Learning the Law Measure for Measure
The following appears in the Winter 2012-13 issue of The Docket, the Earle Mack School of Law biennial newsletter.
As the son of professional musicians, Peter McCall long ago accepted the fact that skills like playing the cello with perfection do not come easily.
But as a kid, McCall studied the cello for long enough to appreciate how much can be learned through practice, practice and more practice.
Fortunately, McCall’s years in law school are giving him many opportunities to understand the law and gain experience with professional practice.
Classes like Business Organizations have provided critical tools for tackling tasks in McCall’s co-op placement with Spector Gadon & Rosen, where he is supervised by Alan B. Epstein, chair of the firm’s Employment Law Practice Group.
"Taking ’Biz Orgs’ was one of the most useful things I’ve done in law school," McCall said. "It gives you an orientation for framing issues, so you know how to find the relevant information you need."
That’s come in handy in the co-op placement, where the work itself is McCall’s "syllabus."
"You get the assignment, figure out when it is due and stay on top of it," he said. "You also have to prioritize assignments to make sure you haven’t left anything out."
McCall’s role involves research and writing related to limited partnership agreements or interpreting specific contractual provisions. The foundation McCall gained in the classroom has provided him with a compass for finding and navigating statutes related to the cases.
The placement has also underscored the differences between business law and intellectual property law, which relies less on rigid rules than on broad standards viewed through "the eye of the beholder," McCall said.
Working with individuals who have employment-related grievances during a summer internship at Lavin O’Neil, Ricci Cedrone & DiSipio showed McCall how much lawyers must help clients manage their emotions as much as focusing on results or costs.
"It’s so different working with individual clients, compared to corporate or business clients who get sued all the time," he said. "Individuals come in with a grievance, but they might not even be able to identify, in legal terms, what the problem is."
McCall’s experience at Spector Gadon follows a summer placement with a judge in the Court of Common Pleas. There, McCall watched a range of attorneys, noting "what’s really effective in the courtroom."
Although McCall is not yet sure what area of law he will focus on in his career, he’s already lined up work after graduation, clerking for New Jersey Superior Court Judge James P. Savio in Atlantic City.
As a clerk, McCall knows that he’ll have even more opportunities to absorb the techniques of advocates who persuade jurors the way a master musician can coax gorgeous notes from an instrument.
"That’s the black box of law," McCall said, "that few have mastered but many have tried."