Anonymous User wrote:What about the work? Does writing opinions and memos in this context translate to firm work?
I'm the Anon from above that externed for a C.D. Cal. judge.
This really depends almost entirely on the judge. If your LS has any sort of database where they list all of the judges that students have externed for in the past and provide "ratings" or descriptions of their experiences, it's definitely worth checking out to make sure you are applying to judges where you will have a good experience.
Some judges I know of didn't take too much of an active role in making sure externs got quality work, and the externs ended up doing jurisdiction checks and bit research for the clerks, which wouldn't really be valuable at all in terms of firm work.
Others would take more of a role but would have externs primarily working on research issues and maybe handling habeas petitions and proposed orders from magistrate judges. That would be a little more helpful in terms of translating into firm work since you are at least doing research and reading things closely for edits, but not incredibly valuable.
At the far end of the spectrum in terms of high quality work, the stuff I did for my judge was practically a dream come true, and INCREDIBLY helpful for what I now do at my firm (commercial lit): writing detailed memos for hearings highlighting all the important issues the judge should question the parties on before we issue a ruling; reading pleadings and writing draft orders/opinions for motions to dismiss, motions to compel arbitration, and even a motion for summary judgment by the end; working on class cert or class settlement approval issues; helping get jury instructions set for trials; etc. My judge basically treated us (the two externs) as if we were the third and fourth clerks in his chambers. We had to prove ourselves early on in terms of attention to detail, analytical ability, and writing skill to get to that level of work, but it was all a matter of showing initiative and doing quality work. We also spent a ton of time after hearings sitting in the chambers conference room talking about what the attorneys did that was good, what was bad, what the judge liked to see, what we should do differently when/if we are in their shoes, etc.
So all of that is really just to say that it depends on the judge, and I am sure I had a pretty unique experience, but it absolutely has the potential to give you incredible work experience if you end up with the right judge.