Internship Report Complied by Shahzad Arain

During winter term break 2008, I completed my four week internship at the Bennett Law Firm in Houston, Texas. The Bennett Law Firm is located in Downtown Houston on 515 Louisiana, Suite 200 – the heart of the historical theatre district. The Firm consists of several attorneys and staff-members who work in a 1900s brick building. I chose to apply to the Bennett Law Firm for my internship after emailexchanges with Mr. Bennett. He answered my concerns about what he expected to accomplish and provided information about what Münster University law clerks had done in the past. The Firm is a Texas Professional Corporation engaged in the practice of law on a national basis having the capability of providing a full range of litigation services to all manner of business entities, individuals, and organizations. Furthermore, Mr. Bennett is Board Certified in Consumer and Commercial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and is a former federal prosecutor.

One concentration in which I got an illustrative and rewarding insight is the representation of lawyers and medical professionals. During my time at the Bennett Law Firm, I was involved in a lot of different tasks such as legal research, case briefings, and other office work. I did legal research on lawyer advertising and barratry. This topic traditionally is not part of the education of German law students although it can be of enormous importance for a lawyer’s practice because violations of the ethics rules can lead to restrictions as well as to the revocation of one’s license. I saw the importance of this when I attended a presentation Mr. Bennett gave at the famous University of Texas Law School in Austin which I helped prepare some legal research about the latest developments in this field of law for the presentation. Barratry is a complex issue which concerns an attorney’s behaviour in soliciting clients. An illustrative example is when a lawyer specialising in aviation law hears about a collision between two airplanes at an international airport. Although the firm never represented any of the airlines involved he suggests to his Client Development Committee calling and telling the CEO’s of each company that the firm is sending a team of drivers with limousines

to the airport to greet officials from both airlines as they arrive in town to respond to the crash. He also proposes setting up a hospitality suite for the officials at the airport hotel and placing copies of the firm’s brochures in the seat pockets in the passenger compartment of each limousine and on the coffee table in hotel suite. These actions will raise several questions of barratry-statute violations. To answer whether any kind of lawyer advertising is legal behaviour or whether it might be restricted or prohibited by any barratry statue one always has to be aware of the tension between the commercial free-speech rights of lawyers, the state’s interest in regulating the conduct of lawyers and the privacy rights of individuals who are or may be the objects of attorney solicitation. I twice got the opportunity to go to Austin with Mr. Bennett to hearings in front of the Texas Medical Board where he was representing physicians who were being charged for violations of some of the rules of the Texas Medical Board. Following the procedure of the hearings was pretty interesting and exciting for me as I had been able to get familiar with the claims in detail before and had joined the conversation between Mr. Bennett and his clients just before the hearings started.

I also was able to attend some court hearings at the local federal- and district courts which gave me a nice insight in the US-American court procedure and the possibility to compare it to the German court procedure. One of the big differences which came to my attention concerns the role of juries in civil- as well as in criminal cases. I knew in theory that juries were very common in US-American trials but I had not expected them to play such a significant rule in daily court proceedings. For example, the process of jury vetting at the beginning of a trial is a complex and time-consuming procedure in which the attorneys of both sides introduce the potential jurors to the detailed facts and legal issues of the case. They are asked about any prejudices. In one of the cases, dealing with a driving while being drunkmatter, several of the potential jurors considered themselves as being biased for partly abstruse reasons which made me thinking again about the usefulness of jury trials. Finally, I spent time on working on the firm’s website informing potential interns about my experiences at the firm and name the possibilities there are in Houston of interest for other German law students. I prepared information about the Bennett

Law Firm office, the district in Houston as well as of other helpful information dealing with accommodations, transportation, sight-seeing, shopping and entertainment. As Mr. Bennett is willing to express his interest in other law students from the University of Muenster coming to his firm to complete their FFArequirement of a three-week-internship and to continue the relationship to the University of Muenster, Professor Thomas Lundmark of the University of Münster was contacted about the relationship. As one of the benefiting results of this contact, Mr. Bennett will be coming to Muenster in October where will be giving a lecture to German FFA students. In conclusion, my internship at the Bennett Law Firm in Houston, Texas was an outstanding experience. I got a deep and inspiring insight in the work of an US-American law office but beyond that Mr. and Mrs. Bennett as well as the other friendly and cooperative staff members took a lot of effort to make it a helpful trip for me in every way, too.