I’m currently articling with an experienced lawyer who has had many articling students in the past.
This past week (and this weekend as well since I’m having to redo it), my boss has told me to summarize a judicial decision. Now, I’ve always understood a summary to be significantly shorter than the thing summarized and to leave out a lot of details, only leaving the essential elements.
I’ve done it 7 times now and it’s still insufficient. The decision is 111 paragraphs long. My summary of it is 60 paragraphs long and it’s still not detailed enough.
Turns out, what he wanted me to do was go through the decision and spot all the facts that are asserted by the judges and then go through the trial records and pieces of evidence and add the proper footnotes to back up those assertions. He also wants me to find any evidence in the records that the judges didn’t mention in their decision.
That is not what I understand a summary to be. I spent all week doing this.
He also kept telling me that he wanted me to recreate the syllogism the judges used. Turns out, he doesn’t seem familiar with the meaning of the word “syllogism”.
He’s not big on giving guidance. He’s much more the type to tell me to figure it out on my own.
How do I deal with that?
Can you ask him for a sample another decision and its summary that he thought was good so that you have an idea what he is expecting?
I have a boss like that too. It has been tough.
He did give me a sample decision as an example. It was still quite short compared to what he now wants. To give you an idea, the sample decision had, in the equivalent section, about 30 paragraphs. Like I said earlier, at 60 paragraphs it still isn’t detailed enough so if I taken the sample decision as an indication, I would be way too short.
The thing that threw me off is him using the term “summary” when he really didn’t mean that. He also said I had to find the committe’s syllogism. He does not appear to be familiar with the word syllogism. Now he wants the ratio decidendi. I have no idea what that means to him.
He just seems to have difficulty attaching words to meanings, which is a rather basic skill for a lawyer.
Is there someone who has successfully worked with him that you can ask?
I asked others who’ve worked with him and got eyerolls and sighs of exasperation about “his damn memoirs*”
*I’m not quite sure it’s called a memoir in English. The document that contains the exposition of the facts and the argumentation in an appeal.
Try to figure out why he wants this “summary.” I’m about to graduate law school this May, and I’m not entirely sure why anyone would want what your boss is asking for.
If you can figure out why he wants the summary, then you can focus your efforts on his goals instead of his inadequate descriptions of what he wants you to do.
Well, that’s a good start. Could they give suggestions about what they did? Or maybe they can give advice on how they got out of that position?