April 7, 2008

Practicing Law

My externship with attorney John J. Curley ’P09. By Robyn Matchett ’09

During the winter session, government & law major Robyn Matchett ’09 (Sparta, N.J.) worked as an extern with John J. Curley ’P09, an attorney with John J. Curley LLC in Jersey City, N.J. Matchett is a member of the women’s softball team.

During winter break I had the opportunity to do an externship with John Curley. The externship provided me with an inside look at the practice of law, which was very beneficial since I am seriously considering applying to law school and becoming an attorney.

Many of the cases that the law firm handled dealt with the redevelopment of local cities and towns. Last semester in my environmental law course, we spent a considerable amount of time discussing the various advantages and disadvantages of redeveloping cities. Although the redevelopment benefits the cities economically, it is often at the expense of displacing poor families. However, during my experience I witnessed many cases in which the redevelopment effort required the building of new schools and other infrastructure components that would benefit the local citizens and help remove detrimental areas.

Additionally, I was able to sit-in on meetings with individual clients and attend a meeting with Hoboken City council representatives. The clients represented by Mr. Curley ranged from a large construction company or a local government, to several individuals. The meetings I attended varied. Mr. Curley apprised clients on the progress of their particular matter. The cases dealt with environmental issues, reconstruction law, township regulations, individual priorities, financial concerns, and many other issues and laws.

In another case, I witnessed debates between councilmen, individual land owners, and reconstruction companies. The lawyers represented the differing interests of each party and diverse elements of the law were brought into question. It was very interesting to see how the attorneys framed the issues and developed their arguments. This gave me an opportunity to see first hand how our legal system actually works. I realized how important it is to have a thorough knowledge of the law and regulations in order to understand and successfully argue for the rights of each client.

Going into the experience I had preconceived notions about many of the practices of reconstruction and certain laws. However, the experience changed my views. I was able to understand the positive effects some of these laws and reconstruction projects will have on the community. For example, because of the work Mr. Curley’s firm has done, as well as the laws that are in place, schools will replace broken-down buildings. The compromises reached between the city officials and the various parties allow for a new plan to be developed that will have a positive effect on the community, businesses, and individuals.

Beyond the experience of observing several days of Mr. Curley’s practice of law, I was also given the opportunity to learn from discussion with other attorneys at his firm about their careers. Throughout the experience everyone was extremely helpful and encouraging. Speaking with people who have already been through many of the experiences that I hope to explore in the near future was inspiring and helpful.

Many of the attorneys and other people involved in the various cases that I spoke with provided me with new perspectives to keep in mind when deciding whether to pursue a career as an attorney, as well as which law schools to consider attending. The extern experience helped me learn about specific laws and tied together knowledge from the classroom with current cases, but more importantly encouraged me to work harder in order to achieve the goals and objectives I have already established for myself.

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