anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

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usuaggie
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anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby usuaggie » Tue Oct 15, 2013 6:24 pm

Graduated (guess its time to retire from here), passed the bar, got a clerkship offer in a state trial court in a community where I want to work. I want to make a great impression, and I don't start for a month, so I wanted to brush up on some good advice on how to be great at my job.

Any books, articles, or advice?

Anonymous User
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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Oct 15, 2013 6:33 pm

usuaggie wrote:Graduated (guess its time to retire from here), passed the bar, got a clerkship offer in a state trial court in a community where I want to work. I want to make a great impression, and I don't start for a month, so I wanted to brush up on some good advice on how to be great at my job.

Any books, articles, or advice?


Interested as well.

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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Oct 15, 2013 6:47 pm

To improve your writing:

The Elements of Legal Style by Bryan A. Garner
The Winning Brief: 100 Tips for Persuasive Briefing in Trial and Appellate Courts

I use and used these. I also like The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.

Oh, also read your local rules very carefully and make sure you know all the procedural stuff for your court and judge.

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usuaggie
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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby usuaggie » Tue Oct 15, 2013 8:20 pm

Anonymous User wrote:To improve your writing:

The Elements of Legal Style by Bryan A. Garner
The Winning Brief: 100 Tips for Persuasive Briefing in Trial and Appellate Courts

I use and used these. I also like The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.

Oh, also read your local rules very carefully and make sure you know all the procedural stuff for your court and judge.


Good advice. I was a writing major in college, so I've read the elements of style a few times. I'll check out the other two.

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Emma.
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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby Emma. » Tue Oct 15, 2013 10:47 pm

usuaggie wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:To improve your writing:

The Elements of Legal Style by Bryan A. Garner
The Winning Brief: 100 Tips for Persuasive Briefing in Trial and Appellate Courts

I use and used these. I also like The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr.

Oh, also read your local rules very carefully and make sure you know all the procedural stuff for your court and judge.


Good advice. I was a writing major in college, so I've read the elements of style a few times. I'll check out the other two.


As someone mentioned already, the most valuable thing you could probably do is learn well the rules of civil procedure and evidence in your state before you start. And as the local court rules.

Then when you start, be super nice and super respectful to EVERYONE you encounter (security staff, janitors, secretaries, etc). That, more than anything else, will help you make a great impression.

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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Oct 16, 2013 7:19 pm

I was a law clerk last year. You can go ahead and read a bunch of books on clerking, writing opinions (Judge Aldisert's book "Opinion Writing" comes to mind), and legal research, but in the end those materials contain mostly common sense suggestions and really only are useful for very weak clerks. The best thing you can read are recent opinions authored by your Judge. Try to get a sense for style, phrasing, structure, length, etc. Beyond that, you'll have to just pick it up on the job. Opinion writing isn't all that much different from legal memoranda, and in some cases it can be easier. Sometimes all that is necessary is that you pick apart one side's arguments until they have nothing left in support of their motion.

Asking how to be a good clerk as a general question tough to answer because, for obvious reasons, a clerk's value is assessed only by one person, the Judge. The Judge may have any number of different characteristics, work habits, likes/dislikes, preferences in style and conduct, that you'll have to adjust to. The best advice I could give you would be to make a positive first impression. Push yourself during the first few months of your clerkship. Work hard, produce quality writing, act independently, and be a normal person. If you can show that you are efficient and have skill early on, you will be able to do things more on your own terms for the rest of the clerkship, because the Judge's impression of you will be set. The key is to gain the Judge's trust in your ability to produce quality work.

tldr: relax now and be extra productive during your first 4 months on the job

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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Oct 16, 2013 7:45 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I was a law clerk last year. You can go ahead and read a bunch of books on clerking, writing opinions (Judge Aldisert's book "Opinion Writing" comes to mind), and legal research, but in the end those materials contain mostly common sense suggestions and really only are useful for very weak clerks. The best thing you can read are recent opinions authored by your Judge. Try to get a sense for style, phrasing, structure, length, etc. Beyond that, you'll have to just pick it up on the job. Opinion writing isn't all that much different from legal memoranda, and in some cases it can be easier. Sometimes all that is necessary is that you pick apart one side's arguments until they have nothing left in support of their motion.

Asking how to be a good clerk as a general question tough to answer because, for obvious reasons, a clerk's value is assessed only by one person, the Judge. The Judge may have any number of different characteristics, work habits, likes/dislikes, preferences in style and conduct, that you'll have to adjust to. The best advice I could give you would be to make a positive first impression. Push yourself during the first few months of your clerkship. Work hard, produce quality writing, act independently, and be a normal person. If you can show that you are efficient and have skill early on, you will be able to do things more on your own terms for the rest of the clerkship, because the Judge's impression of you will be set. The key is to gain the Judge's trust in your ability to produce quality work.

tldr: relax now and be extra productive during your first 4 months on the job


This is good advice. Thank you!

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usuaggie
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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby usuaggie » Wed Oct 16, 2013 9:56 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I was a law clerk last year. You can go ahead and read a bunch of books on clerking, writing opinions (Judge Aldisert's book "Opinion Writing" comes to mind), and legal research, but in the end those materials contain mostly common sense suggestions and really only are useful for very weak clerks. The best thing you can read are recent opinions authored by your Judge. Try to get a sense for style, phrasing, structure, length, etc. Beyond that, you'll have to just pick it up on the job. Opinion writing isn't all that much different from legal memoranda, and in some cases it can be easier. Sometimes all that is necessary is that you pick apart one side's arguments until they have nothing left in support of their motion.

Asking how to be a good clerk as a general question tough to answer because, for obvious reasons, a clerk's value is assessed only by one person, the Judge. The Judge may have any number of different characteristics, work habits, likes/dislikes, preferences in style and conduct, that you'll have to adjust to. The best advice I could give you would be to make a positive first impression. Push yourself during the first few months of your clerkship. Work hard, produce quality writing, act independently, and be a normal person. If you can show that you are efficient and have skill early on, you will be able to do things more on your own terms for the rest of the clerkship, because the Judge's impression of you will be set. The key is to gain the Judge's trust in your ability to produce quality work.

tldr: relax now and be extra productive during your first 4 months on the job


thanks, good advice. I'd normally be more relaxed, but the judge is a first time judge. My first day is also his first day. I just want to make sure I'm prepared as possible so that I can hit the ground running and help him out a bit if he needs it.

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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Oct 17, 2013 12:58 am

I have an offer for 2014-15 in a state I've never lived/interned/practiced in, so it was recommended I take a course on the practice rules, luckily my school sends enough grads to the state they have a 2-credit class teaching court structure, civil procedure, etc.

Strunk's Elements of Style is a great book for writing in general.

I like the above suggestion of reading old opinions, will have to get on that. Thanks for the info.

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usuaggie
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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby usuaggie » Thu Oct 17, 2013 1:01 am

Found the federal clerk handbook if anybody is interested. I skimmed it and thought it was helpful even for state courts

https://public.resource.org/scribd/8763855.pdf

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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Oct 17, 2013 5:06 pm

Thanks for the "Law Clerk Handbook" link! It was very helpful!

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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Oct 17, 2013 5:55 pm

usuaggie wrote:Found the federal clerk handbook if anybody is interested. I skimmed it and thought it was helpful even for state courts

https://public.resource.org/scribd/8763855.pdf


Anyone actually going to read this whole thing?

I'd like the ciffnotes versiion please.

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usuaggie
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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby usuaggie » Thu Oct 17, 2013 8:14 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
usuaggie wrote:Found the federal clerk handbook if anybody is interested. I skimmed it and thought it was helpful even for state courts

https://public.resource.org/scribd/8763855.pdf


Anyone actually going to read this whole thing?

I'd like the ciffnotes versiion please.


Cliffnotes version: Be prepared to do boring things that take time like read that whole guide. Write well, be smart, don't mess up on stuff.

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bruinfan10
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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby bruinfan10 » Thu Oct 17, 2013 9:06 pm

A couple former clerks have recommended Judge Aldisert's "Opinion Writing" to me.

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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Oct 17, 2013 9:11 pm

bruinfan10 wrote:A couple former clerks have recommended Judge Aldisert's "Opinion Writing" to me.


ditto

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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Oct 17, 2013 9:20 pm

usuaggie wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
usuaggie wrote:Found the federal clerk handbook if anybody is interested. I skimmed it and thought it was helpful even for state courts

https://public.resource.org/scribd/8763855.pdf


Anyone actually going to read this whole thing?

I'd like the ciffnotes versiion please.


Cliffnotes version: Be prepared to do boring things that take time like read that whole guide. Write well, be smart, don't mess up on stuff.


Hmm, you're right. True true, I concur.

lolwat
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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby lolwat » Thu Oct 17, 2013 10:19 pm

I didn't read any books (there was a local law clerk handbook thing that I read, though IIRC it had nothing on opinion writing) and wouldn't go out of my way to recommend any (though I certainly wouldn't stop anyone from reading them). Orders are fairly simple (if you're at d.ct. level) and opinions are also fairly simple, though more complex issues could require a little more creativity. +1 to the anon that said this:

I was a law clerk last year. You can go ahead and read a bunch of books on clerking, writing opinions (Judge Aldisert's book "Opinion Writing" comes to mind), and legal research, but in the end those materials contain mostly common sense suggestions and really only are useful for very weak clerks. The best thing you can read are recent opinions authored by your Judge. Try to get a sense for style, phrasing, structure, length, etc. Beyond that, you'll have to just pick it up on the job. Opinion writing isn't all that much different from legal memoranda, and in some cases it can be easier. Sometimes all that is necessary is that you pick apart one side's arguments until they have nothing left in support of their motion.

Asking how to be a good clerk as a general question tough to answer because, for obvious reasons, a clerk's value is assessed only by one person, the Judge. The Judge may have any number of different characteristics, work habits, likes/dislikes, preferences in style and conduct, that you'll have to adjust to. The best advice I could give you would be to make a positive first impression. Push yourself during the first few months of your clerkship. Work hard, produce quality writing, act independently, and be a normal person. If you can show that you are efficient and have skill early on, you will be able to do things more on your own terms for the rest of the clerkship, because the Judge's impression of you will be set. The key is to gain the Judge's trust in your ability to produce quality work.


And for the person with the first-time judge, I would imagine the best thing you can do is stay in as much communication with them as possible about this kind of stuff while being able to work independently. There's no real resource for you to figure out their preferences like you would a judge that's been around for x years and you could just look up prior opinions to see how they/previous clerks formatted opinions and just conform to that.

BeenDidThat
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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby BeenDidThat » Thu Oct 17, 2013 10:33 pm

lolwat wrote:I didn't read any books (there was a local law clerk handbook thing that I read, though IIRC it had nothing on opinion writing) and wouldn't go out of my way to recommend any (though I certainly wouldn't stop anyone from reading them). Orders are fairly simple (if you're at d.ct. level) and opinions are also fairly simple, though more complex issues could require a little more creativity. +1 to the anon that said this:

I was a law clerk last year. You can go ahead and read a bunch of books on clerking, writing opinions (Judge Aldisert's book "Opinion Writing" comes to mind), and legal research, but in the end those materials contain mostly common sense suggestions and really only are useful for very weak clerks. The best thing you can read are recent opinions authored by your Judge. Try to get a sense for style, phrasing, structure, length, etc. Beyond that, you'll have to just pick it up on the job. Opinion writing isn't all that much different from legal memoranda, and in some cases it can be easier. Sometimes all that is necessary is that you pick apart one side's arguments until they have nothing left in support of their motion.

Asking how to be a good clerk as a general question tough to answer because, for obvious reasons, a clerk's value is assessed only by one person, the Judge. The Judge may have any number of different characteristics, work habits, likes/dislikes, preferences in style and conduct, that you'll have to adjust to. The best advice I could give you would be to make a positive first impression. Push yourself during the first few months of your clerkship. Work hard, produce quality writing, act independently, and be a normal person. If you can show that you are efficient and have skill early on, you will be able to do things more on your own terms for the rest of the clerkship, because the Judge's impression of you will be set. The key is to gain the Judge's trust in your ability to produce quality work.


And for the person with the first-time judge, I would imagine the best thing you can do is stay in as much communication with them as possible about this kind of stuff while being able to work independently. There's no real resource for you to figure out their preferences like you would a judge that's been around for x years and you could just look up prior opinions to see how they/previous clerks formatted opinions and just conform to that.


You could always ask if they have a style they like or another (longer-serving) judge they would like to emulate.

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usuaggie
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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby usuaggie » Mon Oct 28, 2013 4:32 pm

For those interested,I. Found a phenomenal guide for all levels of clerks that takes a very basic and explanatory approach. It's word for word the same as the federal guide posted earlier in some places, but adds other pieces to it too

http://www.adath.com/userfiles/L-371387.pdf

JusticeJackson
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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby JusticeJackson » Wed Oct 30, 2013 11:39 am

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Last edited by JusticeJackson on Thu Apr 10, 2014 8:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Oct 31, 2013 6:17 am

The first thing I would do is get in contact with the judge's current/former clerks. They will know exactly what you should do.

Before I started, I read all of my judge's decisions I could find. This generally helps (esp. if it's an appellate court), but the day-to-day, how to please the judge type stuff is impossible to know without inside info.

BeautifulSW
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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby BeautifulSW » Fri Nov 22, 2013 2:12 pm

I have spent the last ten years as a law clerk/staff attorney in a state trial court of general jurisdiction working for something under two dozen judges.

1. Be discreet. Really, really, REALLY discreet. Do not talk about your work to ANYONE, EVER.

2. Be anonymous. As much as possible, unless the Judge asks you to deal with counsel, no one should know what, if anything, you are doing for any Judge.

3. Depending on the Judge, be prepared to hear the Judge's expressions of frustration and fury, not against you, but against the dunderheads in his/her courtroom. There are very few places where a Judge can "unload". Be prepared to be one of those places and never, ever repeat anything you hear.

4. Be curious if your Judge allows it. Ask questions and look stuff up. Try to anticipate what issues may arise and prepare to meet those issues. During trial, your preparation may come in handy.

Clerking will make you a much better lawyer.

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Re: anybody have advice on how to be a good clerk?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Nov 26, 2013 7:16 am

honestly, dont read any of those books. total waste of time. if you really want to do prep work (and i dont think you should), do what someone above me said, and read previous opinions of your judge. it would be slightly helpful to get a feel for the judge's "voice," i.e., the chambers' writing style. you're not trying to reinvent the wheel here. you're not writing law review articles. you're clerking for a trial court. you're doing a shitload of work in a very short period of time, and you want to ghost write opinions that correctly decide issues. using proper grammar. while avoiding obvious mistakes. dont get the judge reversed. that's it. good luck


EDIT: just saw that this judge is new. EVEN BETTER. no prep work required




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