Margaret (Maggie) Lederer is originally from New York City. For high school, Maggie left New York and went to Hotchkiss, a boarding school in Connecticut. She arrived at Hopkins undecided for her major. After exploring a few options and deciding chemistry lab took up too large of a block of time, she settled on psychology as a major. In addition, Maggie graduated with two minors: one in Spanish for the professions and another in entrepreneurship and management, with a concentration in business law.
While at Hopkins, Maggie was a tutor both at the Writing Center and as a volunteer tutor with the Tutorial Project. Maggie also spent her junior fall abroad, studying at a local university in Seville, Spain.
Maggie graduated from Johns Hopkins in December 2016, a semester early. She spent her would-be senior spring as an intern at the Maryland Public Defender’s Office, working in the mental health division. After leaving Baltimore that spring, Maggie went on to work as a litigation project assistant at Proskauer Rose, a law firm in New York.
Describe a day in the life of a Litigation Project Assistant.
My days are pretty unpredictable, which is both a positive and a negative. I never know exactly what to expect when I get to my desk. Sure, there are probably a few lingering tasks or long term projects I’m working on, but my day to day is constantly in flux. In litigation especially, circumstances change at the drop of a hat, so being flexible is key. While this can be frustrating in terms of planning my day, it definitely keeps it interesting.
On any given day, I can be reviewing a brief, preparing materials for court, working on a research project, or, most likely, organizing documents (the importance of chronological order cannot be overstated). A large part of my day is spent making sure our case files are organized and up to date — Proskauer handles some pretty large scale cases, so it’s my job to make sure we have everything organized in a way that makes sense and is easily accessible.
What made you choose this particular position and has it met your expectations?
I knew I wanted to take time off before entering any type of graduate school. I had already interned for a government agency, a public defender, and an in-house counsel, so I thought getting the chance to see life at a law firm would round out my experience and help me make an informed decision about whether I wanted to go to law school. I had a really positive experience when I came to interview at Proskauer. I had the chance to speak to some of the current project assistants — they seemed excited about the work they were doing and the environment they were in. Their enthusiasm sold me.
My experience has both exceeded my expectations while at the same time it has been so different than anything I imagined (watching several seasons of Suits before I started didn’t help). Coming from college, it’s hard to picture what having a full time, longer-than-three-months job is like, and then on top of that, working at a law firm is an intense and singular experience.
I think being a paralegal often gets a bad rap, and people picture angry lawyers, mundane work, and endless stacks of paper. That has not been my experience. I am lucky to work with attorneys who are not only incredibly smart and considerate, but who take the time to discuss and debate with me our often very complex cases. And while I will not say paralegal work in and of itself is glamorous, I have been able to shadow hearings, depositions, client presentations and more. And very rarely have I been surrounded by stacks of paper — that’s all digital now anyways.
Did you pursue anything else during your interim years before beginning law school? How did you go about researching each of these opportunities?
I had an extra semester after I graduated (in December 2016) before I planned to leave Baltimore (in June 2017). During this time, I was an intern at the Public Defender’s Office where I worked in the Mental Health Division. While there, I spent my days on psychiatric wards assisting investigators with client interviews in preparation for civil commitment hearings. In short, it could not have been more different than my current environment. But it was fascinating to me and a good way to combine my psychology degree with my interest in law.
What do you think you have gained from the experiences and from taking time off before law school? Given the choice, would you do it again?
I would definitely take time off again. I wasn’t sure law school was for me, and I had been in school since I was four years old. Being a paralegal allowed me learn more about a field I was interested in, while taking a break from academia. Not only have I gained technical knowledge and work experience, but I’ve gotten to work with some brilliant attorneys and see how they strategize, how they think. I can only hope this will serve me well in law school and beyond.
What types of undergraduate opportunities did you pursue that led to your decision to apply to law school?
As an undergraduate, my favorite classes were my law psychology courses with Dr. Raifman. I knew I was interested in the intersection of law and psychology, but not sure which one I wanted to pursue primarily. Dr. Raifman’s classes, particularly his seminar class, allowed me to explore these interests and view psychology in a legal framework. I also enjoyed the business law classes I took through the entrepreneurship and management program.
Maggie is happy to answer questions and is reachable by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.