By August 22, 2022

Meet Briana Harris, a rising third-year law student at Florida International University College of Law and last year’s recipient of Kluger Kaplan’s Annual H.T. Smith Legal Studies Scholarship. Briana reflects on her experience working with attorneys, growing as a young professional, and the impact of the scholarship award.

I never would’ve imagined that taking the time to apply for a scholarship would open so many doors and lead to such a rewarding summer experience. During my interview, I immediately felt that if I were chosen as the recipient of the scholarship, I would be joining a team of intelligent and experienced attorneys who genuinely cared about my professional development. My instincts were right, and during my 8-week clerkship this past summer at Kluger Kaplan, I received a lot of invaluable feedback on my work product and gained numerous mentors who are willing to help me figure out my career path.

After I had been notified that I had received the scholarship, Alan Kluger called and said that he wanted to get lunch with me before I started working. I remember how nervous I was, thinking that this was going to be another interview, but I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that it was just an opportunity for us to get to know each other a little better. This was the first of many informal lunches where I was able to speak candidly with, and get to know, the attorneys, legal assistants, and paralegals at the firm on a more personal level. Everyone was so welcoming and down-to-earth, which really made me feel at home and that I could truly come to them with any questions or concerns that I may have had.

I don’t come from a family of lawyers or legal professionals, and I was previously pre-med before I discovered that law school was the right path for me, so, aside from what I had read online, I had no idea what to expect from my summer clerkship. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to become a litigator because the thought of going to court and having to consistently speak in public terrified me. Luckily, this summer showed me that I had nothing to fear and that there is so much more to being a litigator than just going to court.

My favorite classes in law school have been the legal research and writing courses, which my professors always say simulate the typical daily work of a lawyer. I was able to put what I’ve learned into practice through the wide array of interesting cases and practice areas that I was asked to do research and other writing assignments for. Whether I was drafting a demand letter for a potential employment discrimination case, researching statutes in the Uniform Commercial Code to determine if a contract was effectively modified, or drafting responses to motions to dismiss in complex estate matters, I was exposed to, and had an active role in, so many different matters. I was amazed at the amount of trust each attorney put in me to work on assignments without being micromanaged. Of course, my supervising attorney for the assignment would give me guidance on how to complete the assignment, and if I got stuck on something or was unsure on how to proceed in a matter, I was encouraged to ask questions, but each attorney treated me as if I were a professional and not just a law student.

I had so many great experiences with the firm this past summer that it is hard to encapsulate them all in a few words. I was able to accompany Lisa Jerles on a tour of a facility that was the subject of ongoing litigation and, I not only got to accompany Bruce Katzen and Maia Dombey to a trial, but I also was able to actually participate in the trial by reading parts of a deposition into the record. These were just a few of the unique experiences that I never would have imagined would be a part of my summer clerkship but have shown me different aspects of litigation and given me some practice of speaking in a courtroom.

They say that time flies when you are having fun, and my 8-week clerkship seemed to whizz by. I am so grateful for the opportunity to get exposure to litigation and to the practice of law because it opened my eyes to the possibilities of my career and has given me tools that will supplement the rest of my legal education. Thank you to everyone at Kluger Kaplan for guiding and mentoring me, and for making me feel at home.