you, which was also really great.
Jonathan Hilton: In in terms of that first half of the summer, if you’re thinking about how to litigate a case, start to finish, do you feel like there was any gap in that, that you didn’t get a chance to at least dabble in a bit?
Amanda Maharg: No, absolutely not. I feel like I got pretty much the whole experience. Obviously, there’s going to be different curveballs thrown your way with every case, but I also got to experience that. Every time something weird or new happened, I was able to do what I needed to do, and I learned so much more about that than in law school.
Jonathan Hilton: Tell me a little bit about some of the training that you received in different aspects of litigation, notably, what are these? (Gestures to books on table.)
Amanda Maharg: These are a few different books about writing like an attorney, speaking like an attorney, a huge book about depositions. And I got to help make deposition notices, and help you prepare for depositions, and even watch a couple of depositions which is also great. Because there’s no experience like that kind of experience, actually getting to watch an attorney do it.
Jonathan Hilton: How does the assigned reading that you did here compare to, say, what you might have read in law school?
Amanda Maharg: Well, you read cases in law school which can be helpful, and it does teach you the law itself. But this actually taught me how to write like an attorney, how to be a professional and how to do the actual job.
Jonathan Hilton: Tell me a little bit about the second half of the summer. After you’d learn the building blocks of litigation, basically learned from client intake to trial how to work up the case and try it, what did you do the second half of the summer?
Amanda Maharg: A lot of legal research on some pretty interesting and important cases, and helping theorize and build the ideas and turn them into an actual work product.
Jonathan Hilton: I think part of your experience here was learning how do you create a new legal theory from scratch if you want to expand the common law, expand the interpretation of a statute. What was that experience like getting some of these massive projects and having the ability to just run with them and generate ideas?
Amanda Maharg: It was amazing! There’s so much, and I mean, in any school, undergrad law school, whatever it is, you’re given a set of parameters and they say, “here’s the rule, create something.” But you don’t have any ability to think outside the box. And I feel like I was able to do that and also brainstorm with you and come up with the ideas and have my ideas heard.
Jonathan Hilton: We appreciated the ideas—they were good!
Amanda Maharg: Which is not something that I expected as a summer intern.
Jonathan Hilton: And it’s also the freedom to come up with an idea and then when you’re challenged and pushed on it, okay, go into the case law and see if you can find the overarching principles that might backup your point. Because there’s not going to be any case on point: we’re just asked to handle questions that are harder than that. You can’t look up what the law is. But you can go back the first principles and explain what the law should be. And one thing that really impressed me about you during the summer, is the ability to block out a few days, go back and really try to think about how are you going to support a new legal argument based on first principles. So that’s something we’ve really appreciated.
Amanda Maharg: Thank you!
Jonathan Hilton: What’s the work environment like?
Amanda Maharg: Incredible! I really wanted the small firm feel as opposed to even just a bigger firm or corporate, because I felt like I would get more attention and help and training. And every time I’ve walked in the door, I’m excited to be here, no matter what it is I’m working on, even if it’s something that’s not exactly where my interests lie in law. It doesn’t matter because I know that everything that I’m doing is teaching me how to be an attorney. And both you and Geoff have really made this an amazing experience.
Jonathan Hilton: What do you think of our clients?
Amanda Maharg: That was definitely, I’ve never worked with clients before.
Jonathan Hilton: It’s an experience, right?
Amanda Maharg: Yes, it is definitely an experience. Because when you’re a small town firm, you get a wide variety of people, whether they just found your website, or were referred to you, or something. And so you get so many different cases and so many different types of people, but that’s how the real world is. And I wanted that experience to learn how to deal with different types of people, in different cases, in different situations.
Jonathan Hilton: I tend to think of a lot of our small business clients and just regular, ordinary, everyday people clients, as people who have legal problems that relate back to what you learned that 1L year—but now it’s a whole new level on steroids.
Amanda Maharg: Yes, absolutely! They teach you how to do some legal research 1L year, but it’s very minimal. And what they really don’t tell you is that, you can’t just look something up and come up with an answer right away. And these people, they’re relying on you and your knowledge and your ability to do so. And so it makes it a lot more real.
Jonathan Hilton: And you actually had some pretty incredible amounts of responsibility in some of our cases. What was that like to be one year out of law? Well, basically, to have one year of law school, and then okay, here is the repository of all the facts for a case. Now, it’s up to you to figure out how to plan the next deposition.
Amanda Maharg: I really thought that it was going to be a lot of pressure, and it was. But this environment made me feel like it wasn’t because obviously, I got things wrong. And sometimes I didn’t search for the right thing or something like that. But you never made me feel like, I just couldn’t do it. Every time I would get something wrong, you just said, “Okay, no, here’s the direction we’re going.” And then set me off again.
Jonathan Hilton: I think one of the crazy things about what we’re able to do here is that, for the most part, we’re actually able to pack in a very intense experience that runs from “9 to 5.” We manage to run our schedules. Now of course, Geoff sometimes works longer hours since he’s a night owl (and I can handle that aspect), but we do have a very intense schedule while we’re here. We’re focused, we’re 100% intense. If we go to lunch, we’re talking about cases, we’re brainstorming law. What’s it like to be in an environment where the brains are always ticking?
Amanda Maharg: It’s amazing! I didn’t have any legal experience before this job. I’ve only worked retail. So being in an environment where everybody is working their hardest, and is always on the ball is incredible.
Jonathan Hilton: It’s a little bit different environment than going to maybe a big firm, where there’s a little more in terms of politics and you’ve got to be able to talk about sports there. Here, we’re thinking about knowing all the Supreme Court holdings off the top of your head, or like you might know your baseball stats, if you were in a “small talk” environment. Would you describe it as an atmosphere for legal nerds?
Amanda Maharg: Absolutely! I not only have learned so much here about just being an attorney, but just about the law and different questions I have about the law and things like that. And you know everything. Every time I’ve had a question about anything, you’ve been able to answer it.
Jonathan Hilton: One of the key moments that we’ve evolved in this internship experience is that, at the very beginning, we start with a comprehensive overview of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure—what does each one mean? Because you don’t get that in law school, and you don’t get any kind of context on how the rules are structured and organized. Now that you’ve been through the litigation program, how do you feel about your ability to go back and come up with procedural theories based on the structure and organization of the rules?
Amanda Maharg: It’s zero to a hundred. I feel like not only have I learned more about them. In law school, it’s a crash course in learning them because you only have a semester to do so. But you’re also focusing on so many other things in law school and so many other classes. And here, I felt like I got to actually incorporate the rules into what I was doing. And so it’s not only learning and memorizing them, but it’s actually applying them and solving problems with them.
Jonathan Hilton: And just during the three months that you’ve been here—we’ve actually pulled off some pretty interesting upsets. One of the things that we really pride ourselves on here, is that in addition to our work in the community, work with small businesses and clients, about half or more of our work is legal work that’s given to us—brief writing work, oral arguments—that are given to us by other law firms, specifically because there’s a new area of law. And one of the things that I’m really proud of here, is that we’ve had a number of motions, and a number of briefs, we’ve survived some really awful summary judgment motions in terms of—we have been given the “Hail Marys.” What’s our record been this summer?
Amanda Maharg: It’s been crazy. There’s been so many things that I thought, when we first got the information, I said, “No, there’s no way.” No matter how smart anybody here is, there’s just no way. And we really have pulled off some really crazy things. And you’ve really taught me that when you put your mind into something, obviously there some things that just aren’t going to work out. But when you put your mind into something and know how to do the research and know how to create these theories, you can do it.
Jonathan Hilton: “Where there is a will, there is a way.” It’s incredible to think the pendulum of the law has swung back and forth so many times over the past six centuries. That no matter which side you’re advocating for, you can find the principles that are going to help your client that are going to give your client the best possible case. We will go back as far as it takes. Or, we’ll look at the future of the evolution of the law to try to make projections out about how the common law might evolve. And those are skills that you’re not going to get working doc review at another firm.
Amanda Maharg: No, absolutely not. And I think that, too. You’ve taught me that it’s more than just doing the legal research and writing the motion. It’s trying to figure out what you want to come out of this, whether it’s a new theory, or whether you even want to maybe you have to reconsider the law, or whatever. It’s more than just doing research. And I feel like had I worked at a big firm or a corporate level firm, that’s all I would have done, which is do legal research and that’s it.
Jonathan Hilton: What do you think about our whiteboarding process?
Amanda Maharg: That is amazing! I never thought about that, and I am absolutely going to use that in the future. Being able to storyboard ideas and have them staring at you and write it all down, instead of just looking at it on a computer screen. Because that’s what I would do in the past, write my ideas into a Word document and then put bullet points on it. But being able to look at, whether it’s a timeline or being able to say: “Okay, here’s our arguments, here’s what we need to come up with, is amazing.”
Jonathan Hilton: Particularly, when you’re handling really complex choice of law issues, you need to have the flowcharts made, looking at how the state laws are going to bounce off each other in order to reach the result that your client needs.
Amanda Maharg: Yes, absolutely.
Jonathan Hilton: Alright. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to do this.
Amanda Maharg: Thank you for having me.
Jonathan Hilton: It’s been a great summer.
Amanda Maharg: Yes, it really has.Disclaimer: Nothing in this article is intended to provide any legal advice to clients, potential clients, or the general public. This article is to provide information about our summer internship program for law students only.