“What you put in is what you get out” is the advice that 2L law student Michael Orcutt received on the first day of his summer externship. That day, Orcutt said, was memorable for a few reasons. “My desk was a standing desk that retracted at the push of a button,” he said. Orcutt admitted that, while this may be an odd thing to recall, for him, the desk symbolized something more: a professional environment that he had arrived at through hard work and determination.
One of Orcutt’s first classes at the College of Law was contracts. He quickly fell in love with the subject and decided to pursue opportunities specifically in that field. “I turned to On-Campus Interviews (OCIs), knowing that I wanted to do an externship that would allow me to work for college credit,” said Orcutt. He applied for a handful of diverse positions, but one particular post caught his eye: the contracts and risk compliance externship at TTCU Federal Credit Union.
The staff in the Professional Development Office helped Orcutt to ready his resume, tighten up his cover letter and reach out to references. A week after submitting his application, TTCU contacted him for an interview. At the time, Orcutt had only taken one contracts course. “I still didn’t know as much about contracts as I would have liked, so, as the adage goes – what you lack in experience, make up for with enthusiasm!” This tactic worked out perfectly for Orcutt.
Orcutt was admittedly insecure about his externship readiness at the time, but he underestimated just how much TU prepared him. “Yes, TU whetted my writing and built up my legal technical skills, but it goes beyond that. The professors here invested in me,” he said. “They distilled in me everything I needed: perseverance, hard work, a sense of striving – to always give it your best. TU invested in me, and now TTCU was investing in me, too.”
Orcutt’s experience on his first day on the job is something that many young professionals can appreciate: a little overdressed, a little overwhelmed and utterly impressed by the professional setting that is now a part of their daily routine. “This was no walk-in-the-park (or stand-at-your-desk, if you will) kind of job. My responsibilities included researching and writing legal memoranda (sometimes multiple memos on the same day), observing and assisting with the day-to-day legal problems of a financial institution, and, finally, reviewing, drafting and redlining contracts,” he said.
Master Service Agreements, Non-Disclosure Agreements, End User License Agreements … Orcutt interacted with all kinds of contracts. By the end, he had read word-for-word and redlined almost two dozen agreements. “When I first started, I wasn’t very familiar with redlining. I asked my supervisor, Jesse Sumner, and he explained in detail that it was a certain way of editing contracts with the purpose of negotiating,” Orcutt said. Sumner also advised Orcutt to read Contract Redlining Etiquette by Nada Alnajafi to take his work to the next level. This recommendation would pay off in the end.
On to the next
If one of the most important factors in a good externship is strong leadership, then Orcutt certainly lucked out in that department. “Working with my supervisor was the highlight of my externship,” he said. “Jesse’s investment in me meant the world and helped me grow as both a young professional and a person.” From resume workshopping to networking on LinkedIn, Sumner bolstered Orcutt’s potential in ways that would affect Orcutt’s immediate future. Sumner, however, maintains that it was Orcutt who put in the work. “At TTCU, our primary goal is to provide law students with the resources they need to achieve an in-depth knowledge of their preferred field. We spent the entirety of Michael’s externship lasering in on his interests and skills and crafting a resume that would catch employers’ eyes,” Sumner said; “Michael arrived with knowledge, work ethic, listening skills and a drive to move forward. He was the perfect TTCU externship candidate.”
When an internship post on LinkedIn from Alnajafi appeared on his feed, Sumner knew that Orcutt was the perfect match. “When Jesse showed me the listing, I started drafting a new cover letter, but, before I finished, Nada read my profile that Jesse helped me with, liked it and reached out to me,” Orcutt said. This would eventually result in a fall internship with Alnajafi’s blog, Contract Nerds, for which Orcutt’s responsibilities include researching, drafting and editing “whitepaper”-style articles for contracting concepts and redlining Contract Nerds agreement templates.
“The snowball effect of Jesse’s guidance and investment in me directly resulted in helping me secure an incredible writing internship for one of the foremost contracts-focused blogs in the world,” said Orcutt, who is proof that advanced expertise is not necessary when applying for externships but is something that develops with the right mindset and leadership. Determination and enthusiasm are essential building blocks to successful career paths. Listening skills and a willingness to learn will carry candidates on to the next big opportunity.
At The University of Tulsa, professional growth is a primary objective. Unlock your potential by learning more about the externship opportunities provided by the College of Law.