Spring internship w/a federal magistrate judge?

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texas_ranger
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Spring internship w/a federal magistrate judge?

Postby texas_ranger » Fri Dec 06, 2013 4:13 pm

Anyone here ever interned with a federal magistrate judge? I'm considering applying for such an internship in the spring (I'm a 2L btw), and I'm curious to hear what you guys think about this idea both in terms of the experience I'd likely have, as well as how such a gig looks "prestige-wise" on a resume. On the latter question, am I correct to assume it's at the bottom of the federal-judge totem pole but better than most, if not all, state-level judicial internships? (state supreme courts obviously excepted) Also, note that I'm not in NYC, D.C., L.A. or any city where a local-level gig would be unusually prestigious.

I know about the general duties of a federal magistrate judge, and that they can hold both bench and jury trials on some cases (but not many felony cases). I also understand that they only get eight-year, not lifetime, appointments, and are selected by a panel of federal district judges. That said, I did some background digging on the particular judge I'm thinking of applying with, and found out he's near the top of the list of likely candidates for the next available district-judge vacancy here.

Note: I'm also hoping to snag a part-time clerk job at a firm next spring, if only because I could use the money (plus I understand the value of practical experience on a resume). Would I be biting off more than I can chew if I intern (for four class credits), clerk at a firm, *and* take three classes at school? (on top of journal work - no, not LR - and mock trial team participation)

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Dr. Review
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Re: Spring internship w/a federal magistrate judge?

Postby Dr. Review » Fri Dec 06, 2013 4:28 pm

I externed with my district's chief magistrate, and I honestly thought it was great. Having criminal defendants/initial appearances/arraignments and whatnot roll through the courtroom was always really interesting to me. You seem to know a bit about what magistrates do and how they get there. I think it's worth noting that they generally don't hold trials, as they are only the trial judge upon the parties' consent. Depending on the jurisdiction, 20-30% of their caseload is criminal, which the clerks don't do. The rest is primarily pre-trial and motions practice. For the judge, that includes conferences and that sort of thing. For the clerks, it means more 12(b)(6) motions and similar. My judge also had a significant amount of pro se prisoner cases, and those can be challenging and sometimes very strange.

I can't speak to preftige, but I do know that one V100 I did a CB with really liked to see it on my resume.

Experience can be anywhere from good to great. I got to write a Report & Recommendation with one of the clerks, and my draft was used about 90-95% as I drafted it for the subsequent opinion. That makes for a great writing sample.

All in all, a worthy endeavor.


You WILL also want to check with the chambers as to whether you can clerk for a firm AND extern with them.

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emciosn
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Re: Spring internship w/a federal magistrate judge?

Postby emciosn » Fri Dec 06, 2013 4:39 pm

FWIW I interned for a BK judge in a district that is not particularly prestigeous for a semester in LS (I also worked for law forms the other semesters). I think the intern experience was valuable. I got some decent writing assignments from the judge and (I am clerking now) the experience was really good to have on my resume when I was applying for clerkships. Also, interning on a volunteer basis is pretty low stress. Chambers probably will not expect too much of you but you will definitely be recognized if you do good work. Plus you will probably get a front row seat to some hearings/trials. I found the opportunity to observe good/bad lawyering to be beneficial. I can't speak to the prestige relative to state courts (I've only worked for BK judges) but my intuition is that federal always looks good at any level. In short--if you have the time definitely do it, it can only help you.

One thing to consider about working for the law firm too--depending on what the law firm does, there is a good chance there could be a conflict of interest. Also, the judge might not like having an intern in his chambers that also works for a firm, it just doesn't look good. My guess is that neither the firm nor the judge would let you do both, but you never know until you ask. Just be sure to be up front with both the firm and the judge, don't try to secretly do both and hope you don't get caught.

Also, I worked for firms/the judge all through law school so I can say this based on experience, doing both would probably be too much for a semester. You have classes to stay on top of as well and at the end of the day grades are what is most important. I would say to just choose one. If you get offered both take the firm if you want the money and maybe an outside shot at a permanent job or take the judge if you have your heart set on clerking or want a more chill work environment.

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JuTMSY4
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Re: Spring internship w/a federal magistrate judge?

Postby JuTMSY4 » Fri Dec 06, 2013 4:56 pm

Bedsole wrote:I externed with my district's chief magistrate, and I honestly thought it was great. Having criminal defendants/initial appearances/arraignments and whatnot roll through the courtroom was always really interesting to me. You seem to know a bit about what magistrates do and how they get there. I think it's worth noting that they generally don't hold trials, as they are only the trial judge upon the parties' consent. Depending on the jurisdiction, 20-30% of their caseload is criminal, which the clerks don't do. The rest is primarily pre-trial and motions practice. For the judge, that includes conferences and that sort of thing. For the clerks, it means more 12(b)(6) motions and similar. My judge also had a significant amount of pro se prisoner cases, and those can be challenging and sometimes very strange.

I can't speak to preftige, but I do know that one V100 I did a CB with really liked to see it on my resume.

Experience can be anywhere from good to great. I got to write a Report & Recommendation with one of the clerks, and my draft was used about 90-95% as I drafted it for the subsequent opinion. That makes for a great writing sample.

All in all, a worthy endeavor.


You WILL also want to check with the chambers as to whether you can clerk for a firm AND extern with them.



This is pretty much word-for-word credited. I did much of the same. The clerks I saw did handle some criminal stuff, but not me. I found I was able to pick and choose my tasks relative to what the clerks needed. That Judge also helped get me several interviews by name recognition only.

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Dr. Review
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Re: Spring internship w/a federal magistrate judge?

Postby Dr. Review » Fri Dec 06, 2013 5:01 pm

I should also note that I met the partners I interviewed with from the V100 while I was observing a trial they were involved with. I should also mention that as a ~median student at a T2 in a different geographical region than the office where I interviewed (although I do have strong ties to that region; I work in that region now), I had no business getting that interview without the externship.

adonai
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Re: Spring internship w/a federal magistrate judge?

Postby adonai » Sat Dec 07, 2013 12:21 am

I externed for a fed. mag. in one of the major areas you said you weren't in. It was a great experience improving my writing/bluebooking. I think it differs from judge to judge as to what you are allowed to do. One poster above said he/she wasn't allowed to do criminal stuff. That's all I did. Mag. judges handle discovery disputes, habeas corpus, social security disability benefits appeals, and civil rights matters. My judge wouldn't let me touch civil rights and discovery (for obvious reasons). I have yet to see it talked about in my interviews or see it benefit me in any way. Heck, I externed for a fed. circuit judge and no one really cared. Do it if you enjoy writing/researching and if the judge is willing to be involved with you as a mentor or good reference.

One sweet thing I got to do, though, was write opinions. The opinions I wrote are published on westlaw/lexis, which is pretty cool.

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Re: Spring internship w/a federal magistrate judge?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 01, 2015 11:19 pm

adonai wrote: . . . My judge wouldn't let me touch civil rights and discovery (for obvious reasons). . . .


Bumping this post to ask what this poster means by this. What are the obvious reasons? I'm interviewing with a fed. mag. soon so I just want to make sure I'm not misunderstanding something obvious.

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Re: Spring internship w/a federal magistrate judge?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 02, 2015 2:19 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
adonai wrote: . . . My judge wouldn't let me touch civil rights and discovery (for obvious reasons). . . .


Bumping this post to ask what this poster means by this. What are the obvious reasons? I'm interviewing with a fed. mag. soon so I just want to make sure I'm not misunderstanding something obvious.


I don't know what that's about. The federal magistrate judge I interned for had me write a memo on a discovery dispute.

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Re: Spring internship w/a federal magistrate judge?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 02, 2015 6:57 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
adonai wrote: . . . My judge wouldn't let me touch civil rights and discovery (for obvious reasons). . . .


Bumping this post to ask what this poster means by this. What are the obvious reasons? I'm interviewing with a fed. mag. soon so I just want to make sure I'm not misunderstanding something obvious.


I don't know what that's about. The federal magistrate judge I interned for had me write a memo on a discovery dispute.


I'd also be interested in understanding more about the thinking here.

Discovery:
I do see one obvious-to-me reason why some types of discovery issues would be off the table for interns, which is that some discovery issues are resolved primarily on what constitutes a "reasonable" burden and the judgment needed to assess reasonableness really needs to be grounded as much more in exposure to what occurs in practice than in the types of information shared in precedential opinions. The doctrine only gets you so far before judgment needs to kick in, and students' ordinarily limited exposure to those contours has the effect of reducing the efficiency of delegating that type of decision as compared to delegating other work.

That being said, I can see some discovery issues revolving more around doctrinal issues than on the contours of reasonableness, such as certain privilege issues. There may be some inefficiency in delegation for more basic doctrinal issues that a judge or clerk would simply know the answer to without needing to do research, but it seems worth delegating if the point is sufficiently narrow that research would be needed no matter who did it. (And hopefully the judge or clerk gives the intern the assignment would also give the intern some direction to avoid researching questions that do have more obvious answers -- so the intern's work can focus on what actually needs to be looked into.)

During my 2L summer with a non-profit, I worked on some motions to compel that required doctrinal research beyond what the attorneys at the organization knew generally from experience. So I have a general sense that some of those types of questions exist. But, I didn't do any discovery research during the federal magistrate judge internship that I am currently finishing up.

For the poster who did work on discovery, was your work focused on some issue of reasonableness or on a more clear-cut doctrinal issue?

Civil rights:
The "obvious" reasons why civil rights complaints would be different isn't obvious to me. My first assignment for a my magistrate judge was on a Sec. 1983 claim. That being said, I spent both of my summers doing civil rights work and I have no idea if the judge would have assigned a Sec. 1983 case to someone who had less prior exposure to the area.

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Re: Spring internship w/a federal magistrate judge?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Dec 02, 2015 7:38 pm

I am the same Anon who posted a few minutes ago to speculate about the "obvious" reasons for not delegating discovery tasks to interns. I wanted to share some other thoughts but figured the information would be better organized as a separate post rather than combined with the above post.

texas_ranger wrote:[A]m I correct to assume it's at the bottom of the federal-judge totem pole but better than most, if not all, state-level judicial internships? (state supreme courts obviously excepted)


It isn't obvious to me that federal magistrate judicial internships are less prestigious than are state supreme court internships. At least in my state and from my law school, the state supreme court internships are considerably easier to obtain than are federal magistrate judge internships. I could imagine that some other states might be different (maybe California, since the ratio of federal judges to state supreme court justices is skewed by the state's size).

I imagine the career opportunities opened up (which is I think what you're really asking about when you mention prestige) will depend on the type of law. For something like family law where the practice really occurs in state courts, then it might be different, but for the types of law that are primarily brought as federal cases, you're going to be better off with experience working in a federal-court context. The only reason I can see to go with a state supreme court option instead of a federal magistrate judge is if you know you want to practice in that state and that some meaningful portion of your practice will be in state court OR there is something so unique about the practice justice that working with that person trumps the person's position (such as someone who worked in your field for her career before entering the judiciary and who is still well-connected in that field).


texas_ranger wrote:I'm curious to hear what you guys think about this idea both in terms of the experience I'd likely have[.]


I think it is very valuable, but that it also depends a lot of the judge. I heard from one friend at another law school, who was working for a federal district judge, that he had almost no exposure to the judge over the semester. He was managed by the judge's law clerks (which is fairly typical), but that that supervision structure was so firmly established that he only had interaction with the judge on a few occasions.

In contrast, I am managed by my judge's career law clerk (from whom I have learned a tremendous amount because she has 20+ years of experience in law, including being with my judge since the judge's appointment), but I also get to have conversations with the judge very often. I think the only time that I've not spoken with the judge when I was in chambers was one week that the judge was traveling during my usual day there. And on my most recent day, I spent the entire day shadowing the judge and doing tasks directly for her.

The experience will of course help improve your research and writing and your doctrinal knowledge of federal practice, but what makes judicial internships unique as compared with other litigation contexts is that you gain insight into the mind of a decision-maker and the behind-the-scenes candidness of the decision-making process.

If you do have a judge that provides observational opportunities and engages in candid conversations with you, then the observational/conversational component can be the biggest asset in the learning experience. I want to litigate, and part of what was appealing to me about a magistrate judge was that magistrate judges deal with the nitty gritty of what lawyers actually looks like. Most cases settle before trial, so to me "real lawyering" looks like motion practice, discovery, and negotiating favorable settlements. By far one of the most useful experiences of my internship has been assisting with settlement conferences. It gives insight into how the judge relays information from one party to the other that I think will be useful in the future for contextualizing signals about how close or far apart the other side really is and what kind of settlement might be achievable. If you're on the other side -- observing with one of the parties -- you only see half of the communication. (Of course, following the judge means you're not seeing the behind the scenes strategizing that the parties are of course doing while the judge is out of the room.)


texas_ranger wrote:Note: I'm also hoping to snag a part-time clerk job at a firm next spring, if only because I could use the money (plus I understand the value of practical experience on a resume). Would I be biting off more than I can chew if I intern (for four class credits), clerk at a firm, *and* take three classes at school? (on top of journal work - no, not LR - and mock trial team participation)


I agree with the earlier poster who highlighted that it is important to be transparent with both internship locations about the fact that you'd be doing both at the same time. It might be possible, but you'll need to get approval and be appropriately screened.

I am currently in a somewhat similar position. I am interning with a federal magistrate judge while I am simultaneously in a law school clinical course that files a type of case often decided by magistrate judges. The clinic had no cases in front of that particular judge. But both the clinic and the judge knew to be on the look-out for such cases and to screen me out of them on both sides should one have arisen. Still, I could see concerns about the appearance of partiality being more serious with a firm than with a school because the academic context perhaps mitigates the risk of public misperception.




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