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When Law Clerks Make $1,100 a Week, Something Is Truly Amiss in This World

July 03, 1988

I am disturbed by the message the article on Los Angeles law clerks potentially conveys to the public. Personally, I have no problem with the fact that the legal marketplace pays outrageous salaries to top law students.

My worry, however, is that your story perpetuates the growing "L.A. Law" myth that practicing law is little work, high salaries and all glamour.

The fact of the matter is that there are many of us who are working hard this summer in public-sector legal jobs. We, too, are top law students and hold many honors, but we have chosen to do what we feel is more fulfilling legal work despite its lower pay and lack of perks.

This summer, the Los Angeles district attorney's office interviewed 200 applicants to work as certified law clerks for 13 positions in its summer law clerk program. While we neither get taken to Linda Ronstadt concerts nor have our lunches bought for us, we also do not just sit in high-rise offices writing legal memos.

We are able to appear, under supervision, before a judge and jury, prepare and argue cases for trial and assist in alleviating an overburdened criminal justice system.

In my first nine days in the district attorney's Whittier office, I appeared eight times before a judge. I conducted preliminary felony hearings, argued traffic matters and prepared and prosecuted a burglary trial on behalf of the people of the State of California.

I would suggest to Times editors that the public has a right to read and learn about the Los Angeles district attorney's summer law clerk program and other public-sector-type programs. We are the soon-to-be lawyers who are making financial sacrifices in order to assist the public now and in the future.

While these private-sector law clerks may have "made it" this summer, their first year as an associate will be a different story. Each new lawyer will have to face the demands of minimum billable hours, wait three to seven years to get their civil cases into court and still produce legal memos for those above them on the ladder.

Isn't it true, after all, that there really is no such thing as a free lunch?


Rowland Heights

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