Advice for Judicial Internship

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Re: Advice for Judicial Internship

Postby NotMyRealName09 » Sat Jun 09, 2012 3:58 am

Be eager and deferential, and politely ask work providers for more substantive assignments as you turn in the early assignments, as you are starving for challenge and wish to absorb as much substantive experience as you can while you have the privilege of learning the inner workings of the chambers of an Article III judge.

When I was a fed dist ct intern, I was amazed to see peers who didn't treat the internship as a precious, rare opportunity to gain understanding into how justice is decided. I worked as many days as possible. I made it clear that although this was an internship for credit, I would be working for weeks more than what was required to earn my credits. Others dropped off once they'd hit the required number of days / hours. Others were there only a couple days a week.

You know what happened? As the interns began to disappear, I continued showing up every day, eager to learn. The judge began pulling me aside, asking my opinion on pending cases. I watched a criminal trial, and upon closing of proofs, the judge asked me what I thought. I said the government had failed to establish mens rea (having taken crim concurrently with the internship and having the concepts fresh at hand), and he told me I was wrong, that he believed the defendant was guilty, and that the jury would convict. The jury aquitted.

He later asked me to analyze a declaratory judgment action and opine on whether he should grant dismissal. Details here aren't important, but after briefing, he agreed and ruled as I recommended - declaratory judgment was premature, there was no actual, immenent controversy. The ruling occurred on my last day (I made sure to be there to see it), and after it was done, he explained how the parties were actually both satisfied - see, this was a declaratory judgment patent action, and through dismissal the plaintiff had learned the perceived threat wasn't real, and the defendant had learned it need not fear massive liability in future litigation. I learned about justice.

Those last words were my last conversation with him. They occurred one week before 2L year began. I was the last intern there.

Be the last intern. Be committed. It's not a line on your resume - it is a civic privilege to have a small hand in the administration of justice. Do not take it for granted. Squeeze out as much experience as you can. Unless you clerk, you will never again have such an opportunity to pull back the curtain.


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Re: Advice for Judicial Internship

Postby target » Wed Aug 08, 2012 4:34 pm

just finished my externship and want to add my .02 cent before I forget.

No matter what the clerks or the judge say, always always submit your best works, which means no grammatical errors, typos or bluebooking mistakes.


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Re: Advice for Judicial Internship

Postby golfnut15 » Mon Aug 13, 2012 10:47 am

jkech wrote:
Anonymous User wrote: The best thing you can do is work hard within their system, be polite, and do great work.

I'd echo this, with a few extra points...

1/ Just focus on taking whatever assignment they give you (whether its a draft opinion or just a section of a memo), completing it as best you can and doing as thorough of a job as you can. Ideally you don't want the judge or clerk to have to re-do or add too much to what you've done because of the huge amount of time it would take for them to get up to speed on the particular issue. Work hard and try to finish your first assignment as quickly as possible without sacrificing accuracy or thoroughness.

2/ If you're working on a draft opinion, go on Westlaw and read through some opinions by your judge. Get an idea of the writing style, the length of the opinions, the kinds of cases cited. You can often even find an opinion on the same topic that you are writing on and simply use that as a template. The writing of opinions is surprisingly formulaic, and you will save everyone in chambers a lot of time if you simply adhere to the chambers' formula from the start. If you're doing a summary judgement motion, chances are you can just pull the legal standard from one of the judge's previous opinions.

3/ Make your writing look professional. Proofread. Add the parties' names in the typical way they are captioned at the top of a legal document, don't just submit a document.

4/ Be polite to the Judicial Assistant and to the clerks. Unless the clerks (and you'll have to judge this yourself) are total losers/stick-in-the-muds, you can probably afford to show some personality around them. Be yourself and they will appreciate you as not just another law student running around with their head cut off, but as a person who they can relate to. If the Judicial Assistant has a fun personality, bring her some candy one day.

5/ It is a very real possibility that you will not see much of the judge and will work mostly with the clerks. If that's the case there's a couple of ways to maximize the way in which you interact with the judge. You can strategically plan when you come into chambers when you know the judge will be there and not very busy. Usually this is around the afternoon hours. Second, if the judge does settlement conferences, ask to sit in on one. Maybe he/she has a naturalization ceremony during the summer that you can observe. If he/she's on trial, watch some of it, and head back to chambers when its over. Maybe you will chat with the judge about it.

6/ That said, the best thing to do and your first priority is to do your work that they give you. Try to do as many assignments for them as you can during the summer. Don't ask too many questions if you can avoid it. If you really can't figure something out then ask, but otherwise try to figure it out.

i realize the summer is over, but anyone reading this for future internships would do well to follow this advice. I just finished a summer in the chambers for a federal district judge and everything said above is spot on.

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