Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

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Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:28 pm

I think I know the answer to this, but would it be acceptable to use an opinion I drafted substantially (read: I wrote) as a writing sample for firm interviews? The judge has given me his imprimatur, the clerks all suggested it, and they even have some stock language they've used before for people who want to use opinions as writing samples (essentially saying that I have the judge's permission, that I substantially drafted it and am not trying to take credit for it, etc.).

That said, I've spoken with people at firms who've told me that people they know on the recruiting committee advise against it. I know this should be all the answer I need, but I put significantly more time into those opinions than I did my legal writing assignments, and I think they would be better because (a) they're real world scenarios, which makes them more interesting, and (b) they contain more nuanced legal analysis than the stupid legal writing briefs.

Would doing this be the kiss of death? Is it acceptable to some but not others? Any thoughts/anecdotes are welcome.

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Cupidity
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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Cupidity » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:32 pm

I just turned mine into a memorandum in support and tweaked some stuff like party names. All the substance should be cool to copy paste.

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:34 pm

My judge I guess has a cover letter he provides us to the effect that we substantially wrote the opinions we wrote, so I'll probably use mine. I think it is kinda cool to be able to submit your writing sample as a case citation. :mrgreen:

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Aston2412 » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:35 pm

Never really thought about this. I included an opinion that I wrote as my writing sample whenever one was requested, even though it has the judge's name on it.

I wrote the opinion in its entirety and merely revised it per his instructions ("say something about X or make sure to include Y").

I know he doesn't mind me using it as a writing sample - do I need to include a note explaining this to firms or will they know?

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:My judge I guess has a cover letter he provides us to the effect that we substantially wrote the opinions we wrote, so I'll probably use mine. I think it is kinda cool to be able to submit your writing sample as a case citation. :mrgreen:


OP here: always wondered about the whole "submitting your writing sample as a citation" thing. Most of the firms I'm interviewing with want the sample uploaded as a pdf or want a physical copy to the interview. How does giving it as a citation work?

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby JusticeJackson » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:44 pm

...
Last edited by JusticeJackson on Mon Nov 21, 2011 9:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Cupidity » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:46 pm

JusticeJackson wrote:This is surprising. I was specifically told the judge I externed for forbids any discussion about what we did on particular cases. I'm blown away other judges are so open about it after my experience.


We were only allowed to use stuff once it was docketed? Maybe this is what he meant? Not trying to argue, just speculating.

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:48 pm

JusticeJackson wrote:This is surprising. I was specifically told the judge I externed for forbids any discussion about what we did on particular cases. I'm blown away other judges are so open about it after my experience.


For what its worth, I don't think this disparity is limited to views on internships. Some judges play it very close to the chest, where others are very, very open about things with the public. FWIW, my judge is very much the latter, which is why I think he's okay with using an opinion as a writing sample.

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:50 pm

Cupidity wrote:
JusticeJackson wrote:This is surprising. I was specifically told the judge I externed for forbids any discussion about what we did on particular cases. I'm blown away other judges are so open about it after my experience.


We were only allowed to use stuff once it was docketed? Maybe this is what he meant? Not trying to argue, just speculating.


This is also true. Definitely in bad taste to talk about something before its posted, and in an interview I would definitely never say "well, the judge and I were initially leaning this way but then decided to go another way instead." I think as long as you're using stuff that's public record, it shouldn't be an issue.

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:51 pm

The opinions judges have on this varies, but you should never, ever use anything even derivative of judicial work without obtaining explicit permission and instructions from the judge first.

My judge (DDC) won't let people use anything, in any form, clerk or intern. Others require redaction, other judges don't care. But client confidence and ethics are important enough that if you just hand over an opinion with a judge's name on it and call it a writing sample, you're going to instantly torpedo your chances with some employers. Many lawyers will see that as at least an egregious breach of decorum, if not also unethical or straight up illegal. Cases are filed under seal, information comes before the court which is never meant to be public even though the final decision will be, and judicial decision making processes are often closely guarded secrets.

There is no circumstance - ever - in which you could submit a citation to a judicial opinion as your own work without first being a judge.

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:My judge I guess has a cover letter he provides us to the effect that we substantially wrote the opinions we wrote, so I'll probably use mine. I think it is kinda cool to be able to submit your writing sample as a case citation. :mrgreen:


OP here: always wondered about the whole "submitting your writing sample as a citation" thing. Most of the firms I'm interviewing with want the sample uploaded as a pdf or want a physical copy to the interview. How does giving it as a citation work?


I thought I'd provide excerpts since both opinions are kind of long, but then also include the cite to the full opinions on a cover page for the sample.

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Glock » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:52 pm

Ask your judge. Some flip out.

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:55 pm

Anonymous User wrote:There is no circumstance - ever - in which you could submit a citation to a judicial opinion as your own work without first being a judge.


Eh, if the judge has provided a signed statement that the case is substantially my work, I don't have a problem with providing the cite. He specifically told us we could use our copies of the opinion as writing samples, and that is after they've been circulated to the panel, signed off, and stamped... The copy we have is exactly what is getting printed on Lexis, so why not provide the cite if I can use the physical copy?

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:57 pm

Glock wrote:Ask your judge. Some flip out.


(this is OP): I have asked my judge. He's totally cool with it. Not concerned about that. Just want to know if employers will care, if it's accompanied by a letter from the judge granting permission.

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2011 7:58 pm

Anonymous User wrote:The opinions judges have on this varies, but you should never, ever use anything even derivative of judicial work without obtaining explicit permission and instructions from the judge first.

My judge (DDC) won't let people use anything, in any form, clerk or intern. Others require redaction, other judges don't care. But client confidence and ethics are important enough that if you just hand over an opinion with a judge's name on it and call it a writing sample, you're going to instantly torpedo your chances with some employers. Many lawyers will see that as at least an egregious breach of decorum, if not also unethical or straight up illegal. Cases are filed under seal, information comes before the court which is never meant to be public even though the final decision will be, and judicial decision making processes are often closely guarded secrets.

There is no circumstance - ever - in which you could submit a citation to a judicial opinion as your own work without first being a judge.


Also worked in DDC, and my judge didn't care at all.

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2011 8:01 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:There is no circumstance - ever - in which you could submit a citation to a judicial opinion as your own work without first being a judge.


Eh, if the judge has provided a signed statement that the case is substantially my work, I don't have a problem with providing the cite. He specifically told us we could use our copies of the opinion as writing samples, and that is after they've been circulated to the panel, signed off, and stamped... The copy we have is exactly what is getting printed on Lexis, so why not provide the cite if I can use the physical copy?


(anon you quoted)

The fact that clerks and interns write even drafts of judicial opinions is highly controversial in some circles. Submitting a citation to a judicial opinion as a writing sample while not being a judge would be an instant rejection level gaffe to many lawyers. Other lawyers wouldn't care, but why take the risk?

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Emma. » Tue Aug 02, 2011 8:01 pm

Anonymous User wrote:The opinions judges have on this varies, but you should never, ever use anything even derivative of judicial work without obtaining explicit permission and instructions from the judge first.

My judge (DDC) won't let people use anything, in any form, clerk or intern. Others require redaction, other judges don't care. But client confidence and ethics are important enough that if you just hand over an opinion with a judge's name on it and call it a writing sample, you're going to instantly torpedo your chances with some employers. Many lawyers will see that as at least an egregious breach of decorum, if not also unethical or straight up illegal. Cases are filed under seal, information comes before the court which is never meant to be public even though the final decision will be, and judicial decision making processes are often closely guarded secrets.

There is no circumstance - ever - in which you could submit a citation to a judicial opinion as your own work without first being a judge.


How is using an opinion as a writing sample disclosing any "closely guarded secret" to the public? The opinions are published for the public to access?

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2011 8:02 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:There is no circumstance - ever - in which you could submit a citation to a judicial opinion as your own work without first being a judge.


Eh, if the judge has provided a signed statement that the case is substantially my work, I don't have a problem with providing the cite. He specifically told us we could use our copies of the opinion as writing samples, and that is after they've been circulated to the panel, signed off, and stamped... The copy we have is exactly what is getting printed on Lexis, so why not provide the cite if I can use the physical copy?


(anon you quoted)

The fact that clerks and interns write even drafts of judicial opinions is highly controversial in some circles. Submitting a citation to a judicial opinion as a writing sample while not being a judge would be an instant rejection level gaffe to many lawyers. Other lawyers wouldn't care, but why take the risk?


If it is submitted with a signed statement by the judge explaining the circumstances, I don't see the gaffe.

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Glock » Tue Aug 02, 2011 8:04 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Glock wrote:Ask your judge. Some flip out.


(this is OP): I have asked my judge. He's totally cool with it. Not concerned about that. Just want to know if employers will care, if it's accompanied by a letter from the judge granting permission.



I would never do it. When you give a writing sample you are not trying to look prestigious, you are trying to show a potential employer the kind of legal work they will be getting out of you on a daily basis. When there is an opinion that you "substantially" wrote the employer is going to know that other clerks and the judge themselves edited it.

You want an UNEDITED writing sample that demonstrates your legal analysis skill and attention to detail. That way employers know they are looking at YOUR work. I generally note that my writing sample has been edited by me only, and I have received positive feedback on that. Prestige is not the issue. The issue is knowing that the work is yours and that it is quality.

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2011 8:06 pm

Emma. wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:The opinions judges have on this varies, but you should never, ever use anything even derivative of judicial work without obtaining explicit permission and instructions from the judge first.

My judge (DDC) won't let people use anything, in any form, clerk or intern. Others require redaction, other judges don't care. But client confidence and ethics are important enough that if you just hand over an opinion with a judge's name on it and call it a writing sample, you're going to instantly torpedo your chances with some employers. Many lawyers will see that as at least an egregious breach of decorum, if not also unethical or straight up illegal. Cases are filed under seal, information comes before the court which is never meant to be public even though the final decision will be, and judicial decision making processes are often closely guarded secrets.

There is no circumstance - ever - in which you could submit a citation to a judicial opinion as your own work without first being a judge.


How is using an opinion as a writing sample disclosing any "closely guarded secret" to the public? The opinions are published for the public to access?


Depends on the context. If you're using the version sent to lexis obviously there would be no disclosure issue, but if you're using a draft you wrote or even a bench memo there easily could be. I was addressing all potential writing samples coming out of working for chambers, not just the (rare) case of an opinion solo authored by an intern or a clerk and subsequently published.

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2011 8:07 pm

Glock wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Glock wrote:Ask your judge. Some flip out.


(this is OP): I have asked my judge. He's totally cool with it. Not concerned about that. Just want to know if employers will care, if it's accompanied by a letter from the judge granting permission.



I would never do it. When you give a writing sample you are not trying to look prestigious, you are trying to show a potential employer the kind of legal work they will be getting out of you on a daily basis. When there is an opinion that you "substantially" wrote the employer is going to know that other clerks and the judge themselves edited it.

You want an UNEDITED writing sample that demonstrates your legal analysis skill and attention to detail. That way employers know they are looking at YOUR work. I generally note that my writing sample has been edited by me only, and I have received positive feedback on that. Prestige is not the issue. The issue is knowing that the work is yours and that it is quality.


Well, my legal writing briefs were edited by legal writing instructor. Actually, they were edited significantly more than anything I wrote for the judge. So I guess I'm just kinda fucked, eh?

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Glock » Tue Aug 02, 2011 8:09 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Well, my legal writing briefs were edited by legal writing instructor. Actually, they were edited significantly more than anything I wrote for the judge. So I guess I'm just kinda fucked, eh?




If they cold ask if your legal writing briefs were edited, sure. But they will not KNOW the legal writing briefs are edited unless you tell them (just don't mention it). On the other hand the judicial orders/cases are OBVIOUSLY edited, and employers will assume it. You are needlessly risking turning people off.

I'd use my legal writing brief unless it was terrible, in which case I would probably fix it.

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2011 8:10 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Depends on the context. If you're using the version sent to lexis obviously there would be no disclosure issue, but if you're using a draft you wrote or even a bench memo there easily could be. I was addressing all potential writing samples coming out of working for chambers, not just the (rare) case of an opinion solo authored by an intern or a clerk and subsequently published.


Looking at the very small sample here, it doesn't seem like it is that rare. :wink:

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2011 8:14 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
Depends on the context. If you're using the version sent to lexis obviously there would be no disclosure issue, but if you're using a draft you wrote or even a bench memo there easily could be. I was addressing all potential writing samples coming out of working for chambers, not just the (rare) case of an opinion solo authored by an intern or a clerk and subsequently published.


Looking at the very small sample here, it doesn't seem like it is that rare. :wink:


(OP): Speaking with other interns in my court, it is moderately rare for interns to take a whole case from start to finish and essentially write the opinion (which is what I did). It is absolutely commonplace for clerks to solo author opinions. In fact, at the district court level, I think it would be the rare exception where the clerks don't solo author the opinions.

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Re: Opinion Written During Judicial Internship as Writing Sample

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 02, 2011 8:37 pm

The Clerk in Chambers that I interned for this summer frequently wrote the Judge's decisions. The Judge would provide guidance in the form of: "make sure to address this argument" or "don't forget to include this." As an intern, I wrote several decisions that were guided by the same process.

FWIW, I'm using one of my unedited decisions as a writing sample and simply providing a disclaimer at the outset that it was a preliminary decision.




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